The smell of football is officially in the air. The Jaguars will soon be putting the pads on, and that means it is officially time we can look at the schedule ahead and get a realistic idea of how this team will fair. This is the first of four articles looking into the Jaguars' 2009 schedule, and seeing how the team will fair in the upcoming season.
Sunday, September 13th
1pm, @ Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
The first game of the year provides for the toughest for me to analyze. Both the Jaguars and Colts have spent a large amount of their off seasons rebuilding. The Jaguars have gutted their roster, while the Colts have seen many key coaches leave for various reasons.
I had hoped this would be the beginning of the legend of Eugene Monroe, going against Dwight Freeney, but with each passing day it seems Tra Thomas will be the starter in Week 1. However, it may be for the best that Monroe not have to start his career against an All-Pro defensive end.
As usual, the game plan will be the hand off to MJD and keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines.
Speaking of Manning, as long as he is in a Colts uniform, I won't count out the Colts. I agreed with the move to let Marvin Harrision go, though all the turnover on the coaching staff is still an area of concern. I highly doubt it will affect Manning, but is his presence alone enough to keep things from going south, as they almost did for Indy last year?
As of now, this is a swing game, with a slight edge to Indy.
Probability of Jacksonville winning:45%
Sunday, September 20th
1pm, @ Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida
Week two brings the defending NFC Champions to the River City for the Jaguars home opener. The big question everyone is asking about Arizona is, which team will show up in 2009? Is it a return to futility, the team that barely won the worst division the NFL has seen in a decade, or the team that made a surprising Super Bowl run?
Two things are working against the Cardinals this season. Kurt Warner's Super Bowl follow up, and the Super Bowl loser curse. In the two seasons following Super Bowl appearances in St.Louis, Warner missed 14 games due to injury and saw his QB rating sink to 67.4 in 2002.
The biggest worry for the Jaguars is matching up with All-World receiver Larry Fitzgerald. However, I think that will be the only major worry for the team.
Probability of Jacksonville winning:65%
Sunday, September 27th
1pm, Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
The Jaguars return to their favorite House of Horrors to face the Texans in Week 3. The Jaguars are 1-5 in their last six trips to Reliant Stadium, including several game Jaguar fans would love to never be mentioned again. The Texans are looking to finally break through after back to back 8-8 campaigns, but their success likely hinges on quarterback Matt Schaub's health.
The Texans brought in a solid draft in 2008, helping to improve an already above average defense. The selections of Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin should pay dividends this season.
However, the million dollar question for the Texans is simple, can Matt Schaub stay healthy? After sending two first round picks to the Falcons, Schaub has proved himself no better at being the Texans future than franchise bust David Carr. If the Texans want to contend for a playoff spot, that is the key.
Probability of Jacksonville winning: 40%
Sunday, October 4th
The Jaguars return home for their third divisional game in four weeks to face the defending AFC South champs. The Titans certainly lost more than they gained this off season. The loss of Albert Haynesworth to the Redskins was the headline "move" for the team in the off season. Their main positive move was securing Kerry Collins to remain the team's starter in 2009.
The game plan for the Jaguars is to test the middle and see what the absence of Haynesworth means to the Titans defensive line. A healthy Manuwai and Mo Williams against a Haynesworth-less Titans should allow the Jaguars to have a better rushing attack than in their two losses a year ago.
Outside of Chris Johnson, the Titans lack any proven play makers, and relying on Collins to continue from 2008 is a risky.
Probability of Jacksonville winning: 60%