Jacksonville Jaguars vs Carolina Panthers.
It’s the kind of matchup that hearkens back to the founding of both teams. Expansion franchises pitted together in a Hall of Fame game that would set the ball rolling.
The Jacksonville Jaguars became an early AFC juggernaut, appearing in the AFC Championship, fighting against greats like John Elway and Eddie George. They never quite made it, but it was clear a foundation of winning was being built. They now focus on rebuilding that foundation.
The Carolina Panthers appeared in the NFC Championship in just their second year, faded into obscurity, then re-emerged in 2003 to lose their only Super Bowl game. They stumbled after that but are once again establishing themselves as contenders, entering 2015 with back to back playoff appearances.
On paper a 3-13 team takes on a 7-8-1 team. Both are hungry to get above .500 in 2015 and while the record indicates weakness, the Carolina Panthers are anything but.
Does a rebuilding franchise like the Jacksonville Jaguars stand a chance against a playoff contender just a season removed from a 12-4 record?
The short answer is yes.
Here are six reasons for optimism heading into Jacksonville Jaguars vs Carolina Panthers.
Aug 14, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) throws a pass during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
1) Blake Bortles, quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars
If you thought this list was going to gloss over the fact that Blake Bortles looks like a real NFL caliber quarterback in just year two, you thought wrong.
Blake Bortles is entering 2015 hot. He’s put together an impressive preseason, and looks to be lightyears ahead of his 2014 rookie self.
Gone are the mental mistakes, gone are the poor mechanics. Replacing them is a mature decision maker and a quarterback with superior footwork and a tighter throwing motion.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t causes for (minor) concern at this point. There are. But we’re talking about a quarterback that has looked so much better than before that it’s almost more likely that he continues to develop into a better quarterback through the season rather than regressing toward his old self.
The preseason is the preseason and we should take its performances with a grain of salt, but a quarterback who was terrible by almost all measurements in 2014 completed 39 of 60 passes (with six drops!) for 461 yards and a touchdown. To further promote your giddiness, he didn’t have a single interception and ran one touchdown in himself as well.
Right now, there is no bigger cause for optimism than Blake Bortles. As the Jacksonville Jaguars vs Carolina Panthers game gets nearer, expect plenty of attention to be placed on Bortles. It’s for good reason, 2015 is looking more and more like a breakout year for the young quarterback.
Next: The ground game is a strength, too