If not for the Cleveland Browns, the Jacksonville Jaguars would be the laughingstocks of the NFL this decade. Is there any reason to expect the Jags to be more competitive in 2017? Let’s look at their schedule.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ AFC South Division will go against the AFC North and NFC West this season. The Titans were fourth in their division at 3-13 last year and thus also play the other two fourth-place teams in the AFC outside of the North (Jets and Chargers).
Jacksonville’s strength of schedule is ranked as tied for the second-easiest in the NFL (only division-rival Indy’s is easier) as the Jaguars’ opponents had a combined 2016 winning percentage of just .439 (112.5-143.5). The Jaguars will have only six games against teams that finished with a winning record, and two of those are against AFC South champ Houston.
The Jaguars haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, which is the last time they finished with a winning record. Jacksonville hasn’t topped five wins in a season since going 8-8 in 2010. It has a wins total of 5.5 on NFL odds for this season, with the ‘over’ a -150 favorite.
The team made a big change in the front office in bringing back former coach Tom Coughlin to serve as the big boss as team vice president. The Jags also officially hired Doug Marrone as head coach after he was 1-1 as the interim guy last year when Gus Bradley was fired. Jacksonville also signed general manager Dave Caldwell to a two-year extension, meaning that Caldwell, Coughlin and Marrone all have matching three-year deals with the Jaguars.
This is probably a make-or-break year for fourth-year QB Blake Bortles, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft. He showed some promise in 2015 but regressed last year with a rating of 78.8. He still throws way too many interceptions: 51 of them in 46 games. Expect the Jags to be more run-heavy in 2017 after drafting LSU running back Leonard Fournette No. 4 overall. He’ll be one of the early NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year favorites.
The Jags are 4.5-point underdogs in NFL betting for Week 1 in Houston – which could be starting another Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite in QB Deshaun Watson. Since sweeping the Texans in 2013, the Jaguars have lost six in a row in the series. Bradley was fired after the team blew a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead in Houston on Dec. 18.
It’s not impossible that the Jaguars could win the following three games vs. the Titans, Ravens (in London) and at the Jets, who don’t have a quarterback. Jacksonville opted not to take its bye following that annual trip to London and instead gets the week off midseason.
After facing the Steelers on Oct. 8, the Jaguars play seven games against teams that finished with non-winning records in 2016, including the Rams (4-12), Chargers (5-11) and Browns (1-15). Jacksonville doesn’t leave home following its Nov. 26 trip to Arizona until Christmas Eve. Probably not boffo ratings for that matchup at the putrid 49ers. The Jags have lost eight consecutive games in the Pacific time zone.
I thought every team was guaranteed a Thursday night game, but the Jaguars won’t play in prime time for the first time in franchise history (barring an unlikely flexed Sunday night game).