It's a new era in Jacksonville.
Urban Meyer is the head coach. Trevor Lawrence has the potential to be the elite franchise quarterback the Jaguars have never had. The team has exciting young offensive weapons in DJ Chark Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., James Robinson and Travis Etienne. Myles Jack, K'Lavon Chaisson, C.J. Henderson, Josh Allen and Tyson Campbell form the foundation of an intriguing young defense.
Will the Jags be contenders in 2021? No, this team is in the midst of a rebuild. But there are real reasons for optimism in Jacksonville, something that hasn't been the case since the team reached the AFC Championship Game in the 2017 season.
That team had its key members gradually traded or allowed to walk in free agency. The hope will be that this young core can stick together and form the groundwork for a better era of Jaguars football.
Let's take a look at the schedule they will face in 2021 as they take the early steps in that journey.
Jaguars 2020 Schedule
The Jaguars don't have an easy schedule in 2021, with seven games against playoff teams from a year ago (Tennessee Titans twice, Indianapolis Colts twice, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills).
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals were on the edge of the playoff picture in 2020 and should be improved this season, the New England Patriots loaded up in free agency (and drafted a quarterback in Alabama's Mac Jones), and a healthier San Francisco 49ers team will be dangerous.
When you're in the midst of a rebuild, no games are gimmes. The Houston Texans should be beatable, but divisional opponents never go down without a fight. The Denver Broncos have plenty of weapons. A healthy Joe Burrow makes the Cincinnati Bengals a tougher matchup.
Hey, there's always the New York Jets. That matchup could well decide the top overall pick next season as well. More on that below.
You can bet that everyone will want to see the matchup between Lawrence and Zach Wilson when the Jags travel to face the Jets. Ditto for facing the Niners, assuming Trey Lance is the starter, which is probably a long shot. And measuring Lawrence against Burrow should be fun.
When you look over Jacksonville's schedule, the most winnable games appear to be against the Jets, Texans, Broncos and Bengals. Optimistically, that's five potential wins right there, even if the young Jags are unlikely to have a perfect record in those contests.
But all four of those teams finished with five or fewer wins last year. Three of them will roll out young, largely inexperienced quarterbacks. The fourth, Houston, has seen many of its best players depart in recent years. All four of those matchups will give the Jaguars the chance to compare the state of its rebuild against the other bottom-feeders in the AFC.
Jacksonville fans should want at least three wins out of those five games. And of course, there's always the possibility that the Jags could pull off a much bigger upset, too. But the dates against the Jets, Texans, Broncos and Bengals are worth circling on the calendar.
The Jaguars aren't going to be good in 2021. They should be better, however. Look for them to finish 4-12 in a nice jump after going 1-15 last year.