The Jacksonville Jaguars enter the 2013 season with plenty more questions than answers.
The team has its third different head coach in three years in Gus Bradley, a young quarterback in Blaine Gabbert who has yet to live up to the billing of the 10th overall pick and a running back in Maurice Jones-Drew who is coming off a 2012 to forget after playing in just six games due to injury.
Needless to say, things haven’t been going the way the Jaguars, or their fans, have hoped over the past few seasons.
They missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season last year, and are looking to finally get back to being a team that the rest of the league, and its fans, will respect.
The Jaguars find themselves in the middle of the pack in terms of strength of schedule, and have some pieces in place—wide receivers Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon and rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien—that can turn some heads and make the Jaguars a much tougher team to play against than they have been in year’s past.
And while they aren't expected to be a playoff-contending team this season, the Jaguars won’t be as bad as people may think.
But just how big of a stride will they make in Bradley’s first year?
Here is Jacksonville’s 2013 schedule:
Sunday, September 8 - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Sunday, September 15 - at Oakland Raiders
Sunday, September 22 - at Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, September 29 - INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Sunday, October 6 - at St. Louis Rams
Sunday, October 13 - at Denver Broncos
Sunday, October 20 - SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Sunday, October 27 - SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (at London)
Sunday, November 3 - BYE
Sunday, November 10 - at Tennessee Titans
Sunday, November 17 - ARIZONA CARDINALS
Sunday, November 24 - at Houston Texans
Sunday, December 1 - at Cleveland Browns
Thursday, December 5 - HOUSTON TEXANS
Sunday, December 15 - BUFFALO BILLS
Sunday, December 22 - TENNESSEE TITANS
Sunday, December 29 - at Indianapolis Colts
It’s time to go game-by-game and figure out just how much better, or worse, the Jaguars will be in 2013.
The last time these two teams met was in 2010 when the Jags fell 42-20 in a year the Chiefs won the AFC West. However, that was four seasons ago, and a lot has changed.
Both teams head into the 2013 with new head coaches, but vastly different expectations.
The Kansas City Chiefs are expecting Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith to come into town and get the team back to the playoffs after a 2-14 season that saw them get the first overall selection which they used on offensive tackle Eric Fisher.
The Chiefs will have a lot to live up to in game one which may become overwhelming for them.
History in this series is on the Jaguars side as they are 6-3 all-time against Kansas City with a win two, lose one pattern in the series.
The Jags will come into Week 1 in front of a fired up home crowd, and watch Blaine Gabbert put on a good enough performance to pull out a tight-fought victory over the Chiefs for the first win of the Gus Bradley era.
PREDICTION: 24-21 Jaguars (1-0)
A week after getting the first win of the new era under their belts, the Jaguars head out on the road for the first time this season for a battle in the Bay Area against Oakland.
The Raiders are in a situation that no team wants to be in with the amount of questions surrounding their team, and they are a unit that is ripe for the picking.
With Maurice Jones-Drew getting the ball over 20 times, the Jaguars will have no problem handling a poor Raiders team and getting their second win of the young season.
PREDICTION: 28-10 Jaguars (2-0)
Week 3 is where the Jaguars come back down to reality.
After winning their first two games, the Jags head up to the Pacific Northwest where the super bowl-contending Seahawks await.
Despite having a head coach who was Seattle’s defensive coordinator last season and saw Russell Wilson on a daily basis, it’s hard to believe that Jacksonville will have enough overall talent to contain what the Seahawks can do on offense.
The Seahawks take care of the Jaguars with an easy win, handing the Jags their first loss of the season.
PREDICTION: 41-17 Seattle (2-1)
Jacksonville heads home after their first loss of the season for its first divisional matchup of the year against the Indianapolis Colts.
The teams split their season series last year with the Jags winning the first matchup and the Colts taking home the second.
This time around though, the Colts will get the upper hand in the first of two against each other. With an obviously more experienced Andrew Luck under center, the Colts make this game look easier than the score indicates.
A little too late, run by the Jags makes the score close, but Blaine Gabbert’s worst game of the season leads to a loss.
PREDICTION: 27-20 Indianapolis (2-2)
Coming off back-to-back losses, Jacksonville will be looking to bounce back and get back above .500.
Unfortunately for them, the Jags head into St. Louis to face a Rams team with three extra days to prepare after a Week 4 Thursday night battle against division rival San Francisco.
Having the extra time to recover after what is likely to be a hard and physical battle, the Rams will be fully prepared for the Jaguars, and it will show on the scoreboard.
This is a game where the offenses will see minimal success and the defenses will shine. It won't be the Jaguars though, that have the better day. The Rams defense will lead their team to victory, dropping Jacksonville to 2-3.
PREDICTION: 13-6 St. Louis (2-3)
Jacksonville finishes its two-game road trip with a game against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
The Jaguars may have an improved defense, but they just don’t have the personnel needed to cover all of the offensive weapons that the Broncos possess. With players like Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas to try and stop, the Jaguars are going to have their hands full in a game that will end up seeing the Broncos roll.
And in the end, the Jags drop their fourth game straight.
PREDICTION: 35-13 Denver (2-4)
After four straight losses and back-to-back games on the road, the Jaguars will return home to face a San Diego team that is coming off of a short week of practice due to playing Indianapolis on Monday Night Football the week prior.
Not only are they on short rest, but they also have to fly across the country for an early (10 a.m. PST) game in Jacksonville. It’s a perfect opportunity for the Jaguars to get back on the winning side of things for the first time in a month.
And that’s exactly what the Jaguars do.
With a suspect San Diego Defense likely being tired, the Jaguars pound the ball with Jones-Drew on their way to their second-largest margin of victory this season to get back in the win column.
PREDICTION: 31-17 Jaguars (3-4)
After a nice victory against the Chargers that put Jacksonville over its win total from 2012, the team heads across the pond to play at Wembley Stadium in London, England against the San Francisco 49ers.
Both teams will be flying into London around the same time so neither team will have more fatigue than the other, and both teams will be coming into the game off of wins—the 49ers play Tennessee the week before.
The Jaguars will give the 49ers a game for the most part, but the Niners will flex their super bowl-contending muscles and hand the Jags their fifth loss in six games.
PREDICTION: 33-13 San Francisco (3-5)
In Week 10, Jacksonville heads to Nashville, Tennessee where the Titans await the Jaguars' second divisional game of the season.
Since 2009, the Jaguars and Titans have split the season series no matter how the teams were performing that season.
It’ll be a mid-season battle between two running backs that are the cogs to their respective offenses in Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson. The game will feature each team feeding the ball down their running back’s throat, and the winner will be the team that gets more home run plays in the game.
Luckily for the Jaguars, Jones-Drew gets one more big run than Johnson as a late long-yardage touchdown run propels Jacksonville to a win.
PREDICTION: 21-17 Jacksonville (4-5)
Week 11 features a game that can go either way. Both teams have the ability to win while both teams also have the ability to pull a no-show and get blown out of the water.
If the Jaguars hit a Cardinals team that is firing on all cylinders, by the time this contest comes around they could be in some deep trouble. Unfortunately for them, that’s exactly what will happen as the Cardinals come into the River City and knock out the Jaguars
PREDICTION: 34-14 Arizona (4-6)
Jacksonville’s final six games feature four against division rivals. The first coming in Week 12 against the Houston Texans who have won five straight of the Jaguars heading into the season.
The last time these two teams met in 2012, they had an offensive battle that ended with the Texans barely coming out on top with a 43-37 victory.
The Jags always put up a tough fight against the Texans, and this week will be no different. They want to go into Houston and show the Texans that they are not pushovers any longer.
Jacksonville will give a resilient effort, but come up just short in the end to the likely division winner.
PREDICTION: 35-24 Houston (4-7)
Jacksonville’s only game against an AFC North foe comes in late November when the team flies up north to take on the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns and Jaguars, in recent history, have played extremely close games against one another. In fact, the last seven matchups between these two teams ended with the difference being less than a touchdown.
And while some may be a bit (too) high on the Cleveland Browns entering the season, I think by this time they are back down to earth.
I expect nothing different in a game featuring two teams with no chance at the playoffs by this point, but a lot to play for in terms of pride and evaluation. Brandon Weeden and Blaine Gabbert will have a shootout on Lake Erie, and the game will be one that is exciting to watch.
Gabbert takes advantage of a Browns team that started strong, but slipped in the end, getting the Jaguars a high-scoring victory.
PREDICTION: 38-34 Jacksonville (5-7)
In the team’s only prime time game of the season, the Jaguars host the Texans to close out the season series between the two squads.
At this point in the season, the Texans will likely be battling the Colts for the division title, and nothing would please Jaguars fans more than coming out on national television, and hurting Houston’s chances at an AFC South title.
However, that won’t be the case as the Texans will come into Jacksonville with a purpose, and leave with an easy victory over the Jaguars thanks to a big day from Matt Schaub and the Texans defense.
PREDICTION: 31-10 Houston (5-8)
These teams have locked up for big games in the past, but recent history will show that the Bills/Jaguars contests are games between two of the league’s most mediocre franchises.
This game will likely mean nothing in regards to playoff implications—unless the Bills are battling for a wild-card spot at this time—but it should be a good one to watch as it will feature two running backs in Jones-Drew and C.J. Spiller who can put on a show.
It’ll be another game on the Jacksonville schedule that features the running backs trading big plays, but this time the Bills will be the ones coming out of Jacksonville with a victory.
PREDICTION: 27-14 Buffalo (5-9)
It’s been seven seasons since the Jaguars last swept a season series against the Titans, and in Week 16, Jacksonville has a chance to do just that.
Whereas the first game featured MJD and CJ2K trading punches, this game will feature the quarterbacks trying to take over the show.
Gabbert and Jake Locker, who were taken two picks apart in the 2011 NFL Draft, will go back-and-forth trying to outperform one another.
In the end, Gabbert will use the better weapons he has on the Jags offense to get past Locker and the Titans to sweep the season series.
PREDICTION: 24-17 Jacksonville (6-9)
In the final week of the season, it’s possible that the Colts will have their playoff spot and seed locked up which will result in them resting Andrew Luck in order to make sure he’s healthy heading into the postseason.
With the Colts taking that route, and despite Matthew Hasselbeck being Luck’s backup, the Jaguars should be able to pull out a win against a Colts team lining up mostly second-unit players.
The back-to-back wins over divisional rivals to close the 2013 season has to be viewed as a successful first season under Bradley who has a team that is finally showing promise again.
PREDICTION: 23-13 Jacksonville
FINAL RECORD: 7-9 (Third place in AFC South)