The bright lights will shine on Jacksonville on Monday night, Oct. 22, when the Jaguars host the Super Bowl-champion Indianapolis Colts in the Jaguars' lone nationally-televised game of the season. So, without a doubt, that has to be the number one home game on the Jaguars' schedule, right? Wrong.
Look no farther ahead than the season-opener against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 9. It's the number one game on the Jaguars' home schedule for some very strong reasons:
• The Jaguars need to get off to a fast start.
• It's a division and conference game.
• Before the Jags can take aim on unseating the Colts at the top of the division, they have to move the Titans out of the number two spot.
• A win over the Titans in the season-opener sets the table for the home showdown against the Colts.
The season-opener at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium – or whatever name it may have – will offer the Jaguars an opportunity to feel good about themselves. It'll give the Jaguars an opportunity to avenge their loss in Tennessee in week 15 last season, which started a three-game losing streak that left the Jaguars out of the playoffs and in third place behind the Titans at season's end.
A win in the season-opener would ease starting quarterback Byron Leftwich into the most important season of his career, and create a buzz among Jaguars fans that could help the team avoid TV blackouts for a third consecutive season.
Now consider what a loss would do. See what I mean?
- Indianapolis, Oct. 22—The Jaguars would love to head into this game with first place in the AFC South on the line. Should that be the case and should the Jaguars respond with the kind of performance they turned in against the Steelers on Monday Night Football last season, this one could provide the catalyst to the kind of season every Jaguars fan wants.
- Houston, Oct. 14—Ticket sales always seem to lag for the Texans, and that doesn't make much sense because the Texans have made a nasty habit of beating the Jaguars. Let's make this real simple: How can we consider the Jaguars serious contenders to win the AFC South title if they can't beat Houston at home, right? This one may not sparkle on the schedule, but it's right behind Tennessee and Indianapolis in importance.
- San Diego, Nov. 18—The Chargers are one of the league's new elite teams and that makes this one a measuring-stick kind of game featuring a classic showdown between the best running back in the league and one of the game's most esteemed run-defenses.
- Buffalo, Nov. 25—You gotta win conference games, especially at home. The Bills dealt the Jaguars a stinging defeat in Buffalo last season. That should provide all the reminder and all the motivation the Jaguars need to get their game faces on for this one.
- Carolina, Dec. 9—It's an inter-conference game and these two teams are 12 years removed from their expansion roots, but there's still some leftover emotion for how these two teams came to be, and if that's not enough to hype this game, then try the importance of the playoff race in the final month of the season.
- Atlanta, Sept. 16—This one would move up the ladder real fast if the Jaguars don't beat the Titans in the season-opener.
- Oakland, Dec. 23—It's a conference game that'll weigh heavy in the playoff race, but the Raiders don't seem to play big games any more; especially not in December.
Next, we'll take a look at the Jaguars offense.