In 1995, the Panthers and the Jaguars both played their first games as NFL teams (against the Falcons and the Oilers, respectively); 20 years later they square off in the Jaguars 2015 home opener. Both organizations have had their ups and downs, but with a new season, comes hope and excitement. The Panthers are the 3.5 point favorite over the Jaguars, which comes as no surprise, as the Jaguars have won only nine games the past three seasons.
But do not despair Jags fans, this season the Jaguars are ready to compete with teams like the Panthers. The Jags have a revamped offensive line, lead by one of the best offensive line coaches in the business, Doug Marrone. They have retooled their offensive weapons by adding Julius Thomas (out for week one and beyond), and by drafting T.J. Yeldon and Rashad Greene. The Jags also added four new starters on defense in Jared Odrick, Dan Skuta, Sergio Brown, and Davon House. With the new influx of talent and the experience gained over the last several seasons by their younger players, the Jaguars feel confident that their team is finally built to win. That said, it all hinges on the development of Blake Bortles. Bortles has said and done all the right things and looked really sharp in preseason. All of the hard work this offseason by the Jaguars’ players and front office has led up to this moment.
Special Teams: The Jaguars will have three new starters on special teams. In his first regular season start, strong legged rookie kicker, Jason Myers, will look to make a better first impression for the Jags than his predecessor, Josh Scobee, did for the Steelers on Thursday night. Rashad Greene, the rookie receiver out of FSU, will return punts and Corey Grant, the rookie running back out of Auburn, will be taking kick offs. With three rookies playing such a vital role on special teams, it might lead some fans to be nervous, but these three are well equipped to handle the job. On the other side of things, the Panthers have one of the best return men the league has seen in recent years, Ted Ginn Jr. The Jaguars’ coverage unit needs to stay focused when covering kicks fielded by Ginn, who is a true speedster.
The Jaguars will have their hands full on Sunday, but they have the pieces in place to win games; and with the Panthers on the mend, having several key players out for this matchup, the Jags should be up to the task. This one will be close, but I’m predicting a narrow 23-21 victory for the hometown Jaguars, that could very well be won on a late kick from the rookie, Jason Myers.
Jaguars: Andre Branch, Sen'Derrick Marks, and Julius Thomas are all OUT; Marqise Lee is doubtful; Toby Gerhart is questionable; Michael Bennett, John Cyprien, Bryan Walters and LaRoy Reynolds are all probable
Panthers: Star Lotulelei, Richie Brockel, and Nate Chandler are all OUT; Ryan Kalil, Josh Norman, and Teddy Williams are probable
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