On the "First NFL Coach Fired" prop, Jacksonville's Gus Bradley is one of the favorites at +1200. And I agree that Bradley is squarely on the hot seat entering 2016. After all, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator is just 12-36 in his three seasons.
But to be fair, he inherited a pretty barren roster. Finally, though, this team looks ready to break through after a couple of good drafts and solid free-agent signings. I will tell you this: the Jags will be the best team in Florida, and I absolutely believe they could win the AFC South with a break or two. The Jags haven't made the playoffs since 2007 or won a division since 1999.
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I absolutely loved this team's offseason. The Jags got an A+ grade from some experts after taking defensive back Jalen Ramsey from Florida State with their first-round pick and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack in the second round. They might have been the two most talented defensive players in the entire draft. Jack slipped because he might need major knee surgery some day, but he's fine for now. Ramsey suffered a torn ligament in his right knee during conditioning drills in May, but it was just a minor mensicus tear and he's already back practicing. Don't forget that Jacksonville defense also adds 2015 first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. He was hurt last spring and missed his rookie season. Reports are he has been unbelievable in camp.
That defense, which was a problem in 2015, also added one of the best free agents on the market in Broncos tackle Malik Jackson as well as safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Prince Amukamura.
The offense should be a Top-10 unit with the breakout 2015 season of quarterback Blake Bortles and one of the best receiving duos in the NFL in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. The Jags addressed an iffy offensive line with free agent tackle Kelvin Beachum and landed former Jets running back Chris Ivory to split carries with T.J. Yeldon.
This isn't a deep team by any stretch, but it's very talented. It will be a coveted job if Bradley is canned. Jacksonville was 4-4 at home last season (remember, the team plays one home game every year in London), 4-4 against the spread and 5-3 "over/under." The Jags host four 2015 playoff teams this season. I project a 5-3 record. They have a wins total of 7.5 at BetOnline, with the over a -135 favorite. I'm leaning toward an 8-8 mark but 9-7 wouldn't shock me -- that might be enough to win the so-so AFC South -- so go over. Jacksonville's overall schedule ranks as tied for the eighth-easiest with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .473. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 11 vs. Packers (+4, 47): Jacksonville might catch a break here if Green Bay receiver Jordy Nelson isn't ready off his knee "hiccup" that's going to keep him out of all the preseason. The Jags are just 3-20 under Bradley in September and October, but if they pull this upset that Jacksonville bandwagon will fill quickly. Key trend: Jags 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 as home dog of at least 4 points.
Sept. 25 vs. Ravens (pick'em): Jacksonville off a trip to San Diego in Week 2. Baltimore should be 2-0 after visiting Cleveland the previous Sunday. The past three meetings between the teams have been decided by single digits, including last year's 22-20 Jaguars victory in Baltimore in Week 10. You may remember that a facemask penalty on Baltimore allowed the Jags to try a 53-yard field goal with no time left, and Jason Myers nailed it. Bortles went 22-for-45 for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Jacksonville had lost 13 straight road games. Key trend: Jags 4-4-1 ATS at home in series.
Oct. 2 vs. Colts (+3.5): This game is in London with a 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff and thus ahead of Jacksonville's bye week (but not Indy's). It's the only Jags "home" game not scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET. Indy is off a Week 3 home game vs. San Diego. The Jags' best game last year was a Week 14 51-16 home rout of Indianapolis. The Jaguars scored on offense, defense and special teams in the same game for the first time since 2011. Bortles threw for 250 yards and three scores. Key trend: Jags 3-7 ATS in past 10 as home dog in series.
Oct. 23 vs. Raiders (pick'em): This is my AFC Championship Game matchup for the 2017 season. I'm kidding, but also not. Jacksonville is off a trip to Chicago in Week 6. Oakland is home to Kansas City the previous week. The home team has won five of the seven all-time meetings in this series. Oakland took the most recent 19-9 at home early in 2013. Key trend: Jags have won and covered both home meetings in series.
Nov. 13 vs. Texans (+1): Jacksonville off a tough trip to Kansas City in Week 9. Houston comes off its bye week. The Jags lost 31-20 at home to Houston last year in Week 6. They couldn't stop DeAndre Hopkins, who had a huge game. Bortles put the ball in the air 53 times and threw for 331 yards, three touchdowns and three picks. Key trend: Jags 2-3 ATS as home dog in series.
Dec. 4 vs. Broncos (+3.5): Jags off a trip to Buffalo in Week 12. Denver is home to Kansas City the previous Sunday. Denver would have liked to have kept Jackson, but that wasn't going to happen with the huge contract the team had to give to Von Miller. Jags lost last meeting 35-19 in Denver in 2013. Key trend: Jags 0-4 SU and ATS in past four at home vs. AFC West.
Dec. 11 vs. Vikings (-2.5): Minnesota is on extra rest here as it hosts Dallas on Thursday in Week 13. A showdown of first-round QBs from 2014 with Florida ties in Bortles and the Vikings' Teddy Bridgewater, who is from the Miami area. Jags have lost past three meetings. Key trend: Jags 3-3 ATS at home vs. NFC North.
Dec. 24 vs. Titans (-4.5): Jacksonville off a trip to Houston in Week 15. Tennessee is in Kansas City the previous Sunday. I actually think Jacksonville will be favored at home in more games than just this one. The Jags beat the visiting Titans 19-13 in Week 11 on a Thursday last year. Rashad Greene returned a punt 63 yards, setting up Bortles' 5-yard touchdown pass to Julius Thomas with 3:30 remaining. Key trend: Jags 6-4 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
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