"I think we're the best team in the league," Smith said, via the team's official website. "I am not knocking anyone. There are some talented teams out there. If I don't lock in right now and believe wholeheartedly that my team will be the last team standing, then I don't think you really are ready for that fight that is about to come."
Smith said he and his teammates don't fear such heightened comments because expectations can breed commitment to excellence.
"I think you can only set the bar too high when you do not believe in yourself," Smith said. "I think this team is full of confidence, full of talent, full of hard work and dedication. The bar is as high as we set it. It is not where can we go, it is where do we want to go. That is what we are working on right now, making sure we go where we want to go come February."
You'll notice the three comments regarding the outsized expectations are coming from the defensive side of the ball. The Jags D is set to make its case as the NFL's best in 2018, returning 12 of its top 14 players, including two first-team All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowlers. With a dominant secondary that smothers receivers, a linebacker corps that can chase sideline-to-sideline, and a defensive line made to push the pocket, the Jags D enters 2018 prepared to improve on its marvelous 2017 season.
To be known as one of the best defenses ever, however, Smith knows it must hoist a Lombardi or three along the way.
"Every great defense has won it all. That is what we want to be," he said. "A great defense is not mediocre. It is not to say you won a couple [division] championships. No, we want to say we dominated the world. That is the next step."
The Jags have questions on offense -- How will Blake Bortles improve upon last season? Will Andrew Norwell answer the questions on the O-line? Can the young receivers grow enough to fill the void? -- that will give some pause when forecasting the 2018 season. And that's OK. Every NFL team has some deficiencies. Great units like the Jags D can mask shortages elsewhere.
From Smith's point of view, the talk of going undefeated and being the best isn't outlandish. It's simply verbally acknowledging self-expectations.
"Don't get me wrong. It's great to talk Super Bowl. It's great to talk 16-0, but you don't get to 16-0 without 1-0," Smith said. "We've got to make sure we understand the ultimate goal and don't get outside of getting ready to play these games and make sure we focus on the one that we've got first."