The Jacksonville Jaguars will open their ninth NFL season on the road for the first time in three years when they travel to Carolina to face the Panthers on September 7. The game will be a homecoming for new Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, who was the Panthers' defensive coordinator a year ago. The Jaguars will close the season on the road for the fifth time in franchise history in Atlanta on December 28.
In the 2003 NFL schedule released today, the Jaguars will be featured once on national television (ESPN) when they host the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 30 — 10 years to the day from when the Jaguars were awarded an expansion franchise. All 16 games during the 2003 season will be played on Sundays.
"This is a tough schedule, but a good schedule," Del Rio said. "I'm looking forward to opening day against Carolina, but we're going to have to be 'road warriors' early on with three of our first four games on the road. We'll obviously have to do well away from home in September. The middle of the schedule is attractive with four out of five games at home, and the bye weekend comes at a good time after six games. This will be a great challenge, with the last three Super Bowl champions on our schedule. The highlight will be playing the defending world champions at night in a nationally televised game here in Jacksonville on the Jaguars' 10th anniversary."
The Jaguars begin the season at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, September 7, against the Carolina Panthers at Ericsson Stadium. It marks only the third time that the Jaguars have opened against a non-divisional opponent (they are 2-0 in those games). The Jaguars have won both of their previous games against the Panthers, and they have won six of their eight opening games, a .750 winning percentage that is the best of any NFL team. The following week, the Jaguars will have their home opener when they host the Buffalo Bills at 1:00 p.m. at what will be a newly renovated ALLTEL Stadium. The Jaguars are 6-2 in home openers and 1-2 against the Bills. The Jaguars will then go back on the road to face the Indianapolis Colts at the RCA Dome on September 21 — which will be their first game against an AFC South opponent — and against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on the 28th.
The Jaguars will be home for the first two weeks of October. On the 5th, they will host the San Diego Chargers at 4:05 p.m., marking the first time those two teams have met. A week later, the in-state rival Miami Dolphins will visit ALLTEL Stadium for the first time since the 1999 playoffs, a 62-7 Jacksonville victory. The Jaguars' open week follows, as all NFL teams will have one bye between Weeks 3 and 10. The Jaguars will close out the month on October 26 by hosting the Tennessee Titans. Jacksonville in 5-3 in games following its bye week.
The Jaguars have five games in November. They will travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens on the 2nd, and then they will host the Indianapolis Colts on November 9, which will be the first of four straight games against 2002 playoff teams. Next come back-to-back road games at Tennessee and the New York Jets on the 16th and 23rd. The Jaguars will then host the Buccaneers on Sunday night, November 30th in their only nationally televised prime-time game of the 2003 season.
December begins with a home game against the Houston Texans on the 7th, followed by a road game on the 14th at the New England Patriots. The Jaguars will close out their home schedule when they host the New Orleans Saints on December 21, and they will conclude the 2003 regular season on the 28th against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.