Foles’ return will tell a lot — about the Jaguars

Nick Foles belongs to two of the most exclusive quarterback clubs in the world.

He is one of two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to come off the bench late in the season because the starter was injured and lead his team to the Super Bowl title. Jeff Hostetler with the Giants in 1990 is the other after he replaced injured Phil Simms.

He is also one of two quarterbacks to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in a Super Bowl. Eli Manning, who did it twice, is the other.

And now he will attempt to join another exclusive club. He will try to become the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl for the Jaguars and only the fourth to take them to the playoffs. Mark Brunell, David Garrard and Blake Bortles are the other three.

Foles’ return Sunday in Indianapolis from the broken clavicle that sidelined him for the opener couldn’t be timelier.

The Jaguars are 4-5 and their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.

Despite all the Minshew Mania, he was still a rookie quarterback and didn’t beat a winning team in his eight starts.

The Jaguars have been the definition of average and predictable this year. They have played five games against winning teams and lost them all. They played four games against losing teams and won them all.

What we don’t know is whether the Jaguars are simply an average team destined to be 8-8 (they have three games against winning teams left on their schedule) or whether they just need better quarterback play to make a run to the playoffs.

Foles will provide the answer. This is his time of the year. He’s not an elite quarterback and has tended to be injury prone, but he is one of those quarterbacks who is best at crunch time.

And CBS Sports noted he has played more games in November and December (31) than in September and October (23).

The last two years, he came off the bench in Philadelphia when Carson Wentz was injured and the moment wasn’t too big for him.

He led the Eagles to the Super Bowl title two years ago and probably came within a dropped pass of leading them back to the NFC title game last year.

Some quarterbacks struggle in crunch time. Foles elevates his game. He is 9-2 the last two years come off the bench for the Eagles and only 1-1 when he started the first two games last year.

Tossing in a victory Foles had against the Jaguars in 2016 when he was with Kansas City, he is 10-2 since 2016 in November and beyond. That .833 winning percentage late in the year is the best for any quarterback with 10 or more starts, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Tom Brady is second at .794.

Granted, Brady has played a lot more games late in the year and is 27-7.

Still, Foles has shown what he can do with a good team around him like he had in Philadelphia.

Which brings us to why his return will be a good barometer of how good a team the Jaguars are.

They have three games left against winning teams – two with the Colts and one at Oakland. If they lose all three and beat the four losing teams remaining on their schedule to finish 8-8, it will be a sign they have to upgrade the team around Foles to get to the playoffs.

If Foles takes them to the playoffs, it will be a sign that the Jags have a good team to complement him.

In effect, Foles’ return will tell us more about the Jaguars than about Foles. We know what Foles can do with a good team around him late in the year.

What we don’t know if how good the Jaguars are. We will get the answer in the answer in the next seven weeks.

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