The Jacksonvillle Jaguars had a difficult season in 2011, going 5-11 and finishing last in the league in passing offense (136.2 yards per game) with rookie Blaine Gabbert at the helm. A new head coach is in place, as Mike Mularkey moves south after serving as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons over the past four seasons.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is still in place as the centerpiece of the Jaguars' offense, and he led the league in rushing in 2011 (1,606 yards). Defensively Jacksonville had an excellent season last year, finishing sixth in total defense (313 yards per game), but how the 2012 season turns out will rest on improved performance from Gabbert and the offense.
With that, let's look at the 2012 regular season schedule for the Jacksonville Jaguars
@ Green Bay
vs. Indianapolis (Thursday Night)
vs. New York Jets
vs. New England
Coming out of their Week 6 bye, Jacksonville will have road games against the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers followed by a home game against the Detroit Lions. After a divisional game with the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10, Week 11-16 features matchups against the entire AFC East, including a potential bad weather game against the Buffalo Bills on the road in Week 13. That ten games will set the course for the Jaguars season, for better or worse.
Facing the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts in two of their first three games qualifies here, as the Vikings and Colts combined for five wins in 2011 and owned two of the top three picks in the 2012 NFL Draft prior to the first round and the Vikings trading down a pick. Other than that, there is not a prolonged stretch of games that look easy on paper, which stands to make any chance for the Jaguars to improve their results from last season a challenge.
Overall and Prediction
The Jaguars, as could be expected, will only be featured once in primetime this season, during their mandatory Thursday night game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10. Without star power, outside of Jones-Drew and perhaps 2012 first-round pick, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville is not a big draw for a national audience without being a likely playoff contender.
I think the Jaguars will struggle again in 2012, ultimately finishing with a 3-13 record and in last place in the AFC South. That may put them in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, and put them in position to move on from Gabbert if he does not show improvement in his second season.