A year ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars thought they had found the quarterback of the future. Apparently they had—just not the one they handed $88 million to.
The Jaguars traded Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears this offseason one season into his four-year contract and have apparently handed the keys to the franchise to Gardner Minshew, who at this time in 2019 was a sixth-round pick hoping to make the final roster.
Minshew wound up taking over for an injured Foles in Week 1 then replacing an ineffective one later in the season, becoming a cult hero and the Jaguars’ 2020 starter in the process. It’s unclear if Minshew will be the long-term answer or a short-term stopgap for a better long-term fix (hello, Trevor Lawrence).
With the schedule being released Thursday, here’s a look at what to expect from the Jags in 2020.
Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule
|1||Aug. 13-17||vs Carolina Panthers||TBD|
|2||Aug. 22||vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8 p.m.|
|3||Aug. 27-30||vs Washington Redskins||TBD|
|4||Sept. 3-4||vs Atlanta Falcons||TBD|
Regular Season Schedule
|1||Sept. 13||vs Indianapolis Colts||1 p.m.||CBS|
|2||Sept. 20||vs Tennessee Titans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|3||Sept. 24||vs Miami Dolphins (Thurs.)||8:20 p.m.||NFLN|
|4||Oct. 4||vs Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||CBS|
|5||Oct. 11||vs Houston Texans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Oct. 18||vs Detroit Lions||1 p.m.||FOX|
|8||Nov. 1||vs Los Angeles Chargers||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|9||Nov. 8||vs Houston Texans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|10||Nov. 15||vs Green Bay Packers||1 p.m.||FOX|
|11||Nov. 22||vs Pittsburgh Steelers||1 p.m.||CBS|
|12||Nov. 29||vs Cleveland Browns||1 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Dec. 6||vs Minnesota Vikings||1 p.m.||CBS|
|14||Dec. 13||vs Tennessee Titans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|15||Dec. 20||vs Baltimore Ravens||1 p.m.||CBS|
|16||Dec. 27||vs Chicago Bears||1 p.m.||FOX|
|17||Jan. 3||vs Indianapolis Colts||1 p.m.||CBS|
The Jaguars rank 22nd in strength of schedule based on 2019 records. The AFC South plays games against the NFC North and AFC North as their common opponents, which could be two of the better divisions in football.
All three non-playoff teams in the AFC North should be better on paper. The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting Ben Roethlisberger back after having one of the NFL’s worst quarterback situations last season; the Cleveland Browns hope they found competent coaching after having one of the NFL’s worst coaching staffs last season; and the Cincinnati Bengals were just the literal worst last season, so there’s nowhere to go but up.
The Detroit Lions will also want to be better next season with Matthew Stafford returning from injury and a win-now edict from ownership.
In other words: If the Jaguars are hoping to land a Trevor Lawrence or a Justin Fields, this schedule is lining up perfectly.
Jacksonville doesn’t have a playoff-caliber roster on paper. The Jags shipped out defensive stalwarts Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye for mid-round picks, and Minshew (while fun) never looked like a quarterback who could lead a top-10 offense at any point in 2019. Couple that with a schedule that appears harder than it looks on paper, and there’s a significant chance the Jags wind up being a bottom-five team in 2020.
If we continue down the likeliest path, the Jaguars’ most important matchups will be ones against other teams unlikely to make the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins and Lions jump off the page as the most obvious choices, especially with all three AFC South teams believing they can win the division.
The Texans appear destined for a regression but will compete as long as Deshaun Watson’s healthy. The Titans were the only AFC South team with a positive point differential last season and are bringing back most of the major players from their conference championship game run. The Colts didn’t sign Philip Rivers to tank.
This is the Jaguars’ best chance to get the franchise quarterback they’ve desperately desired for more than a decade. The process just might be more painful than expected.
Prediction : 6-10