2018 Jacksonville Jaguars Road Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
Dear Cleveland Browns,
It's possible to get out of the NFL wasteland after years and years of terrible records and Top-10 draft picks even if you don't find a true franchise quarterback.
With all due respect to the Philadelphia Eagles, the biggest surprise team in the NFL in 2017 was Jacksonville. I actually was on the Jaguars to be a breakout team in 2016, but they skidded to a 3-13 record because Blake Bortles sucks. That was the Jags' sixth straight year winning five games or fewer.
However, if you were paying attention, the Jaguars were building a very impressive young defense with all those high draft picks during the losing years. The big question mark entering 2017 was still Bortles at quarterback. Other than about a four-start stretch in December, Bortles remained the inconsistent turnover machine he has always been since being chosen No. 5 overall in 2014 out of Central Florida.
The Jaguars truly won despite their quarterback, finishing 10-6 and winning the division for the first time since 1999. They squeaked by Buffalo in the Wild-Card game (despite 87 yards passing from Bortles), won a wild, unexpected shootout in Pittsburgh in the Divisional Round and then pushed New England to the limit in the AFC title game. Bortles had a chance to drive his team down the field late and win that game, but predictably came up short.
There was some talk the Jags would move on from Bortles this offseason, perhaps chasing Eli Manning or Kirk Cousins, but they actually extended Bortles at a reasonable cap number that allowed the team to address some other needs. Jacksonville is now essentially stuck with him through 2019, so it's sink or swim with Blake. That said, look for the Jags to take a QB early in the 2019 draft - or even be in the trade market during the 2018 season - if Bortles struggles. Everywhere else, this team is ready to win a Super Bowl.
Jacksonville was 4-4 on the road last season (still best in AFC South), 4-4 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." The Jags travel to three playoff teams from last year: Kansas City, Buffalo and Tennessee. Wouldn't shock me if none of those were playoff teams in 2018. The home schedule is significantly harder. I project the Jaguars to go 4-4 on the road again. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 9 at Giants (+4, 44): The two big story lines here would be that it's against Manning, a guy the Jaguars surely would have chased had the Giants made him available. I say that because of story line No. 2: It's Jags boss Tom Coughlin's first game against the Giants since they fired him as head coach following the 2015 season. Manning loved Coughlin. Jacksonville is 12-11 all-time in season openers and looking for back-to-back Week 1 wins for the first time since 2010-11. Key trend: Jags 3-7 ATS in past 10 as home favorite of at least 4 points.
Oct. 7 at Chiefs (-1): This follows a three-game homestand for the Jaguars, and the schedule is considerably tougher over a four-week stretch before the team's bye. Jacksonville's top-rated pass defense could make things rough on K.C. rookie QB Patrick Mahomes. Jacksonville has lost the past three meetings, most recently in 2016. Key trend: Jags 3-2 ATS in Kansas City.
Oct. 14 at Cowboys (-1): It's the Jags' only scheduled road start of the year in the 4 p.m. ET window (4:25). Matchup of the past two running backs chosen first in their class and who dramatically altered their franchise's fortunes as a rookie in the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott (No. 3 in 2016) and Jaguars' Leonard Fournette (No. 4 in 2017). Key trend: Jags 5-5 ATS in past 10 at NFC East.
Nov. 11 at Colts (+4): Jacksonville swept Indianapolis by a combined 53-10 in the two meetings last season, the first time the Jaguars swept the series since the 2011 season. That was the year before Indy got Andrew Luck, and of course he missed all of last year. Key trend: Jags have been a favorite just twice at Indy and won/covered both.
Nov. 25 at Bills (+4.5): Jags head coach Doug Marrone will not be warmly welcomed here as he basically quit on the Bills following the 2014 season when he led the team to nine wins. Marrone surprisingly took a buyout clause in his contract when the team was sold. In that Wild-Card game back in July, Jacksonville was an ugly 10-3 winner over Buffalo. Neither team reached 265 yards of offense. Key trend: Jags 4-3 ATS in Buffalo.
Dec. 6 at Titans (-1): Thursday night; remember when we all complained these teams got a Thursday night game every year? Now it's important. Jacksonville lost both last year, including 15-10 in Nashville in Week 17. The Titans had to win that and get help for a Wild-Card spot. Jacksonville really had little to play for with the division title clinched. Key trend: Jags 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as dog at Titans.
Dec. 23 at Dolphins (+3): The guy who caught the winning TD pass in the AFC title game, the Patriots' Danny Amendola, is now with Miami. It's Bortles against another former Top-10 pick (2012) who is on the hot seat in Miami's Ryan Tannehill. Jacksonville won the last meeting at home in 2015. Key trend: Jags 1-1 ATS at Dolphins.
Dec. 30 at Texans (TBA): Per usual, no Week 17 lines with too many potential intangibles. This could be for the division title if Deshaun Watson stays healthy for Houston. The Jaguars defeated the Texans in both regular-season matchups last season for the first time since 2013. It was 29-7 in Week 1 in Houston in which Jacksonville set a team record with 10 sacks. Key trend: Jags 6-4 ATS in past 10 at Houston.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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