Jacksonville Jaguars vs Carolina Panthers.
It’s the week one matchup for the Jags and while it’s a ways away, it is the distant spot in the future that represents the start of football season. The preseason is just a tease. It all begins with the two cat teams brought into the league in the same year. One of them was 3-13 last season, the other slipped into the playoffs by winning the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record.
Giving the Jaguars a division winner in week one sounds rough, but let’s keep in mind that the Panthers were a pretty miserable team in 2014 from a pretty miserable division. They had to win four straight just to make it into the playoffs and eve then, they were still under .500. They lucked out with the QB-less Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs before being dismantled by the Seattle Seahawks.
I write this all for you so you know that when I talk about week one, we are all on the same page that this is a winnable game for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Erik Lambert at NFL Mocks disagrees, however. I like Lambert’s work, but when he predicts a 26-21 victory for the Panthers in week one, I’ve got to shake my head. Here’s what he had to say:
"After two-straight division titles, the Carolina Panthers must be feeling they are close to a deep playoff run. Meanwhile the Jacksonville Jaguars eagerly wish to see if their supposed solid drafting will begin to yield tangible results. This game will be closer than anticipated, but the more experienced Panthers should hang on for the W."
The Panthers may have that experience, but they aren’t a cut above the Jaguars. They aren’t anywhere near ready for a playoff run. Four of their seven wins last year came against NFC South teams who had a combined record of 15-33 last season. Two of those wins came against a 2-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that was reeling from week to week as if punch drunk from the beatings they had taken.
Now, the playoffs are a big deal and if you can get in with a 7-8-1 record, then congrats to you. But 2014 is not a positive measurement for the Carolina Panthers. It’s a negative. It shows that the team struggled to win outside of the weakest division in football. 2014 shows a team with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome, putting up over 30 points in back to back weeks and then not getting above 20 for three.
This week one game belongs to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Sure, consistency as a bottom feeder isn’t a track record of success to build off of, but it is clear to everyone that the Jaguars are climbing the ladder and 2015 could be the year they finally get out of the chasm created by Gene Smith. 2015 is a year when .500 is possible. Winning games against NFC South teams is an important part of that and it begins with the Carolina Panthers.
The Jaguars are going to have to come out fighting, they’ll have to deal with a team that is intent on staying atop their division. They’ll have to execute better than they did in 2014. But right now the Jaguars are trending upward and ready to become something. This is their chance to make a statement to the NFL right out of the gate.
Week one is a ways away and a lot can happen before then, but right now I’m looking at this game as a winnable one for the Jaguars.
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