Perhaps no NFL team was more disappointing than the 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars.
A year after reaching the AFC Championship Game and nearly beating the New England Patriots, the Jags fell apart last season, going just 5-11 and at one point losing seven straight games.
Things got so bad that running back Leonard Fournette and the team nearly had a falling out, though that relationship seems mended at this point. But can the Jaguars recover from a hugely disappointing season and be a contender again in 2019?
That answer will fall squarely on the shoulders of the team’s biggest offseason addition, quarterback Nick Foles, who led the Philadelphia Eagles to two straight playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title in 2018 in relief of the injured Carson Wentz.
The 30-year-old is an upgrade over Blake Bortles (now the backup for the Los Angeles Rams). If he can stabilize the quarterback position, the Jaguars could be major bounce-back contenders.
Foles won’t have the weapons in Jacksonville that he had with the Eagles, but Fournette, DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley are a solid enough group at the skill positions. Signing Jake Ryan to join Telvin Smith and Myles Jack at linebacker gives the team a dangerous group at that position.
Releasing defensive tackle Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson, right tackle Jermey Parnell, running back Carlos Hyde and Bortles, among others, cleared cap space, though Jackson, Gipson and Parnell need to be replaced in the starting lineup. The Jaguars will have a chance to add quality depth in the upcoming NFL draft, and if they do, the pieces are in place for this to be a good team.
Will they play up to their potential and return to prominence? Or will they underachieve yet again? Let’s take a look at the schedule they will face as they answer those questions.
Jacksonville Jaguars Game Schedule
Week 1: vs Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 2: vs Houston Texans on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 3: vs Tennessee Titans on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 8:20 p.m. (NFL Network)
Week 4: vs Denver Broncos on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Week 5: vs Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Oct. 6, at 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 6: vs New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Oct. 13 at 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 7: vs Bengals Game on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 8: vs New York Jets on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 9: vs Houston Texans in London on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 9:30 a.m. (NFL Network)
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: vs Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 12: vs Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Week 13: vs Buccaneers Game on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 14: vs Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Dec. 8 at 4:05 p.m. (Fox)
Week 15: vs Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Week 16: vs Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. (Fox)
Week 17: Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 1 p.m. (CBS)
The Jaguars do not have an easy schedule. They have seven games against playoff teams from a season ago and six games against the tough AFC South, which includes two of those playoff teams, the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts.
But the Jaguars lucked out in drawing their toughest nonconference opponents at home: the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints. Kansas City and New Orleans are particularly tough environments to play in, but the Jags won’t have to deal with them in 2019.
But defeating the Chiefs, Chargers and Saints at home won’t be easy, either.
There aren’t a ton of easy tasks on the schedule. The Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers are all aiming to bounce back like the Jaguars. The Oakland Raiders and New York Jets made solid moves this offseason and should be improved. The Jags have to travel to Denver to face the Broncos, which means they’ll have to deal with the altitude.
On this schedule, the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are arguably the easiest matchups, but they are hardly guaranteed wins for a Jacksonville team that has shown serious bouts of inconsistency in the past.
All told, this slate of games should make Jags fans nervous.
Amid all of Jacksonville’s issues and struggles last year, perhaps nothing was harder to stomach than the team’s 1-5 record against the AFC South. Dramatically improving that mark this season will be a huge goal for the Jaguars.
It won’t be easy. The Texans are extremely talented, led by Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins on the offensive side of the ball and J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on defense. The Indianapolis Colts have steadily and quietly built a contender around Andrew Luck. The Titans are built around a strong run game and scrappy defense, making them a tough foe.
The AFC South is a tough division, and for the Jaguars to reenter the playoff conversation, they’ll need to be far better in these six games than they were a season ago.