Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule 2014: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 24, 2014

Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule 2014: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

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    2013 was a tale of two seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The first half of the year was an 0-8 nightmare. Over that stretch, the Jaguars were outscored by the staggering sum of 264-86.

    However, the Jaguars got their first win of the season after their Week 9 bye and then proceeded to play .500 football in the season's second half.

    Granted, it isn't often that a 4-12 season inspires optimism, but that's exactly what Gus Bradley and the Jags have generated heading into 2014.

    Still, there are also a number of questions surrounding the team after the departure of quarterback Blaine Gabbert and veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

    So, with the 2014 schedule now set and the Jaguars set to pick third in next month's NFL draft, here's a game by game breakdown of what this season has in store for the Jags.

Week 1: At Philadelphia Eagles

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Storyline: A Defense Exposed

    The Matchup

    The four teams in the AFC South have the four easiest schedules in the NFL this year, but, in many respects, the schedule-makers didn't do the Jaguars any favors.

    Of the Jaguars' eight road games in 2013, half come against teams that made the playoffs a year ago, including a season-opening trip to the City of Brotherly Love to face the NFC East champions.

    The Eagles rode a prolific offense to a surprise playoff berth last year. The team added running back Darren Sproles in free agency, but there's also a large hole in the receiving corps after the Eagles said farewell to DeSean Jackson.

    The Score: Eagles 28, Jaguars 12

    The Eagles were also the NFL's top rushing team in 2013, averaging over 160 yards a game. It's that number that doesn't bode well for the Jaguars in Philly.

    Especially given that only three teams allowed more yardage per game on the ground a year ago than the Jaguars.

    It's bad enough when you're outgunned. Outgunned by a team that can sustain one long, time-consuming drive after another is a whole different sort of misery.

Week 2: At Washington Redskins

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Storyline: One for the Road

    The Matchup

    After winning the NFC East in 2012, the Washington Redskins entered last season with all sorts of hope for 2013.

    It didn't last long.

    The Redskins defense was terrible at times. So was quarterback Robert Griffin, who wound up watching the last three games of a 3-13 faceplant from the bench.

    The Redskins don't have a first-round pick with which to upgrade the team, but, as has been their M.O. in recent years, Washington wasn't shy in free agency, signing DeSean Jackson shortly after he was released by the Eagles.

    The Score: Jaguars 20, Redskins 19

    Jackson's arrival may upgrade the offense, but the other side of the ball is another story.

    The Redskins added a couple of pieces in that regard, but both Jason Hatcher and Ryan Clark are the wrong side of 30. The secondary still needs work, and it's been years since the Redskins generated a consistent pass rush.

    Call this one the blind hunch of the bunch, but if the Jaguars are going to take a step forward in 2014, they need to get at least one "surprise" win on the road.

Week 3: Vs. Indianapolis Colts

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Storyline: Not There Yet

    The Matchup

    The Indianapolis Colts are where the Jacksonville Jaguars want to be.

    After losing 14 games in 2011, the Colts quickly bounced back, advancing to the postseason each of the past two years and capturing the AFC South in 2013.

    Unfortunately for the Jaguars, the Colts also have answers at many of the positions where the Jaguars face nothing but questions.

    The Colts have Andrew Luck at quarterback. The Jaguars? Chad Henne or a rookie.

    The Colts have Hakeem Nicks, Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton at wide receiver. The Jaguars have Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon's mugshot.

    Get where we're going with this?

    The Score: Colts 30, Jaguars 17

    What the Colts also had was a huge edge over the Jaguars last year.

    In two meetings between the teams (both Colts wins) Indianapolis outscored Jacksonville 67-13.

    The Jaguars might be able to do better than last year's 37-3 drubbing at EverBank Field, but the Jaguars aren't any sort of real threat to the Colts in the South this season.

Week 4: At San Diego Chargers

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Storyline: Frequent Flyer Miles

    The Matchup

    The Jaguars away schedule may not be especially easy, but at least it's convenient. In fact, there's only one really "long" trip all season long: a 2,100-mile trip in Week 4 to sunny San Diego.

    The Chargers were one of last year's surprise teams, first winning five of their last six games to make the playoffs and then shocking the Cincinnati Bengals on the road in the Wild Card Round.

    Playing in the same division as the Denver Broncos isn't doing the Chargers' playoff hopes any favors, but the Bolts didn't lose anyone of real consequence in free agency and will be getting a number of injured pass-rushers back.

    The Score: Chargers 31, Jaguars 21

    On many levels, this is a winnable game for the Jaguars. Yes, the Chargers made the playoffs in 2013, but they were also a 9-7 playoff team that finished third in their division and got into the postseason thanks to a blown call.

    However, the Jaguars don't have the weaponry on offense to take full advantage of the Chargers' 29th-ranked pass defense, and the Chargers have a Pro Bowl quarterback in Philip Rivers.

Week 5: Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Storyline: That Was Then, This is Now

    The Matchup

    Given that the Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls while the Jaguars are, well, the Jaguars, you would think that the all-time series between the two would be pretty lopsided.

    Not so. In fact, it's the Jaguars who have the edge, with 12 wins in 22 meetings.

    Of course, the last of those victories came all the way back in 2007. Since then, Ben Roethlisberger won his second ring, while the Jaguars have missed the playoffs in six straight seasons.

    The Score: Steelers 27, Jaguars 16

    Mind you, the Steelers aren't necessarily that Super Bowl contender now, having missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

    Still, it's a team that feels like they can make one more run with Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and young running back Le'Veon Bell.

    Throw in a defense that, even in a down year, ranked 13th in the NFL in 2013, and the Jaguars are likely looking at a loss here.

Week 6: At Tennessee Titans

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    The Storyline: Rome Wasn't Built In a Day

    The Matchup

    Let's face facts. The AFC South is the Colts' division to lose, and the Houston Texans aren't as bad as last year's record.

    Odds are, even if both teams make improvements, the Titans and Jaguars are going to be bringing up the rear in the division.

    In some respects, the Titans face an even longer road back than the Jaguars, even though they went 7-9 a year ago.

    After all, if Chris Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't inspire a ton of confidence, Shonn Greene and Jake Locker inspires even less.

    The Score: Titans 23, Jaguars 21

    And yet I'm picking the Titans to win this game.

    Don't get me wrong. I like what Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell are doing in Jacksonville. In fact, I think the Jaguars will finish ahead of the Titans this season.

    With that said though, young teams like the Jaguars are bound to have ups and downs, and the Titans aren't bereft of talent.

    If beating the Cowboys in London (spoiler alert!) qualifies as the high point of this hypothetical season, then this may be the bottom.

Week 7: Vs. Cleveland Browns

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    The Storyline: Game of the Week It Ain't

    The Matchup

    It was a pretty safe bet even before the schedule was announced that this Week 7 matchup between the Jaguars and Cleveland Browns wasn't going to be the Sunday night game.

    After all, we're talking about two teams who went a combined 8-24 last year. As Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk reports, both teams are at least 100-1 shots to win Super Bowl XLIX, according to Nevada oddsmakers.

    There was an offseason saga of sorts involving the two teams. The Jaguars signed Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to a five-year, $42 million offer sheet as a replacement for veteran Brad Meester, only to see the Browns exercise their transition tag right back to match it.

    The Score: Jaguars 23, Browns 19

    These teams met last December in Cleveland in a titanic battle for absolutely nothing, with the Jaguars prevailing 32-28.

    Make no mistake, this year's contest will be for similar stakes, two teams picking in the top five of this year's draft who will probably just be jockeying for spots in next year's.

    Still, there's just no getting past the fact that Cleveland is a horrific 3-21 on the road in the past three seasons.

Week 8: Vs. Miami Dolphins

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Storyline: Release the Hounds!

    The Matchup

    Say what you will about the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they were the least dysfunctional NFL team in Florida last year.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their own issues with Greg Schiano, Josh Freeman and MRSA, but the gold star for distractions had to go to the Miami Dolphins, whose season was completely overshadowed by the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito scandal.

    That brouhaha wreaked havoc on a Miami offensive line that allowed the most sacks in the NFL in 2013, and the Dolphins have spent a ton of money in free agency looking to improve in that regard.

    The Score: Jaguars 19, Dolphins 17

    Of course, the Jaguars also spent some money on the pass rush, with Bradley looking to some familiar faces with former Seahawks Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.

    And the team may not be done. There's a very real possibility that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack could make their way to Jacksonville at No. 3 overall.

    Gus Bradley's defense is predicated on generating pressure up front. If the Jags get better in that regard this year, their 27th-ranked defense from 2013 is going to be significantly better.

    As in good enough to win a close one at home against Miami.

Week 9: At Cincinnati Bengals

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Storyline: This One Could Get Ugly

    The Matchup

    They don't get the hype that some playoff contenders do, but the Cincinnati Bengals have quietly become one of the more balanced teams in the NFL.

    In fact, only two teams in the league ranked in the top 10 in both total offense and total defense last year:

    The New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals.

    The Bengals will be breaking in a pair of new coordinators, but they've done a good job of keeping the core intact of a team that's made three straight trips to the playoffs.

    The Score: Bengals 30, Jaguars 13

    If the Jaguars were to manage a victory in Cincinnati against the Bengals, it would be the biggest of Bradley's tenure. A true "signature" victory.

    It's all but certainly not happening.

    Unless the Bengals come out and completely gift-wrap the game, Cincinnati is better in just about every aspect of the game than Jacksonville.

    The Bengals are especially adept at getting after the quarterback, an area where the Jaguars have had loads of problems in recent seasons.

Week 10: Vs. Dallas Cowboys (London)

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    The Storyline: Upset Special!

    The Matchup

    The Dallas Cowboys took the notion of team schizophrenia to new heights in 2013.

    Offensively, the team was their usual potent selves, ranking fifth in the league in points scored. Defensively was another story entirely, with the Cowboys allowing over 415 yards a game while ranking dead last in the NFL.

    That defense may be hard-pressed to be any better in 2014. The Cowboys lost both end DeMarcus Ware and tackle Jason Hatcher in free agency, and, to this point, the team hasn't done much in the way of replacing them.

    The Score: Jaguars 27, Cowboys 26

    Oh, the London games. How Jaguars fans loathe thee.

    The trans-Atlantic trip. The loss of a home game in a grab for cash. The looming rumors of a Jaguars move across the ocean.

    Still, for one year at least, Merry Old England should give the Jaguars something to smile about.

    This is a game that has trap written all over it for the Cowboys. The long trip. The supposedly "easy" win.

    It's the sort of game where Dallas has repeatedly come out flat in recent years, and that will open the door for the Jaguars to steal one.

Week 11: Bye Week

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    Granted, the Jaguars will no doubt tell you before the season that heading into their Week 11 bye at 4-6 would not be considered a "success."

    They'd also be stretching the truth (and then some), especially after the Jaguars failed to win a single game before their bye week last year.

    Record at Bye Week: 4-6

Week 12: At Indianapolis Colts

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    The Storyline: Some Days You're the Windshield, Other Days You're the Bug

    The Matchup

    The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't had much success in Indianapolis against the Colts. In 13 meetings in Indy, the Jaguars have won all of four times. Last year, the Colts put the cherry on top of their AFC South title with a 30-10 drubbing of the Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium.

    Unfortunately, there's little reason to think much will change this year.

    Head coach Gus Bradley is still in the process of building the Jacksonville secondary into "Seattle East." in the interim, a matchup with Andrew Luck and a deep Colts receiving corps is about as far from favorable as one can get.

    The Score: Colts 30, Jaguars 10

    OK, so maybe things won't get any better at all. At least not right away.

    That isn't to say the Jaguars won't be a better team in 2014. However, this is a bad matchup against a division foe on the road, where the Jaguars have struggled mightily in recent years.

    Oh, and it's against a Super Bowl contender that doesn't have a habit of overlooking "lesser" opponents.

Week 13: Vs. New York Giants

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    The Storyline: A Disappointing Day

    The Matchup

    Depending on which New York Giants team shows up for their Week 13 meeting at EverBank Field with the Jaguars, there's a real chance Jacksonville could get a "statement" win of sorts in this game.

    After all, over the first half of the 2013 season, the Giants were every bit the mess the Jaguars were, losing their first six games in a haze of Eli Manning turnovers.

    With that said, the Giants went 7-3 the rest of the season, and, spurred by a closing playoff window, the team was much more active than usual in free agency this year.

    The Score: Giants 30, Jaguars 20

    If the Eli Manning who has averaged over 20 interceptions a year over the past four seasons comes to visit Florida, then Jacksonville will have a very good shot in this game.

    However, the Giants totally revamped their secondary in the offseason, and the addition of cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond gives the G-Men one of the NFL's better looking defensive backfields on paper.

    Unless Manning gives the Jaguars a short field or two, Jacksonville will probably have a hard time scoring enough to get this win.

Week 14: Vs. Houston Texans

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Storyline: Home Cooking

    The Matchup

    It's been a while since the Jacksonville Jaguars have had much success in the NFL, but last year the Jaguars turned the tables on their NFC South rivals.

    The Jaguars swept both meetings with the Texans in 2013, finishing above the defending division champs in the standings. Jacksonville actually holds the all-time edge at home against the Texans as well, having won seven of 12 meetings overall.

    The Texans are another team facing a lot of changes in 2014, including a new head coach, coordinators and quarterback. But, it also wasn't that long ago that the Texans won back-to-back division titles.

    The Score: Jaguars 23, Texans 20

    This is a difficult game to forecast this early, especially given that we don't know whether it will be Chad Henne vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick or a battle of two rookies under center.

    And yes, the Texans might actually be the more talented team, last year's 2-14 pigskin apocalypse aside.

    With all that said, the Jaguars have made it something of a habit to play the Texans tight at home, and that trend will continue in 2014.

Week 15: At Baltimore Ravens

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The Storyline: Not Enough Firepower

    The Matchup

    The Baltimore Ravens sorely missed wide receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Dennis Pitta last year, so much so that the team went from Super Bowl champions to 8-8 and out of the playoffs altogether.

    The Ravens took steps to remedy the situation in the offseason, adding veterans Steve Smith and Owen Daniels.

    The Jaguars, on the other hand, have essentially stood pat in the passing game, despite Cecil Shorts tailing off badly last year due to injuries and Justin Blackmon falling off the map altogether thanks to another suspension.

    Add in a new running back, a left tackle who barely played last year and (possibly) a new quarterback, and "uncertainty" is the word of the day on offense for the Jaguars.

    The Score: Ravens 27, Jaguars 14

    It isn't just on offense where the Jaguars are sort of overmatched in this December showdown.

    Granted, the Ravens defense might not be the fearsome unit it once was, but Baltimore still ranked a respectable 12th in the NFL defensively in 2013. That's a fair sight better than a Jacksonville defense that once again landed in the bottom 10 in the league.

    That defense may be better in 2014, but the Ravens are still the better team.

Week 16: Vs. Tennessee Titans

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    The Storyline: Toby the Terrible

    The Matchup

    The prevailing theme in the AFC South is change. Two of the teams in the division feature new head coaches. Three, including both the Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, could feature rookie quarterbacks at some point this season.

    The Titans will also be fielding a brand new defense, with coordinator Ray Horton installing his aggressive 3-4 front.

    Unfortunately, the personnel in Nashville isn't ideal for that scheme. Wesley Woodyard and Zach Brown, who are penciled as the starters at inside linebacker, are both athletic but undersized. That could pose a problem against bigger, more physical running backs.

    The Score: Jaguars 21, Titans 17

    A back like Toby Gerhart of the Jaguars.

    After four seasons in Minnesota carrying Gatorade for Adrian Peterson, the 231-pound Gerhart will finally get his chance to start in the NFL. According to Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk, head coach Gus Bradley thinks Gerhart is up to the task, stating, "He has the ability to play all three downs.”

    This game sets up well for a big game for Gerhart, and it's the games where the Jaguars can run the ball where they will be a tough out this year.

Week 17: At Houston Texans

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Storyline: Beware High Wattage

    The Matchup

    The Houston Texans may have been a dumpster fire in 2013, but it wasn't J.J. Watt's fault.

    Yes, the 25-year-old's sacks dropped (all the way to 10.5...that bum), but Watt topped 80 tackles for the second straight year and was once again Pro Football Focus' top-ranked 3-4 defensive end by a staggering margin.

    Watt has also been a thorn in the side of the Jaguars as of late, racking up 3.5 sacks over his past four games against Jacksonville.

    The Score: Texans 24, Jaguars 14

    Unfortunately for the Jaguars, this looks like the makings of a very rough afternoon for young offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, who lost almost his entire rookie year to injury.

    Watt makes Pro Bowl tackles look like matadors, and, just like the rest of the Texans, Watt remembers dropping two games to the Jaguars last year.

    The Texans get a measure of revenge for Gary Kubiak, who was fired after the Texans lost to Jacksonville for a second time last December.

Final Predictions

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Final Record: 6-10

    The idea of losing double-digit games (again) is no doubt unappealing to Jaguars fans, but in many ways even a 6-10 season could be a significant improvement.

    First off, it would mean another two-game jump after last year, and it's slow and steady progress that Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell have tried to sustain by building through the draft.

    Also, while the idea of going 1-7 on the road might be considered overly harsh by some, it's a mark that says more about a schedule that's harder than it looks than about where the Jaguars are as a football team.

    However, the 5-3 mark at home predicted in this article would be the first time the Jaguars have posted a record over .500 at home since 2010.

    And for a young team with plenty of work still to do, that's real progress