The schedule has finally been released! Even though the team has known which teams they'll play and where, since late December, the official order of games is just as important. The schedule opens up with a few winnable games, but it gets tough late, and depending on where the team is at with injuries and their confidence level, it may prove to be an unbearable gauntlet. With that being said, here is a look at the three games I am looking forward to the most, and the one I wish I didn't have to watch.
Week 1 vs. Indianapolis Colts
I love that the Jags get to kick off the season at home! This will give them a great shot to begin the season with not just a win, but a divisional win. The Colts have put together a formidable roster. They added a huge weapon on the defensive side of the ball in DeForest Buckner and signed some secondary insurance in Xavier Rhodes. With the benefit of an early-season matchup, hopefully, the Jags can find some holes in the Colts' defense. On the flip side, the Jaguars get to go after an aging Phillip Rivers. The Jags have only managed to defeat Rivers once since 2010 (2017), but age continues to not be on his side. His immobility can prove to be the real kicker here if the Jaguars can muster up some pressures early. The Jaguars' defense front has a great chance to cause some disruption, but it will be no easy task against the Colts' offensive line. With Rivers playing for a new team and in a new system, the defense should get some opportunities early.
Week 4 @ Cincinnati Bengals
Tua will most likely begin the season as the #2, and I don't foresee Fitzpatrick's leash being short enough to have Tua running the show by week 3. So the Bengals fall in as the next game I am looking forward to. I would have been more intrigued to see the Jags play Tua at home, but the NFL's #1 overall pick will have to do the following week. Joe Burrow brings all the excitement to this game. The Jags travel to Cincy to play the Bengals in week 4, and by then we should have a decent look at what Burrow will be capable of. By no means should he be in midseason form, but he should be showing glimpses. Who knows, maybe he is a phenom early and comes out of the gates hot. Either way, I'm anxious to see how Jacksonville attacks the rookie signal-caller. Since 2012, The Jags have faced #1 overall drafted quarterbacks in their rookie year three times. They split games with Andrew Luck in 2012, taking the first meeting, and were defeated by Jameis Winston's Bucs in 2015.
Week 10 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
This game sticks out for one reason and one reason only, because who doesn't hate the Steelers? You'll have a tough time finding a true Jaguars fan who doesn't despise the franchise. Any meeting with the Steelers is a hard-fought game and honestly feels just as good as the division win that it used to be. Not to mention the fact the Jaguars have beaten the Steelers twice in Pittsburgh the same season, TWICE — the only team ever to do so. The Jags doubled up with a regular-season win followed by a postseason win in 2007 and 2017. I'm sure Big Ben and Mike Tomlin haven't forgotten the scars of their past, and I hope this franchise hasn't either.
Week 15 @ Baltimore Ravens
Last but not least, the game I am absolutely not looking forward, and wish I wouldn't watch (even though I know I will), is Week 15 when the Jaguars travel to Baltimore to presumably not only have the Ravens break the single-game rushing yards record but for Calais Campbell to set the single-game record for sacks. Okay, I know that's dark, and maybe some of you are thinking: "Is this guy even a fan?" But had we played Baltimore last year they probably would've done this anyway. I just want to prepare myself for what could potentially be the worst 4 hours of the season. I hope and expect the Jaguars run defense to be vastly improved this year, but I'm not sure it can improve as much as it needs to for the team to have a chance at slowing down the league's most potent rushing attack.
The schedule's release teases us and lets us know we are one step closer to the most wonderful time of the year: the NFL season, sorry Andy. It looks as if the season could set up for a seamless start amongst all this COVID madness. But even if it does begin without fans, at least we will have football. For that, I am thankful. And I am excited to see the teal and black out on the field again!
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