If the Jaguars' season proceeds as planned, which means the team will, in fact, contend for the AFC South Division title, the Dec. 2 game in Indianapolis against the defending division champion and reigning Super Bowl-champion Colts will be the feature attraction of the Jaguars' 2007 road schedule.
It's a game that will kickoff the final month of the season, during which the Jaguars will play on the road three times. The second of those December road games, in Pittsburgh on Dec. 16, could also turn out to be a feature game with playoff implications.
Here's a look at the Jaguars' road schedule this season. The eight games are ranked according to expected difficulty and importance.
- At Indianapolis, Dec. 2—Might the division title be on the line in the RCA Dome? The Jaguars would like to think that will be the case when they stick in their earplugs to keep out the piped-in crowd noise. The Colts are the toast of the league. They have dominated the division and kept the Jaguars at arm's length. It's put-up-or-you-know-what time for the Jaguars.
More than the division title could be on the line. This will also be an AFC game that will weigh heavy in the playoff picture. This one is about tie-breakers and seeding and everything else that goes with the excitement that accompanies December games.
- At Tennessee, Nov. 11—This is the game that kept the Jaguars out of the playoffs last season. The Titans' upset of the Jaguars in week 15 began a three-game death spiral for the Jags, which will only serve to heighten the drama for this year's rematch in Nashville.
There's more. This year's game will be the last of three consecutive road games in midseason. That three-game stretch sticks out as the Jaguars' greatest scheduling challenge this season. A win at Tennessee could leave the Jaguars on a midseason high for back-to-back home games against prominent AFC foes. A loss could be demoralizing.
- At Pittsburgh, Dec. 16—The Jaguars and Steelers almost always play great games. This could produce another one, with a nip in the air and a possible playoff berth on the line at Heinz Field. Nothing says big game like a trip to Pittsburgh in December.
The Steelers could be in a rebuilding phase under rookie head coach Mike Tomlin. Their two lines are in need of long-term repair and Tomlin still has to decide on whether the Steelers will continue to play the 3-4 on defense, or if he'll make the switch to the 4-3. This is a game the Jaguars would like to play earlier in the season, before Tomlin gets his feet under him. Late in the season, the Steelers could be a much tougher opponent.
- At Denver, Sept. 23—It'll be the Jaguars' first road game of the season and the importance of this game will largely be determined by what the Jaguars do at home in their first two games. Showdowns in December usually require wins in September, and don't forget that Denver is an AFC opponent with playoff aspirations, which means the winner of this game will have a tie-breaking edge.
- At Kansas City, Oct. 7—Ditto for this one. The Chiefs are an AFC opponent that is also expected to be a playoff contender. This game will take the Jaguars through the first quarter of their season, which is one of those mythical mile-markers. It will also follow the team's bye week.
- At New Orleans, Nov. 4—Though this game won't include division or conference importance, the Saints are one of the premium teams on the Jaguars schedule this season and that'll make this a measuring-stick game against a team that made it all the way to the NFC title game last season. It also sits in the middle of that three-game road stretch, which gives this game added importance.
- At Tampa Bay, Oct. 28—Intrastate rivalry? If that's the way you want to bill it, go ahead, but the importance of this game is that it's the start of a three-game road stretch that could decide the Jaguars' fate in '07. Three wins would be fantastic. Two wins would be more than acceptable. One win would avoid disaster, and that's what makes this game so important. Win this one, against what appears to be an unsettled Bucs team, and the Jaguars will quickly avoid the potential for disaster.
- At Houston, Dec. 30—It's the final game of the season. Maybe the playoffs will be on the line, or maybe the Jaguars will have a playoff position locked up before they take the field in Reliant Stadium. Yeah, division games are most important, but the Texans aren't expected to be playoff contenders this late in the season and a trip to Houston in week 17 sure looks anticlimactic following consecutive games in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
Next, we'll take a look at the home schedule.