JACKSONVILLE – Each week during the 2022 season, Jaguars "experts" – Tony Boselli, Bucky Brooks, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will analyze the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
- The Jaguars will win if: They can start fast, specifically Lawrence, and if they have enough of a running game to create some balance. This is a young Jaguars team and building confidence early will be important on both sides of the ball.
- The Commanders will win if: They control the line of scrimmage defensively. The Commanders' defensive line is probably one of the more talented groups in the NFL, and can completely take over the game. If that group dominates Sunday, that will lead to turnovers and a long day for the Jaguars.
- As Boselli sees it:The Jaguars had a good offseason, and I think we will see the fruits of it on opening day: Jaguars 31, Commanders 24.
Bucky Brooks, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst
- The Jaguars will win if: The game is played on their terms on each side of the ball. Defensively, the Jaguars want to beat up the Commanders on early downs to eliminate the running game and put the pressure on Wentz to win the game as a drop-back passer. The veteran quarterback has wilted under pressure throughout his career and facing a menacing Jaguars frontline in obvious passing situations could lead to a handle of turnovers from the streaky passer. On offense, the Jaguars want to control the tempo with a high-percentage aerial attack complemented by a creative running game. Lawrence will play a key role as a point guard-like distributor running a fast break with a number of veteran pass catchers on the wings. If wide receivers Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Marvin Jones and tight end Evan Engram finish the game with comparable touch numbers, the Jaguars have followed the balanced game plan that Pederson and Co. believe will lead to wins in competitive games.
- The Commanders will win if: The line controls the trenches. The Commanders hold an advantage at the point of attack with three first-round defenders possessing "take-over-the game" potential. With Allen, Payne and Sweat wreaking havoc at the line, Lawrence could falter within a collapsing pocket. If the Commanders bottle up Robinson and Etienne, it could make life miserable for the quarterback and play caller on critical downs.
- As Brooks sees it: This is an ideal opener based on Pederson's history with the Commanders' quarterback. The Super Bowl-winning head coach knows the strengths and weaknesses of Wentz's game, and that insight should enable Caldwell to craft a game plan that frustrates the veteran quarterback from the opening snap. If the Jaguars can keep the game close through the first three quarters, Wentz will give the defense a gift-wrapped turnover with the game on the line. I think the Jaguars control the game from the beginning and walk out of FedEx Field with their first win of the season.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
- The Jaguars will win if: They start well and get confidence out of the gate. This is a young team that had a good camp, but there is still tons of youth and newness. They need some early success. They need to stay on the field on offense, to score early. I think the defense will play well, keeping them in the game. Combine that with some early points and I like where the Jags stand.
- The Commanders will win if: They stuff the Jags early and get Wentz going. He really struggled against the Jags in that last game last season, probably costing him his job with the Colts. The early moments really matter here because the Jags are young and Wentz is new to his team.
- As Frangie sees it: This will be a very close game. I think the Jags' defense will play very well in this one. I see a game in the teens, low 20s at the most. If Lawrence has early success, I like their chances.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
- The Jaguars will win if: they can win the turnover battle. First games can always be difficult to predict, especially with teams that had plenty of change from the previous year. Preseason is never a good indicator but winning the turnover battle when games count is the best indicator of success. The Jags need to make Wentz look like he did in the last game they faced him.
- The Commanders will win if: Their defense controls the line of scrimmage. The former first-round draft picks Washington has up front in Allen, Payne, and Sweat are really good football players and will test veteran offensive lines. Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had his defense ranked in the Top 5 two years ago, but last year faltered. He will be looking to get them back amongst the best.
- As Lageman sees it: This is going to be a great football game with many storylines AND unknowns. Can the Jaguars team gel quickly to start the season with so many new components in coaching and players under Pederson? Can Lawrence take a big step in Year 2? Can Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell unleash some fury on opposing offenses? Do the Jags have a kicker? Will Jaguars linebackers Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd and Fortner make you love the draft picks? Can't wait and I've got my popcorn ready!
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
- The Jaguars will win if: They lead early. There is confidence in Jacksonville. Anything to keep that momentum early Sunday will be a major plus. There could be a snowball effect like the 2017 opener if things go well early. The Jags haven't played with a lead much the last couple of seasons and I think this defense could really be fun if given an advantage on the scoreboard.
- The Commanders will win if: They win the trenches. The Jaguars have a remade offensive line against a really good front - even without defensive end Chase Young. I don't think there's any doubt both teams will want to run the ball to help their quarterbacks and the Jaguars' top priorty in 2022 on defense is stop the run. If Washington can win the trenches, they win the game.
- As Martineau sees it: I like the Jaguars Sunday and I like them big. I think this will be a strong first impression for Pederson. He knows how to get a team ready, and there's a lot of hunger in the Jaguars' locker room. Lawrence will have a good day, the defense will turn a lead into a rout and the Jaguars will win 27-10 in the regular-season opener.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
- The Jaguars will win if: Their defensive front dominates and they win giveaway-takeaway ratio. The Jaguars invested heavily in the defensive front seven in the offseason and they believe it's a team strength. The group must win its matchup. If that happens, the Jaguars will stop the Washington run. That should enable the Jaguars to force key mistakes by Wentz, which would give the Jaguars valuable momentum on the road.
- The Commanders will win if: The Jaguars' offense can't find a rhythm. The belief here is Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence will dramatically improve this season. But it's also fair to expect inconsistencies for a young quarterback in the first season in a new offensive system. If the Jaguars' offense stumbles, the Commanders' skill players are good enough to score enough against an improved Jaguars defense to win.
- As Oehser sees it: The Jaguars' defense could be the difference here, with the unit playing well enough to force a turnover in each half – one to give the Jaguars a halftime edge and the second to protect a slim second-half lead. A victory would give the Jaguars early-season confidence and momentum.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
- The Jaguars will win if: They're 50 percent or better on third down and score touchdowns in red-zone trips. Head Coach Doug Pederson mentioned often during the preseason that he wanted better numbers in each category. The Jaguars moved the ball against the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers but bogged down on third down in the red zone. If they convert, they can score touchdowns and win. We only saw it once in August, though.
- The Redskins will win if: They can protect quarterback Carson Wentz. When we last saw Wentz, in the 2021 season finale, the Jaguars sacked him six times. He had a horrible day, and that's with one of the NFL's best offensive lines. He doesn't have that in Washington, but he's capable when comfortable.
- As Sexton sees it: Winning on the road is a huge obstacle for the Jaguars. They haven't done it since beating the Raiders in Oakland in 2019, a span of 17 consecutive road trips. It's hard to pick a team that has struggled away from home and won only four games in their last 33 outings to go win in Washington. I don't think the Commanders are a great team and I think they are eminently beatable. I just don't know that I believe the Jaguars can do it ... until they do.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com senior reporter
- The Jaguars will win if: They can get pressure on Wentz and force a couple of takeaways. Pederson should have a great idea of what Wentz can do well and of his limitations. Make the Commanders' offense lean on those limitations and take advantage.
- The Commanders will win if: They control the line of scrimmage, stop the Jaguars' two-headed running attack and force the Jaguars' offense into predictable passing situations. Young is not available for this game, but they still have some highly-drafted talent up front in lineman Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and Daron Payne – just to name a few. This is a good challenge for a revamped Jaguars offensive line, including rookie center Luke Fortner.
- As Shadrick sees it: Outside of Jacksonville, the Jaguars are flying under the radar at the start of the season. A win in Week 1 on the road would send an opening salvo to the rest of the AFC that maybe the rebuilt Jaguars are not to be overlooked. What does this revamped defense look and play like? Can the Jags run the ball with two running backs coming off major injuries? Is Lawrence ready to take the next step with veteran pass catchers around him? We find out Sunday, but this is a game that Pederson really wants to set the tone for the early part of the season. It is gettable.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Jaguars team reporter
- The Jaguars will win if: They believe in their identity as a "run-first" offense. I was a little surprised when Lawrence said he wants this offense to be known as a hard-nosed, ground-and-pound team; that is not trendy in the league lately. The Jaguars have the tools to be that offense with the return of running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne Jr. I expect to see the running game establish itself this week, even against a very talented Commanders defensive line. if the Jags run the ball consistently, I think they win.
- The Commanders will win if: This Jaguars' defense isn't as good as we think. The Jags' D is vastly improved on paper and – from what we can tell – on the field. The true test comes Week 1. This will be the first offense that has really schemed this Jaguars defense so far this year. They need to win the turnover battle Sunday to get that momentum going.
- As Sullivan sees it: Maybe it's my optimistic personality, or perhaps I've forgotten the Jags past. I think the Jaguars will have no problem beating the Commanders. I know the Commanders are saying the same thing about the Jaguars. While I think it will start as a close game, I see Jacksonville pulling away in the second half – especially if turnovers happen. Once this defense gets confident, I think there is no stopping them this week.