In March the Jacksonville Jaguars lost out on home-town hero Tim Tebow. The former Heisman Trophy-winner had his pick between the Jaguars and Jets and he spurned his home town to sign with New York. It is a feeling Jaguar fans have surely become accustomed to.
The Jaguars have not had a winning season since making a run to the AFC Divisional Playoffs in 2007. Last season they went 5-11 and avoided last place in the AFC South mainly because Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter were the Indianapolis quarterbacks rather than Peyton Manning.
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Talk of the franchise usually centers on an apathetic fan base, dwindling ticket sales, television blackouts and a potential move to Los Angeles.
Entering the 2012 NFL season, discussion of a possible move to LA will be bigger than any other football news emanating from Jacksonville unless the franchise’s gamble with quarterback Blaine Gabbert starts to show dividends.
The Jaguars finished dead last in total yards (259.3 per game) and passing yards (136.2 per game) last season. The NFL has become a pass-first, run-second league. Nobody has told the Jaguars. In the advent of routine 300-yard passing games, Jacksonville’s 136.2 passing yards per game seems almost impossible especially considering they routinely trailed opponents last season. Their running game (123.1 yards per game to rank 12th) was better but hardly enough to prop up an offense that could only muster 15 points per game, 29th in the league.
The solution to last season’s offensive woes begins and ends with Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars front office is doing their best to put him in a position to succeed. Work-horse running back Maurice Jones-Drew is a quarterback’s best friend in the backfield. They drafted Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon with the fifth overall pick and he could line up in a four-wide set with the likes of Laurent Robinson, Mike Thomas and Lee Evans. A healthy Zach Miller to play alongside tight end Marcedes Lewis quietly gives the Jaguars one of the better tight end tandems in the AFC. It is now up for Gabbert to put the pieces together in his second year at the helm of this scuffling offense. The fact that recently-acquired Chad Henne is not even being mentioned as a potential competitor for the starting spot is a good sign for Gabbert that he has done enough in the spring to solidify the position.
For a team like Jacksonville that struggles to put the ball in the endzone, investing in a kicker is important and the franchise did that with a new four-year contract worth around $14 million for veteran Josh Scobee, although using a third-round draft pick on punter Bryan Anger is still a head-scratcher.
The Jacksonville defense was actually a pretty consistent unit last season. They ranked in the Top 11 in all major defensive statistics, including the sixth-best defense on a yardage basis (313 yards per game). Second-round draft pick Andre Branch out of Clemson will have a chance to contribute right away on the defensive line and his progression will go a long way in determining if this defense can match its performance last year.
The defensive line as a unit is likely what this defense will hinge on. The group has been ravaged by injuries over the past two seasons. Defensive tackles Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton have shown promise but also injury vulnerability. No one is quite sure what you will get with defensive end George Selvie over a 16-game season. Jeremy Mincey appears to be a solid anchor at right defensive end.
The Jacksonville linebackers will keep the team in a lot of games. The combination of Daryl Smith, Clint Sessions and Paul Posluszny can make any defensive coordinator relax. Posluszny would likely be a household name in a different market. The secondary is another above average group. If veterans Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox can stay healthy this could be one of the better units in the AFC.
2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis
The Jaguars 2012 opponents went exactly .500 in 2011 (128-128). It ranks as the 14th most difficult schedule. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, division foes Tennessee and Houston have the fourth and fifth easiest schedules in the league.
The Jaguars start the season with a very winnable game at Minnesota in Week 1 before hosting Houston in Week 2. After a trip to Indianapolis to meet rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the Jaguars host the Bengals and Bears with a decent chance to go into the Week 6 bye with a winning record. The Jaguars must go to Green Bay in Week 8 and host New England in Week 15.
As Jacksonville fans have become accustomed to, the team will largely be out of the primetime spotlight with only a Week 10 game at home on “Monday Night Football” against Luck and the Colts.
2012 Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Futures Odds
On Bovada the Jaguars and Cleveland Browns are the longshots to win the Super Bowl at 200/1. Only the Colts (100/1) and Vikings (150/1) have triple-digit odds. The Jaguars and Browns are also the longshots to win the AFC Championship at 75/1, and the Jaguars and Colts are both +1500 longshots to win the AFC South Division.
The Jaguars open the season as 4.5-point underdogs at Minnesota according to 5Dimes, who has also set their 2012 regular season win total at 5.5, the lowest in the NFL along with the Colts and Browns.
2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Predictions
The Jaguars are still a year away from competing in the AFC South, but there is a potential to improve on their 5-11 record. The Jaguars are tied for the lowest posted win total according to the oddsmakers at 5.5 and there is plenty of value with the “over” considering the expected improvement with the Jacksonville passing game and the division. The Colts have a rookie quarterback and the Titans look ready to regress this year. The Jaguars started last season off 1-0; if they can get off to a similar start in a winnable game at Minnesota, six wins should be easily achievable.
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