The Jaguars schedule for the 2020 season has been released and we are one step closer to getting football back on our screens. Their strength of schedule varies depending on how you look at it.
1. First quarter of the schedule is light
The Jags open their season at home against the Colts, at the Titans, home in primetime against the Dolphins, and at the Bengals. Don’t look now, but they have a chance to shock the league and start out 3-1.
Let’s break this down a little. The season opener is against the division rival Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are far and away the better team on paper, but their kryptonite is playing in Jacksonville. The last time they won at TIAA Bank Field was back in 2015 and have only 3 wins in Jacksonville in the last decade. This will be Philip Rivers’ first game as a Colt and they make take a few games to settle in.
Next up is in Tennessee. Just like the Colts in Duval, the Jags can’t beat the Titans. Anywhere. Once again, in 2020 the Titans are the superior team and should come out on top. At least they avoid another Thursday night game against them.
Instead, the NFL gave the Jags a tough but winnable TNF matchup against Miami. The Dolphins reloaded their roster this offseason but are still a year or two away from competing. Plus, they will likely start Ryan Fitzpatrick as they have no immediate need to rush Tua Tagovailoa into the starting role. They have a rough opening two games against New England and Buffalo making this a winnable spot.
The last game of the first quarter brings a visit to Cincinnati. The Bengals earned the first overall pick in the latest draft through some nearly unwatchable performances last season. Rookie Joe Burrow will be still be getting adjusted to NFL life, and don’t forget the Bengals were the worst team in the league last year. If this matchup were later in the season I would probably lean CIN as their Heisman winning QB will have settled in, but the Jags should be able to pull it off early in the season and rattle Burrow with a ferocious pass rush.
2-2 early season is probably the most realistic best hope, but the route to 3-1 is there. Starting the season hot is crucial to having a decent season as we will see later on.
2. Big travel disadvantage
I came across an interesting Twitter thread earlier today from Brian Burke at ESPN. He proposed a new way of thinking about travel related to the schedule. Instead of just considering how many miles a team has to travel, take into account how far their opponents have to travel. His metric is net miles (your team’s miles traveled minus your opponents’). The Jaguars have the most net miles in the league (not a good thing).
Most “net travel miles” for 2020 pic.twitter.com/gOV6eqozd0— Brian Burke (@bburkeESPN) May 8, 2020
Not enough research has been done on this to draw any conclusions, but with a young team the travel may get to them and wear them out down the stretch. Home field advantage remains a real factor for a young and developing team.
3. Lost in the shuffle?
The Jaguars 2020 schedule features 14 1pm games, the most in the league. The other two are week 3 on TNF against Miami, and a 4:05 pm start against the Chargers in week 8 (yes, I typed San Diego at first. I’m still not over it).
Based on the exposure of the Jaguars to a prime time audience, the “higher-ups” in the league do not expect much from this team. Jacksonville needs a good, winning season and desperately needs #MinshewMania to continue to build and earn primetime games again.
4. Brutal home stretch
The first 4 weeks of the season feature 4 of six games against teams with projected win totals below 8. The final 10? Nine are against teams above eight wins with the other coming against Houston (7.6 wins) at home. This includes trips to Baltimore, Indy, Minnesota, and Green Bay, with Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Cleveland at home.
Jacksonville will face a lot of physical teams down the stretch, and their ability to deal with attrition is certainly under scrutiny with a shallow roster. With the added travel lag, this team may struggle to stay healthy as the season winds down.
After a relatively easy start, the Jaguars schedule for 2020 goes downhill. While I don’t think they will be in the playoff picture this year, I am going on record to say they will not pick in the top three of the 2021 draft.
The Dolphins were seemingly on a mission to get the number one pick last year and still couldn’t pull it off. There are a lot of obstacles for the Jaguars this year but it takes sheer willpower to be the worst.
Marrone is on the hot seat and will be doing everything possible to keep this team and his job afloat. After an in-depth look at the Jaguars schedule, I have them going 6-10; way out of the top QB range in the 2021 Draft.