The NFL has released the official schedules for all 32 NFL teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars’ 2018 season includes a rematch of every AFC team they met in the playoffs, along with games against the NFC East. This includes a meeting with the defending SuperBowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.
To say the 2018 season for the Jaguars is highly anticipated is an understatement for the city of Jacksonville. With more nationally televised games than fans are used to, the time has come to break down every game before the season.
Week 1: @ New York Giants
The Jaguars meet with the New York Giants in the first matchup between the two clubs since 2014. The Jaguars have yet to take down the Giants at MetLife in the six matchups between the two teams. In 2017, their offensive line allowed 34 sacks and ranked 26th in the NFL for rushing yards. The signing of Nate Solder improved the left tackle position immensely for the Giants.
Despite the acquisition, the Giants O-line won’t stand a chance against the likes of Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, and Yannick Ngakoue. Look for Ngakoue to wreak havoc on right tackle Ereck Flowers who is the weak point along this Giants’ line. Eli Manning won´t be able to find a rhythm and the Jaguars take down Tom Coughlin’s former team, 23-17. The black and teal leaves MetLife at 1-0.
Week 2: vs. New England Patriots
The Jaguars’ first home game of the season is also the most anticipated game of the season. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots come to Jacksonville in an AFC Championship rematch. The playoff matchup proved both sides were balanced and resulted in a 24-20 win by the Patriots. The loss left a bad taste in the mouths of Jaguars’ players and fans alike.
Despite the loss, it was clear that Jacksonville was the better team for three of the four quarters. The Patriots haven’t made great offseason moves and it’s hard to expect that they’ll be better than last year.
Florida cornerback Duke Dawson could potentially fill the slot left by Malcolm Butler, but Blake Bortles should still shred this weak Patriots’ secondary. By exposing the secondary early, Fournette can be more effective and the improved Jaguars’ offensive line secures the win at home, 30-21. Jaguars get sweet revenge and move on to 2-0.
Week 3: vs. Tennessee Titans
The only team to beat the Jaguars twice in 2017 comes to Jacksonville in week three. Tensions with the Tennessee Titans boiled over in the week 16 matchup and despite their efforts, the Jaguars came up short in a chippy, defensive game that ended 15-10. Quarterback Marcus Mariota’s legs can keep offensive drives alive and they likely will do the same in this matchup.
Mariota’s arm, however, won’t be a difference maker in this game. Running back Dion Lewis is the key player to look out for. Lewis is the player that gave the Jaguars’ issues in the AFC championship game out of the backfield and he figures to take on that same passing down role in Tennessee.
Andrew Norwell makes the difference in this one as the Jaguars’ running game out does the Titans’ in yet another defensive struggle, 14-13. They get ready to head back to New York at 3-0.
Week 4: @ New York Jets
The Jaguars’ return to MetLife as they get set for the New York Jets this time. The Jets upset the Jaguars in week four of the 2017 season in what was likely the catalyst game for the Jaguars trading for Marcell Dareus to improve their run defense. Running backs Bilal Powell and rookie Elijah McGuire combined for a whopping 256 rushing yards with one touchdown each.
This game depends on whether Sam Darnold, Josh McCown, or Teddy Bridgewater is the starter. For now, McCown has been named the starter entering the season and it’s very possible that the Jaguars will face a nearly identical Jets team as last year.
Since then, the Jaguars have improved their run defense. The Jets won’t have as much success running the ball and cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey will lock down Jets’ wide receivers Robbie Anderson and Terrelle Pryor.
The Jags learn from their mistakes last season and the offensive line controls the game. The Jaguars leave New York with a 23-12 win and stay undefeated at 4-0.
Week 5: @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Jaguars head to Kansas City to play the Chiefs for the first time since their loss to the Chiefs in 2016. The Chiefs will be sporting a new quarterback in second year player, Patrick Mahomes II.
Similar to the Giants, the Chiefs have a plentiful amount of offensive weapons. Wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, and breakout running back Kareem Hunt are all playmakers. Depending on how well Mahomes plays the Chiefs could be in the running for the best offense in the league.
Linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack struggled in coverage at times during the 2017 season, and Kelce is one of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL. Add in one of the best do-it-all running backs in the game in Kareem Hunt and the Jags defense will struggle with short passes and dump-offs.
The Chiefs outpace the Jaguars offensively in this one and defend arrowhead as the Jaguars drop their first game of the season, 33-24, and fall to 4-1.
Week 6: @ Dallas Cowboys
The second game against the NFC East will be against the Dallas Cowboys. The Jaguars secondary shouldn’t have any problems with this weak Dallas receiving core which now features ex-Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns as their number one option after cutting veteran Dez Bryant.
Quarterback Dak Prescott won’t be able to get it done through the air and the Jaguars front seven have the ability to hold running back Ezekiel Elliot to a mediocre day.
On the other side of the ball the Dallas defense is solid. Look for both defenses to shine in this game but the Jaguars potential to make game changing turnovers is what will tip the scales in their favor. The Jaguars edge out the Cowboys in a low scoring game at AT&T, 13-10, and Jacksonville improves to 5-1.
Week 7: vs. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans will be the second divisional game of the season. The Jaguars took down the Texans in both meetings last season, but only saw quarterback Deshaun Watson’s for two of the eight quarters played. Wide receiver Deandre Hopkins and Watson have dangerous chemistry, so look for Hopkins to be targeted often.
Hopkins and receiver Will Fuller will draw attention, allowing running lanes to open for Lamar Miller. Pressure on Watson will be plentiful with Ngakoue and Campbell on the edges, but Watson can extend drives. Houston’s offense won’t stop rolling as Watson has a big day on the Jaguars defense. Jacksonville drops their second game of the season in a lopsided 31-13 loss. 5-2.
Week 8: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (London)
The Jacksonville Jaguars head to London for their annual overseas game, this time facing off against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have made impressive offseason moves. This team got better, which doesn’t happen often to Super Bowl winning teams. The addition of defensive end Michael Bennett potentially makes this defense more elite than the Jaguars’.
Elite edge rushers Brandon Graham and Bennett will be too much to handle for Bortles and the Jaguars’ tackles. The Eagle’s elite defense will stuff the Jaguars run-first offense and Philadelphia leaves London with a win, 24-14. The Jacksonville Jaguars head in to the halfway point of the season and their bye-week at 5-3.
Interested in seeing how the rest of the Jaguars season shapes up? Check out the second half projections next Sunday, on May 12.