Power Ranking the Jaguars 2013 Schedule from Easiest to Hardest Games
Wins and losses won't mean much for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013.
Sure, it will be great to win more than two games this year, but that's not what's important. Instead of wins, the Jaguars have to focus on improving from game to game and developing young talent for future success.
Eventually the wins will come.
Although this year is bound to be another sub-.500 season, this year feels different than years past. There is a positive energy surrounding this team that stem from head coach Gus Bradley's unbridled enthusiasm.
The young Jaguars team will be challenged early and often this year due to the schedule, which was released Thursday night. Four of the team's first six games are on the road, including back-to-back West Coast road games.
The franchise does have some winnable home games littered throughout the season, which should work as much-needed confidence boosters.
Here is a breakdown of the Jaguars schedule from the easiest game to the hardest.
Week 11: Home vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals are a lot like the Jaguars this season as both teams are rebuilding. Arizona's overhaul isn't quite as drastic as Jacksonville's, however, but both teams have a long way to go to become contenders.
The Cardinals are entering the season with a new coach and new quarterback. They hired Bruce Arians, who served as the Indianapolis Colts interim head coach last season, to lead the team and traded to acquire veteran quarterback Carson Palmer.
The franchise hopes Palmer will be able to recreate the magic that's been missing since Kurt Warner's retirement in 2009. Palmer was solid but unspectacular in two seasons with the Oakland Raiders but offers an upgrade over who the team had under center last season.
The Cardinals didn't do much to improve their poor offensive line, which gave up the most sacks (58) and was partly to blame for the league-low rushing yards per game (75.3) last season.
They also allowed the fifth-most rushing yards per game (137) last year, which will allow Maurice Jones-Drew to have a field day running the ball.
The Cardinals have a lot of holes to fill in next week's draft. They'll struggle to get out of the basement of the NFC West.
The Jaguars will return to EverBank Field for the first time since Week 7, so they'll guarantee to be motivated in front of the home crowd.
Week 15: Home vs. Buffalo Bills
This is another late-season game that won't have many playoff implications.
The Jaguars will be in the middle of the three-game homestand when the Buffalo Bills visit Jacksonville in Week 15. Jacksonville will be coming off a Thursday night game against the Houston Texans, which gives them more time to prepare for this game.
The Jaguars and Bills are in almost the same position. Both teams feature first-year NFL head coaches, and neither team is sure of who their franchise quarterback will be. Neither team is expected to be too good, and both are in the process of rebuilding.
Jacksonville has to be the favorite in this game for right now. The extra time to prepare and playing at home give them the edge, even though the teams will likely be evenly matched.
Week 16: Home vs. Tennessee Titans
One of the Jaguars two wins last year came at home at the expense of the Tennessee Titans.
Although the Titans are necessarily rebuilding, they will still be fighting to stay out of the cellar in the AFC South.
They have added some nice pieces in free agency this offseason by signing guard Andy Levitre, running back Shonn Greene and wide receiver Kevin Walter.
Although the team has been reliant on Chris Johnson, the fate of their season depends on quarterback Jake Locker's ability to live up to being the eighth pick in the 2011 draft. Locker hasn't done much to inspire confidence going forward, but a scheme change has been hinted (per Jim Wyatt of USA Today Sports) at that could take full advantage of his skills.
Still, it's hard to imagine Locker turning the corner and leading the team to anything more than another mediocre season. At least they have journeyman backup Ryan Fitzpatrick to fall back on if Locker doesn't improve.
The Titans are a more talented team than the Jaguars are right now, but it's not a huge margin. Neither team will likely be playing for much more than pride at this point in the season, and this is a very winnable game against a divisional foe.
Week 13: At Cleveland Browns
Jacksonville's Week 13 game against the Cleveland Browns is the only chance of the Jaguars playing a cold weather game this season.
The Browns and the Jaguars mirror each other in a lot of ways. Neither team has a reliable quarterback and rely on a running back to move the ball on offense.
Cleveland improved their defense by signing Paul Kruger in free agency. They also added a security blanket at quarterback with Jason Campbell.
This game is going to be a late-season test for the young Jaguars, but it's one they can win.
Week 10: At Tenneesee Titans
The Jaguars will see the division rival Tennessee Titans for the first time in Week 10 at LP Field.
Jacksonville has been historically bad on the road against the Titans. They are 6-10 all-time in Tennessee, which includes 1-4 in the last five games.
This is guaranteed to be another hard game for the Jaguars, but they are coming off a bye week, which gives them extra time to prepare.
This is low on the list not because it's going to be an easy game, but the rest of the schedule is just that difficult, especially on the road.
Week 5: At St. Louis Rams
After a weak home game in Week 4, the Jaguars will travel to St. Louis for their third road game in four weeks.
Coach Bradley will get another chance against an old NFC West foe in St. Louis. During Bradley's time as the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, they were 6-2 against the Rams and held them to an average of less than 12 points.
Bradley will look to replicate that success with the Jaguars, but it's not going to be easy. Although the Rams lost some key players such as Steven Jackson during free agency, they're still considered a potential playoff team.
St. Louis is coming off a Thursday night game the previous week, which will make this game even more difficult for the Jaguars.
Even though the Jaguars will be the underdogs, this will be a good test for them early in the season.
Week 7: Home vs. San Diego Chargers
Traveling across the country to play football is never easy, especially when it's a West Coast team playing an early game on the East Coast. That's exactly what the San Diego Chargers will be doing when they visit Jacksonville in Week 7.
The Chargers are under .500 since 1995 in the Eastern Time Zone, which includes a 2-6 record last season.
The Chargers are going to be at even more of a disadvantage as they're coming off a short week after they play the Colts on Monday Night Football.
Although the odds seem to be stacked against the Chargers, they do have the more talented team. First-year head coach Mike McCoy worked wonders in Denver as the offensive coordinator, and he should get Philip Rivers back to his old form. They also have one of the top rush defenses in the league, while improving their pass defense by adding ex-Jaguar Derek Cox in free agency.
This is a toss-up because of San Diego's coast-to-coast travel, and the Jaguars could sneak away with a win against the better team.
Week 1: Home vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Jaguars will kick the 2013 regular season off at home against the new-look Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs will be a completely new team next season after finishing with a 2-14 record last year, which tied the Jaguars for the worst record in the league.
Kansas City has a new head coach in Andy Reid, new quarterback in Alex Smith and added Donnie Avery and Sean Smith in free agency. The team also improved its poor rush defense by signing ex-New York Jet Mike DeVito. They have the best chance to be the turnaround team of 2013.
But with the Jaguars playing them Week 1, the Chiefs wouldn't have a lot of time to adjust to all the changes. This could work in Jacksonville's favor as the Chiefs won't be as gelled together as they would be later in the season.
The same can be said about the Jaguars, too; but they will have the home-field advantage. Jacksonville has a good chance of starting the season off with a win.
Week 2: At Oakland Raiders
The Jaguars have to travel across the country for the first of two consecutive West Coast games when they play the Oakland Raiders in Week 2.
Jacksonville has traditionally struggled in games in the Pacific Time Zone. The franchise is 2-7 all-time in games on the West Coast, which includes a 26-23 overtime loss last season. The Jaguars will look to redeem themselves from that game this season.
The Raiders improved their team during free agency by signing Mike Jenkins to strengthen what was a porous secondary last season. They also traded for Matt Flynn and dealt Carson Palmer to the Cardinals.
This will be a tough game for the Jaguars, but they'll have an opportunity to grow as a team by not allowing the cross country travel to faze them. It's a winnable game for Jacksonville, but Oakland has to be considered the favorite.
Week 4: Home vs. Indianapolis Colts
Return to EverBank for the first time since Week 1 and it's against a divisional rival. The Colts will be coming off a road game against the 49ers and play the Seahawks the next week—could be a trap game for Indianapolis.
Jacksonville will return for its first home game since Week 1 when they host their AFC Division rival Indianapolis Colts.
The Jaguars split the series with the Colts in 2012, but their win came with a little luck (no pun intended).
Indianapolis improved the team around the young Andrew Luck in free agency. They added offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus to help protect Luck, and Greg Toler should help the Colts' 21st ranked passing defense from 2012 (236.8). They also signed Matt Hasselbeck, who should provide Luck with some good veteran insight.
Maurice Jones-Drew will have the opportunity to have a stellar game as Indianapolis hasn't done much to improve upon the fourth-worst rush defense in 2012 (137.5). Jones-Drew has been enough to lead the Jaguars to victory in the past, and he may be the answer again in Week 4.
This game could also be a trap game for the Colts. It's slotted between games against the San Fransisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks on the Colts schedule, which could cause them to overlook the Jaguars in lieu of focusing on the better teams.
It's not likely to happen, but the Jaguars could surprise the Colts in Week 5.
Week 17: At Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville travels to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in the last week of the regular season.
Although the Jaguars will likely be long eliminated from the playoff race, the Colts could be fighting for the AFC South Division crown. At the very least, Indianapolis will be playing to try to improve their playoff seed.
So while the Jaguars will be competing to the end for pride, Indianapolis could be playing their starters to make sure they're in the best position possible in the playoffs.
Of course, there's the chance the Colts already have everything wrapped up by Week 17, and this is nothing but a prerequisite to playing in the postseason. If that's the case, Jacksonville could be playing against Indianapolis' second and third stringers.
This game is a wild card on the Jaguars schedule as it could be an easy win heading into the offseason, or a hard-fought game they can play spoiler during. Either way, ending the season against a division rival will keep the team trying to end the season on a high note.
Week 12: At Houston Texans
Jacksonville meets the 2012 AFC South champion Houston Texans for the first time in Week 12.
Last year, the teams were involved in an overtime shootout when the Jaguars visited Houston. The Texans prevailed in that game, and it's not expected to be as competitive this season.
Houston didn't do much to better itself this offseason, but it's not like they needed to. The biggest offseason move was signing veteran Ed Reed to a two-year contract.
The Jaguars are 3-8 all-time in Reliant Stadium, and it's safe to expect another loss to be added this season.
Week 14: Home vs. Houston Texans (Thursday)
The Jaguars and Texans will meet for the second time in 11 days when they battle in Jacksonville's only prime-time game of the season.
Both teams are obviously coming into this game on short weeks, but the lack of preparation time may benefit the Jags.
First, they'll be at home and won't have to travel, which gives them some extra time to get ready for the game.
Secondly, the Texans will be coming off a massive game against the New England Patriots, which could have serious playoff implications. Houston could be drained from that game and being forced to travel, which could allow Jacksonville to steal a victory on national television.
The Texans are by far the more talented of the two teams, but this sets up to be a trap game for them. If they remained focused, Houston should walk away with a victory.
Week 3: At Seattle Seahawks
In their second West Coast game in as many weeks, the Jaguars will visit the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3.
This marks the first time coach Bradley returns to Seattle after spending four seasons as the team's defensive coordinator. He's going to try to make his return a successful one, but it's unlikely to happen.
The Seahawks boast one of the most complete teams in the NFL with a physical defense and a bruising offense. Seattle's defense should be able to easily shut down Jacksonville's offense, which should allow the Seahawks to win the game.
The Jaguars could come out a better team than they were entering the game, even in defeat. Bradley has said (per John Oehser of Jaguars.com) the team will probably stay on the West Coast after the previous week's game in Oakland, which will give the players time to bond together.
Jacksonville could be looking into its future when it sees the Seahawks. The Jaguars have a very slim hope of winning this game, but they could return to Jacksonville in Week 4 as a much better team.
Week 6: At Denver Broncos
Jacksonville's most difficult road game will be their fourth one in the first six weeks of the season when they travel to play the Denver Broncos.
The Jaguars will be going against some familiar faces in Denver when they see former head coach Jack Del Rio and ex-Jaguar Terrance Knighton for the first time since they donned the orange and blue. Jacksonville will also play against former AFC South foe Peyton Manning for the first time since 2010.
The Broncos were among the best teams in the league last season before losing a double overtime thriller to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs. Their roster only got stronger during free agency when they added Wes Welker and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Denver is better than the Jaguars in almost every aspect of the game, and this Week 6 game has all the makings of a blowout.
Week 8: Home vs. San Francisco 49ers (London)
This is the first of four annual trips to London for the Jaguars, and it may be the team's toughest game of the season.
The Jaguars will have a hard time making a good first impression to the fans overseas when they have to play the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers are one of the most complete teams in the NFL, and they will be a tough game for any team, much less one of the least talented teams in Jacksonville.
San Fransisco has only improved upon its Super Bowl-caliber roster this offseason. They added cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency and possess 13 picks in next week's draft.
The best are only getting better, which means the Jaguars' London debut will be spoiled.