Respect is a dead horse with us Jaguars fans.  Some complain that we don’t get any respect from the national media… while others argue that respect from national media talking heads doesn’t matter… and still others argue that when we finally put out a winning product, we’ll get the respect we deserve (the 1999 and 2005 Jaguars got theirs didn’t they?).

While I admire horses from afar, I rarely get up on my high horse or beat a dead one (sounds kinda fun but PETA would be all over that), and have never actually ridden a horse of any kind (I assume petting farm ponies don’t count).  However, I’m going to branch out and get mad equine today.  This is why.

I gamble my money on companies, not on sports teams, but when I saw that Vegas had put out spreads for this upcoming NFL season, I decided to take a look-see, figuring they’d probably have us favored in five or six games – maybe both Colts games, the game against the Dolphins, the home game against the Titans, and maybe an outside shot at being favored against the Vikings away or against the Jets/Bears at home.  For those of you who aren’t hyperlink clickers, I’ll save you the trouble of weighing between curiosity and laziness.  We were favored in 1 game.

1 game. Against the Colts, at home, by 3. (If you’re wondering, the Colts are favored by 3.5 when we play them in Indianapolis in Andrew Luck’s third game).  Meanwhile, the worst team in the league last year is favored in three games (and got one PICK).  Even St. Louis, a team that can’t seem to do anything  right, is favored in more games than we are.  Hey at least we’re not the Browns – they’re not favored to win any game… and we don’t have to wear any Browns head-ware.

I hate when people complain about disrespect, but One game?  Seriously?  And if you look at the egregiously early 2013 Mock Drafts that are being posted, you’ll see plenty that have the Jaguars taking Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson number 1 overall.  Honestly, it makes me wonder – is it disrespect or is it just ignorance?  Is it that we’re a small market team with very little star power (outside of MJD) that causes people to ignore us until they have to write about us?

Despite the ignorance and disrespect, the penultimate question (as it always is during the offseason) is how good are we truly going to be next year?  (The ultimate question is always whether that’s good enough to make the playoffs).  Right now, the consensus for this season seems to be one of cautious optimism.  There are reasons of concern of course – our additions have been limited this season as opposed to last season and we’re still rolling with a very young quarterback, a suspect offensive line (whether for injury/depth or lack of experience), the loss of arguably our second best defensive player for ‘pot’ of the season (see what I did there?), and expecting production from two aging veterans coming off of serious knee injuries in Mathis and Kampman.  However, we finally got a deep threat (Robinson) and hope to have a playmaking possession receiver who can make an immediate impact (Blackmon), in addition to resigning our impact players (Mincey, Lowery) and gaining some quality players in areas of need (eg Ross, Anger).  So despite the seemingly challenging schedule we have, I’m cautiously optimistic we can squeeze a few more wins out even if our newly anointed stars QB and WR are a little slow to develop.  With a new coach, coordinators, and owner, I think that 8-8 is realistic, but honestly, with a 7-9 season, we could show a lot of growth and make significant strides towards the development of this team in this next era for our franchise.  And hey, I can’t lie and say there’s not a little part of me that thinks that with a few timely wins, we can sneak into the playoffs at 9-7.

Now as I said before, I’m not a betting man and I’m certainly not advocating gambling in a public forum (and for the record, neither is BlackandTeal, Fansided, or the Jaguars).  However, if you’re a Jaguars fan and you do bet on sports, you have the unique opportunity to make a number of wise, calculated bets on your favorite team this season.  Don’t bet the house on us, but hey, have a little fun within your means if that’s your thing.  And shoot, maybe even buy some season tickets with your winnings!

Wishing us a season full of touchdowns, wins, and dollahs,

Zain Gowani