I know that it's just Week 1.
I know there will be 15 more games in the 2012 season, win or lose.
I know that teams that win in Week 1 may lose their next 15 in a row, and teams that lose can still finish 15-1.
Is this a must-win for the Jaguars?
The Jaguars, however, are playing a team most people expect to finish the year under .500. The Vikings have a wounded running back in Adrian Peterson and feature a young quarterback of questionable skill in Christian Ponder.
Jacksonville wants to show that a 3-1 preseason record isn't a mirage and that they are destined to be a surprise playoff team.
That cannot happen without a victory over the Vikings. The Jags' schedule is simply too tough to give away winnable games. No matter how you parse the matchups, there's no realistic formula to get the Jaguars to the postseason that doesn't include a victory at the Vikings.
Jacksonville has three winnable road games in 2012. They play at the Vikings, Colts, and Dolphins. Perhaps they manage to steal a win at Buffalo or Tennessee. Assuming they need nine wins to make the playoffs, they'll need at least five or six wins at home, and given the slate of teams they face, that's no small task.
A loss the Vikings suddenly makes those other "winnable road-games" look that much less winnable.
Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country agrees. He said to me,
The Jaguars absolutely need to start their 2012 season with a win, especially when they're playing a team like the Vikings who also have uncertainty on offense. If the Jaguars want to make headway on the season, they'll need to take out the evenly matched teams especially with a road matchup with division favorite Houston on the horizon.
Yes, there are 15 more games after this one for the Jaguars, but there are not 15 more winnable games. The season isn't lost if they don't beat the Vikings, but outlook for the team dims considerably with a loss.
Jacksonville wants to ride their defense and running game all the way to January, and that road has to start in the Metrodome or the journey could end before it even begins.