The Jaguars will look to improve on a third-place finish in the AFC South heading into the 2012 season.
Led by second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville faces a division that will have a completely different complexion now that Peyton Manning is out of the picture. The Colts, who have been perennial favorites in the South for over a decade, will likely be led by Andrew Luck and will try to reassert themselves after a terrible 2011 campaign.
But Jacksonville must take this opportunity to establish itself as a contender in a very competitive division that also features Houston and Tennessee.
The 2012 schedule holds a fair amount of challenges for the Jaguars—they'll face the AFC East, but fortunately, they get the tougher games at home and the softer ones on the road. The biggest challenge on the docket looks to be a road matchup at Green Bay.
Here's a look at all that the Jaguars' 2012 schedule has to offer.
Week 1 9/9: Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings, 1 ET, CBS
Week 2 9/16: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans, 1 ET, CBS
Week 3 9/23: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts, 1 ET, CBS
Week 4 9/30: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 4:05 ET, CBS
Week 5 10/7: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Chicago Bears, 4:05 ET, Fox
Week 6: Bye
Week 7 10/21: Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders, 4:15 ET, CBS
Week 8 10/28: Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers, 1 ET, CBS
Week 9 11/4: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Detroit Lions, 1 ET, Fox
Week 10 11/8 (Thursday): Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts, 8:20 ET, NFL Network
Week 11 11/18: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans, 1 ET, CBS
Week 12 11/25: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans, 1 ET, CBS
Week 13 12/2: Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills, 1 ET, CBS
Week 14 12/9: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New York Jets, 1 ET, CBS
Week 15 12/16: Jacksonville Jaguars at Miami Dolphins, 1 ET, CBS
Week 16 12/23: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots, 1 ET, CBS
Week 17 12/30: Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans, 1 ET, CBS
The AFC East presents a handful of tough matchups for Jacksonville. Beating Tom Brady and the Patriots coming off their Super Bowl loss will be no easy feat, but at least that will be a home game. Since it comes in the second-to-last week of the season, however, it could be a big test for Jacksonville if it is in the midst of a playoff race.
The pressure, in that case, will be on. The Jags also get the Jets at home, and whether they're led by Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow, they will doubtlessly bring a much-improved offense and a solid defense to town.
On the road against Miami, the Jaguars could be getting a look at rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, if the Dolphins choose to go that direction in the draft. With a new quarterback, the Dolphins could be a dangerous offensive team that could be trouble for Jacksonville.
Among the rest of the Jaguars' non-conference matchups, just one team—the Vikings—finished below .500. If teams like Chicago, Oakland, Detroit and Cincinnati build upon their 2011 upswings, Jacksonville could be facing one of the toughest schedules in the league.
Last year, the Jaguars went 3-3 in division play, splitting a series with the Titans, losing twice to Houston and beating the hapless Colts twice. Victories against Indianapolis should be much harder to come by in 2012 with a new quarterback taking the reins, but Jacksonville must find some way to finish better than .500 against its division if it wants to have any hope of making the playoffs.
Which game on the schedule poses the biggest challenge for the Jaguars?
Most Pivotal Matchup
Beating Green Bay on the road in Week 8 could be a huge statement win for the Jaguars, and it will be a good test for them to see just how capable they are—but it will be no easy feat. The Packers went 15-1 in 2011 before their unexpected ouster from the playoffs in the first round at the hands of the eventual-champion Giants.
The Packers were undefeated at home last year as Aaron Rodgers established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the game, finishing atop the NFC with a 122.5 quarterback rating, 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Two years removed from a Super Bowl championship, the Packers are bound to be one of the teams to beat once again.