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"It's nice to be opening at home"


As Jack Del Rio sees it, there's a lot to like about the 2011 schedule.

Del Rio, entering his ninth season as the Jaguars' head coach, said while there are many reasons that's true – multiple prime-time games and a well-placed bye week among them – a major positive comes early:

As in, the regular-season opener.

The Jaguars, who led the AFC South in early December before an 8-8 finish last season, not only will open the season against a division rival, the Tennessee Titans, they will do so in front of their home fans.

The Jaguars will play host to Tennessee at Everbank Field Sunday, September 11 at 1 p.m.

"That's number one on the list," Del Rio told "The fact that we have a division opponent at home makes for a good, hard-hitting start to the season."

Del Rio said one of the first things he looks for when the schedule is released is the site of the opener.

 "Are we at home or not?" he said. "It's nice to be opening at home."

The Jaguars play three of their first five games at home, with road games at the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers in Weeks 2 and 3 and home games against New Orleans and Cincinnati in Weeks 4 and 5.

They visit Pittsburgh in Week 6 before the first of three nationally televised prime-time games: the Baltimore Ravens at home on Monday, October 24.

The Jaguars also play host to the San Diego Chargers on Monday, December 5, and visit Atlanta on Thursday, December 15 in a game televised on the NFL Network.

"I'm very fired up about three prime-time games and two home Monday Night games," Del Rio said. "We have some great opponents coming in here on those two occasions.  I know the whole building is energized about it. 

"Everybody associated with the Jaguars is fired up to hear we are getting two Monday night games."

The prime-time element of the schedule also causes at least one potentially difficult week, with the Jaguars visiting Houston six days after playing host to Baltimore.

"I think good football teams play good football regardless of the circumstances," Del Rio said. "That is what we want to focus on, playing good football and rising up to the challenge."

Del Rio also said he liked the Jaguars' bye week coming on November 6, the precise midway point of the season.

"You would like it to not be too early," Del Rio said. "There are times as the season wears on you would like to have it a little later. That's a good spot. I don't know if they have any much later than that."

As was the case last season, there is a gap for the Jaguars between games within the division. The Jaguars play host to Tennessee in the opener, then don't play another AFC South game until Sunday, October 30, when they visit Houston.

The Jaguars then visit Indianapolis November 13, play host to Houston November 27 and close the season with back-to-back division games – at Tennessee December 24 and home against the Colts January 1.

"I'm okay with it," Del Rio said. "When I served on the competition committee I voiced my opinion on it and what I thought about all that.  I think it provides the potential for huge games at the very end of the season."

The Jaguars also will go more than a month between home games, with the first two games out of the bye week at Indianapolis and at Cleveland November 13 and 20. That's followed by three consecutive home games – Houston, San Diego and Tampa Bay before the closing stretch of Atlanta, Tennessee and Indianapolis.

Because Christmas falls on a Sunday, the Jaguars' December 24 game against Tennessee falls on a Saturday. That means the Jaguars have games on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday at various times in the season.

"We will adjust," Del Rio said. "That has become part of football in the NFL.  You're going to get some Thursday games mixed in and those require a little adjustment.  Ideally, you would have that mixed in with a bye week.  We're going to play it the way it lays out.  It's much like it is when I was with the Cowboys. You have to play one four days later.  You have to get yourself ready after we're home against Tampa. 

"We have to be able to travel to Atlanta and play that game.  That's tough duty, to travel and play an early Thursday game."

Del Rio, like the rest of the Jaguars' front-office staff and coaches, has spent recent weeks focused on the NFL Draft. He said that process has been the overriding focus, but that the release of the schedule is "an exciting time."

"Right now we're ramping up for the draft so it's football, football, football," Del Rio said. "It's all draft prospects right now.  Having the schedule released, now your juices start flowing, you start thinking about how the season is going to play out. I love the fact it was released (Tuesday) and we get a look at how things are going to play out this fall." writer Ryan Robinson contributed to this story.

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