While the 2016 season is still five months ahead of us, there's one thing we know for certain -- on September 11th, the Green Bay Packers will step onto Everbank Field as undoubted favorites. With them, the Packers will carry winning tradition, a rich history, and a rare match-up to Jacksonville.
Several things will be born out of this opening day Packers/Jaguars contest -- an electric atmosphere, droves of cheeseheads, and the opportunity to for the Jaguars to do achieve something great. It's not often that the Jaguars host an opening day opponent as tough as the Packers, but it is a situation that Jacksonville has overcome before.
The Jaguars have played 10 of their last 17 season openers at home. Among these 10, the team has won five. The Jaguars haven't, however, faced a team with a matching/higher prior season win percentage than the present-day Packers since 1999. I have constructed a list of every Jaguars opening game since the '99 home opener (green = home win, yellow = home loss).
In 1998, the 49ers went 12-4, falling out of the playoffs in the NFC divisional round. The next season, with heightened expectations, the 49ers traveled to Jacksonville on opening weekend and promptly got their asses handed to them. The Jaguars stomped Steve Young's squad 41-3. The 49ers would actually go on to win the next three games before Young got injured. The Jaguars, meanwhile, would go on to post a 14-2 record, losing to the Titans three times in one season.
Since 1999, the NFL schedule makers haven't given the Jaguars an opening day home match-up quite like Steve Young's 49ers. There have been several playoff contenders and a few rare match-ups, but nothing that carried an prominence quite like the opening contest in '99.
This season, however, is an exception. Aaron Rodger's Packers are coming to town.
The Green Bay Packers are not the best team in the league, and they are not unbeatable. The Packers are, however, a formidable opponent with a huge following. Breaking the season open with a team like Green Bay will undoubtably create a more electric environment than seasons in the past. It's a sturdy test for an up-and-coming Jaguars team, and could very well set the tone for the beginning of the Jaguars' 2016 campaign.
Stealing an opening day win against Green Bay would be a huge accomplishment -- not only a step in the right direction, but a validation of the progression the team has undergone since the start of 2013. Sure, it's highly unlikely, but it's week one -- anything could happen.
Whatever the outcome, don't expect a 2016 Jaguars campaign quite like the fabled 1999 season. A similar season-start, however -- that would be fun.