JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time ever, the Jaguars and the rest of the NFL will play 17 games in the 2021 season.
With the schedule being released, it’s time for that spring tradition … pick the wins and losses. Of course, we reserve the right to change our minds after seeing what the team looks like in the preseason. But for now, here goes:
Sept. 12 Jaguars at Houston Texans
The Jaguars open the season against the worst team in the NFL. With or without Deshaun Watson, this is a great opener for the Jaguars and a terrific opportunity for Trevor Lawrence to get his first NFL win.
Prediction: W (1-0)
Sept. 19 Jaguars vs. Denver Broncos
The Jaguars have a built-in advantage for teams coming from cooler climates early in the season. The Broncos have some issues to work out as well. As of now, they don’t know who their starting quarterback will be, Drew Lock or free agent addition Teddy Bridgewater. The Broncos will melt in the Northeast Florida heat.
Prediction: W (2-0)
Sept. 26 Jaguars vs. Arizona Cardinals
Back-to-back September home games give the Jaguars a chance to keep things going. The heat won’t bother Arizona, but perhaps the humidity will. With Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins coming to town, the Jaguars revamped pass defense will be tested. I have a hard time seeing a rookie quarterback on a team that went 1-15 last year winning their first three games.
Prediction: L (2-1)
Sept. 30 Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals – Thursday Night Football
A matchup of the last two No. 1 picks in the draft as Lawrence matches up with Joe Burrow. I think the Bengals made a mistake by not addressing the offensive line with their first-round pick. Instead, they reunited Burrow with his former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase. Cincinnati is still a team lacking in star power on defense. How does Trevor Lawrence handle his first NFL primetime game?
Prediction: W (3-1)
Oct. 10 Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans
The Jaguars return to TIAA Bank Field for their third game in four weeks, and who is waiting for them? Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans. The Jaguars had all kinds of issues stopping the run last year. Will the additions of Malcom Brown, Jihad Ward, Roy Robertson-Harris and fourth-round pick Jay Tufele be enough to contain the Yulee Bulldozer? The Jaguars should be well rested after the Thursday night game the previous week, but I don’t like the history of Henry vs. his hometown team.
Prediction: L (3-2)
Oct. 17 Jaguars vs. Miami Dolphins – London
For starters, I don’t like the fact that a game that would have been highly anticipated was taken out of Jacksonville and sent to London. Believe me, the London fans don’t care if it’s a state rivalry. But that’s not going to change the fact that the Jaguars have to play at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium instead of on the banks of the St. Johns River. London travel is tough on a young team. It will also be the first London trip for Urban Meyer.
Prediction: L (3-3)
Oct. 24 Bye week
Time for a break. Week 7 is a little earlier than you would want for this young team, but sometimes it comes at the right time.
Oct. 31 Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks
From London to Jacksonville to Seattle, 13,004 round trip miles of travel for these two games. Good thing the bye week is squeezed in between. I know the Seahawks aren’t what they were a few years ago, but they’re better than the Jaguars, especially in the northwest.
Prediction: L (3-4)
Nov. 7 Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills
If my predictions are right, this would be the first game all season where the Jaguars enter with a losing record. Dropping three straight after a 3-1 start will make it tough for the young team. The Bills’ Josh Allen, who will be chased by the Jaguars’ Josh Allen, is expected to lead Buffalo to the AFC East crown this year.
Prediction: L (3-5)
Nov. 14 Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
A road trip within the division, needing a win to snap a four-game losing streak. There are so many questions about the Colts this year, in particular with a new quarterback, Carson Wentz, at the helm. How will a young team and a first-year NFL head coach handle this obstacle? It could define the rest of the season.
Prediction: W (4-5)
Nov. 21 Jaguars vs. San Francisco 49ers
Could we see Lawrence vs. Trey Lance in a matchup of two of the top three picks in this one? It’s certainly possible. Since the Jaguars aren’t traveling to the Pacific time zone, I like their chances a whole lot better at home than on the road.
Prediction: W (5-5)
Nov. 28 Jaguars vs. Atlanta Falcons
This is the game that was added to the schedule when the league went to a 17-game regular season. The Falcons have some salary cap issues. They are shopping Julio Jones. But if he’s still on the roster, the Jaguars will have the task of trying to stop Jones, Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts in the passing game. I don’t think they are there yet.
Prediction: L (5-6)
Dec. 5 Jaguars at Los Angeles Rams
The dreaded cross-country flight again. The Rams are gearing up for a Super Bowl run, or so they think. Matthew Stafford is hunting for a ring. Aaron Donald is hunting for Trevor Lawrence.
Prediction: L (5-7)
Dec. 12 Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
Another December visit to Nashville. I was there in 2018 when the Jaguars were frozen out in a 15-10 New Year’s Eve game. This will be a day for power football. Urban Meyer is building a speed team. Not the best formula.
Prediction: L (5-8)
Dec. 19 Jaguars vs. Houston Texans
After beating the Texans in the opener, Houston comes to Jacksonville looking for revenge. But Houston is going to be awful. The Jaguars are going to be something approaching mediocre.
Prediction: W (6-8)
Dec. 26 Jaguars at New York Jets
After spending Christmas at Rockefeller Center, it’s a matchup of the top two picks in the draft. Lawrence against Zach Wilson, the former BYU quarterback. The Jets added Wilson, guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and wide receiver Elijah Moore in the draft, but they will be only marginally better than they were a year ago. Still, it’s a home game in a time of year when it’s tough for some teams to stay focused, especially teams with losing records. In this scenario, the Jaguars probably come into the game with a “win or out” playoff scenario.
Prediction: L (6-9)
Jan. 2 Jaguars at New England Patriots
Will Mac Jones be starting for the Patriots by this point? Will there be a New Years hangover for the Jaguars, who have to travel to the cold of New England? I don’t love the matchup here, especially if New England has something to play for.
Prediction: L (6-10)
Jan. 9 Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
The latest regular-season game in Jaguars history. With a later-than-usual start and a 17-game season, the Jaguars will be playing deeper into January than in any season without a playoff run. The Colts playoff hopes will likely be done by this point.
Prediction: W (7-10)
In this scenario, the Jaguars would have to be tremendously pleased with the progress in Urban Meyer’s first year. Being mathematically alive for the playoffs in December, a six-win improvement from last season, and some serious foundational wins to build on for the future.