Heading into the season, the Jaguars are predicted to be at the bottom of the league in talent and wins. Certainly a lack of expectations from national media. Now, the NFL protocols surrounding COVID 19 have impacted every team, including the Jaguars.
But the games are scheduled to be played. And within the first six games, the Jaguars have an opportunity to enter the bye week with a 3-3 record. Definitely a goal this team can shoot for with early games against Miami (Dolphins), Detroit (Lions), and the Cincinnati (Bengals).
However after the bye week, the schedule strength increases. In fact, the gauntlet the Jaguars face in November will be treacherous. This stretch of five games in November will be the pivotal point of the season.
Go West, Los Angeles Chargers November 1
The Jaguars are welcomed back from the bye week with a trip out west to tangle with the Chargers. Historically, the Jaguars do not leave the West Coast victorious. On paper, the Chargers have a top-tier defense with All-Pro players at a handful of positions.
Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew will be tested early and often. In order to steal a victory, the Jaguars offensive line must play their best game of the season. Not an easy ask against Chargers defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. If Minshew can survive the pass rush, he then needs to deal with cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and safety Derwin James.
Defensively, the Jaguars will need to find an answer for running back Austin Ekeler. Last December, Ekeler torched the Jaguars for 213 total yards on 12 touches. Possibly the one bright spot will be that the Jaguars will no longer see Philip Rivers at quarterback for the Chargers. Certainly a sigh of relief, as Rivers has imposed his will on the Jaguars over the years.
Back Home, Houston Texans November 8
The Jaguars return home against the defending AFC South Champions Houston Texans in week nine of the season. After a brutal first half schedule, the Texans hope to be in the hunt for the divisional crown again.
The Texans certainly have a new look on offense. This offseason, the Texans traded three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for running back David Johnson.
But don’t feel bad for the Texans. They still have one of the top quarterbacks in the league behind center with Deshaun Watson. Since he entered the division, Watson has shown little mercy for the Jaguars. He is a dynamic player that creates plays with his arm and legs. If the Jaguars defense is unable to capitalize at the line of scrimmage, Watson will pick them apart. Yet again.
More Cheese, Green Bay Packers November 15
The Jaguars take a rare trip up north to Wisconsin in mid-November to take on the defending NFC North Champions, Green Bay Packers. The Packers future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers should be mid-season form by the time the Jaguars arrive.
Although Rodgers may not have as many offensive weapons as he would like, he still has plenty to help score points. Wide receiver Davante Adams has shown the ability to be unstoppable at times. He will be a handful for the Jaguars young defensive secondary.
Running back Aaron Jones looks to follow up his record-breaking season which had him lead the league in total touchdowns. Additionally, the Packers added rookie running back A.J. Dillon from Boston College. From the opening whistle, this running back tandem will cause fits for the Jaguars front seven.
Revenge Game, Pittsburgh Steelers November 22
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the parade of Terrible Towels arrive in Jacksonville looking for revenge after a pair of losses to Jacksonville three seasons ago. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seeks redemption after an injury-shortened 2019. He will have a full complement of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball that are sure to create mismatches.
Running back James Conner has proven that he can be a dual-threat out of the backfield. While wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster leads a talented group of targets for Big Ben. However, the biggest asset of the Steelers offense is the offensive line led by All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey. The group is big, nasty, and pushes defenders around. This will cause issues for the inexperienced defensive line and linebackers for the Jaguars.
Veteran head coach Mike Tomlin is sure to have a playoff berth on his mind during this week 10 matchup. However, Tomlin will need to keep his team focused and not look ahead. As the following Thursday, the Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving night.
Dawg Pound in Duval, Cleveland Browns November 29
This matchup between two of the worst franchises in the past two decades concludes the November schedule for the Jaguars. But these are not your typical Browns. In fact they could be competing for a rare playoff berth the last Sunday in November.
On paper, the Browns have elite offensive talent. Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt set the pace for the Browns offense on the ground. Therefore opening up opportunities for former-LSU wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. to have their way against the Jaguars secondary. This is a nightmare of a matchup for the Jaguars.
But there is not much breathing room for the Jaguars on offense either. Former number one pick Myles Garrett will wreak havoc on the edge and make Minshew uncomfortable. Thus allowing, rookie free safety Grant Delpit to roam the passing lanes and look for opportunities for takeaways.
2020 will be a rough ride for the Jacksonville Jaguars. This group of November opponents during the middle of the season is quite the gauntlet for even average teams. Which the Jaguars are not. Fair or not, this is the schedule. Only thing left for the Jaguars to do is embrace their underdog status. Buckle up! The schedule in December is not much easier.