The Jaguars have a fun schedule, with some unique shifts in 2020. Not playing a "home game" in London should be an advantage for the Jaguars. And having just one September day game at home should give the Jaguars and their opponents a reason to be thankful. Not playing the Titans on Thursday Night Football for the first time since 2017 is another intriguing change.
Here's the full schedule with a brief bit of analysis on each game.
Now, I'd like to make a best and worst-case scenario record prediction for the Jaguars. Often times, writers and analysts will provide an exact record prediction, which I'll do later this summer. But right now, I want to identify the range of outcomes for the Jaguars' 2020 season. We'll start with the worst-case scenario and then finish with the best possible outcome.
The Jaguars suffer a number of injuries to key players, as they have over the last two seasons. The team plays well early, earning two wins in their first three weeks of play, beating the Colts or Titans, and then taking care of business against the Dolphins and Bengals. After that, things go south. Taking on the Texans in Houston is never an easy task for the Jaguars, and the Lions are loaded offensively and have some fresh new talent on defense. The Jaguars drop to 2-4 heading into the bye week. Having a full two weeks to prepare for the Chargers is a relief, but making the trip out west rarely yields good results for the Jaguars, and they lose a third consecutive game. The Jaguars then face a brutal seven-game stretch, hosting the Texans, Steelers, Browns, and Titans, while traveling to play the Packers, Vikings, and Ravens. A young, talented Jaguars' roster competes but is ultimately outclassed in six of these seven games, sliding to a 3-11. The Jaguars then host the Bears, a game in which they'll be motivated to beat Nick Foles and John DeFilippo. The Bears' offense isn't likely to improve much in 2020, and the Jaguars earn a hard-fought win, getting their record to 4-11. In their season finale, the Jaguars head north to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in Philip Rivers' final NFL game, and in typical Phil fashion, he roasts the Jaguars, dropping the Big Cats to 4-12. A season in which the Jaguars win just four games would be far from acceptable, but it's not outside the realm of possibilities. But as long as Gardner Minshew stays healthy, I have a hard time believing he can't win them at least four games with his innate playmaking ability. This type of season would likely mark the end of the Dave Caldwell and Doug Marrone Experience. But with a boatload of cap space and nine draft picks, the Jaguars would still be well-suited to have a competitive roster in 2021.
The Jaguars win three of their first four games, stealing a division win and beating the Dolphins and Bengals. Sound familiar? This time, the Jaguars stay relatively healthy on defense and carry their momentum forward. They lose to the Texans in Houston, falling to 3-2, but then take care of business at home against a Lions team that may be ill-equipped to slow down Gardner Minshew and company. The Jaguars enter the bye week with a 4-2 record. The two weeks of preparation for their trip to Los Angeles yields positive results, and the Jaguars enter their supremely tough seven-game stretch with a record of 5-2. The Jaguars then beat Houston in Jacksonville for the first time in a while, as the wheels begin to fall off the Bill O'Brien Express. The Jaguars have a ton of momentum as they head to Green Bay to take on the Packers. But the Packers send the Jaguars home with a reality check. Hosting the Steelers has not yielded the same results that the Jaguars usually achieve in Pittsburgh, and the Jaguars fall to the Steelers. With a record of 6-4, the Jaguars are still in the playoff race as they prepare to host the Browns. The Browns have a talented offense, but their defense struggles to slow down Minshew, Fournette, and company. The Jaguars get to 7-4. A trip to Minnesota, followed by a home game against the Titans, and then a road contest with the Ravens yields just one win, as the Jaguars fall to 8-6. With two weeks left, the Jaguars need to win at least one more game to have a shot at the seventh seed in the AFC playoffs. The Jaguars earn a win against the Bears or Colts and sneak into the playoffs with a record of 9-7 when no one gave them a chance. Gardner Minshew develops into a legit starter, thanks in large part to Jay Gruden's tutelage and play calling. The offensive line improves but is still not an elite unit. Chark and Shenault are very difficult to slow down, and the Jaguars have plenty of weapons behind them in their arsenal. On defense, the addition of Joe Schobert unlocks Myles Jack, allowing the Jaguars to improve greatly against the run.
There's a reason, actually many, for such a high variance in the range of possible outcomes for the Jaguars this season. They're a young team — how quickly do some of their younger, talented players develop? They also have a lot of new faces on defense — how quickly will they acclimate? The Jaguars will probably have the same starting offensive line that they did in 2019. The coaching staff expects to see improved play, but will they get it? And ultimately, how will Minshew develop in 2020? All these factors and more play into the idea that the Jaguars could finish as poor as 4-12, but could also push for nine wins and a potential playoff birth.
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