JACKSONVILLE – Some quick '18 Schedule Night thoughts …
1)The Jaguars better be as good as expected in 2018, and they better be good early.
2)They're going to be in the spotlight. A lot.
3)The month of October might decide a lot about what happens next.
Those were some first impressions regarding the Jaguars' 2018 regular-season schedule, which officially was released along with the entire 2018 NFL schedule Thursday at 8 p.m.
Another early thought: If the Jaguars are good – and there is every expectation that will be the case – this is a schedule that could set up for very big 2018 regular-season finale.
We'll break down the Jaguars' '18 schedule game-by-game at the end of this View from the O-Zone. But first, a quick synopsis:
The Jaguars open at the New York Giants, then follow that with a three-game home stretch: New England, Tennessee and the New York Jets. That means the regular-season home opener (Week 2) is the much-anticipated rematch of January's AFC Championship Game.
The Jaguars will open October at Kansas City and Dallas to open October, then play the Houston Texans at home Week 7 before closing the season's first half with their annual game at London's Wembley Stadium. That will be against defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia on October 28, a game that will be held at 9:30 a.m. and televised on the NFL Network. The Jaguars' bye week will follow the Philadelphia game.
The Jaguars will play at Indianapolis in the first game following the bye, a game followed by perhaps the biggest regular-season game in Jacksonville in nearly a decade: November 18 against the Pittsburgh Steelers on NBC's Sunday Night Football. They play at Buffalo on November 25 and home against Indianapolis December 2.
The Jaguars open the final quarter of the season with a Thursday night game at Tennessee, with their final regular-season home game to be played on December 16 against Washington. They close the season at Miami and Houston.
One thing to note: The Jaguars will play on national television at least three times – Philadelphia in London (October 28), Pittsburgh at home (November 18) and at Tennessee (December 6) – with likely national-television games at home against New England (September 16) and at Dallas (October 14),
Two of those games will be played in prime time, with two in CBS's 4:25 national-television Sunday afternoon slot and the Eagles game scheduled for 9:30 Sunday morning.
That's four more national-television slots than last season, when the lone national-television game was their Week 3 victory over Baltimore in London. The Jaguars have "only" two prime-time games, which seems to this writer perhaps one fewer than should be expected.
A week-by-week look at the Jaguars' 2018 regular-season schedule:
*At New York Giants (3-13 in 2017, fourth in NFC East); MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.; September 9, 1 p.m. (FOX).Look for television and other media to play up Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin's return to New York as the Jaguars face the team he coached to two Super Bowl. Look for Coughlin to NOT embrace the storyline. This will be a game the Jaguars need; the early schedule gets tricky after this.
*New England Patriots (13-3, first in AFC East); TIAA Bank Field; September 16, 4:25 p.m. (CBS).Rematch of 2017 AFC Championship Game. It will describe and hype itself.
*Tennessee Titans (9-7, second in AFC South); TIAA Bank Field; September 23, 1 p.m. (CBS).The Jaguars' first AFC South game of 2018. That banter between the Jaguars and Titans late last season about who the real division champions were in '17? Look for that to ratchet back up fast.
*New York Jets (5-11, fourth in AFC East); TIAA Bank Field; September 30, 1 p.m. (CBS).The third of a rare stretch of three consecutive September Jaguars home games. Head Coach Doug Marrone likes to talk about the need to "win" every quarter of the season. The Jaguars definitely need to win this first quarter; the second quarter is brutal.
*At Kansas City Chiefs (10-6, first in AFC West); Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.; October 7, 1 p.m. (CBS).Arrowhead is tough even when the Chiefs aren't good. They'll be good this year.
*At Dallas Cowboys (9-7, second in NFC East); AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas; October 14, 4:25 p.m. (CBS).The Jaguars' first trip to JerryWorld in eight years. This game will be hyped and will feature two of the NFL's top young running backs – Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas and Leonard Fournette of the Jaguars.
*Houston Texans (4-12, T-third in AFC South); TIAA Bank Field; October 21, 1 p.m. (CBS).The second quarter gets no easier. Houston is expected to contend for the division with quarterback Deshaun Watson healthy – and this will be a different opponent than the one the Jaguars blew out twice last season.
*Philadelphia Eagles (13-3, first in NFC East); Wembley Stadium in London, England; October 28, 9:30 a.m. (NFL Network).The Super Bowl champion Eagles versus a team that came within minutes of being their Super Bowl opponent … that's good breakfast fare from the UK. This is the final game of a tricky – read: brutal – October. If the Jaguars navigate October above .500, they could be in a good position entering the second half of the season.
*At Indianapolis (4-12, T-third in AFC South); Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.; November 11, 1 p.m. (CBS).The Jaguars handled Indianapolis easily twice last season. If quarterback Andrew Luck is back, the two Colts games in the third quarter of this season will be far tougher.
*Pittsburgh (13-3, first in AFC North); TIAA Bank Field; November 18, 8:20 p.m. (NBC).The Jaguars and Steelers are a rivalry again. This will be the first Jaguars home game on NBC's Sunday Night Football. It doesn't get bigger in the regular season.
*At Buffalo (9-7, second in AFC East); New Era Field in Buffalo, N.Y.; November 25, 1 p.m. (CBS).A rematch of last year's AFC Wild Card playoff. Doesn't it sort of seem like the Jaguars play the Bills somewhere every year these days?
*Indianapolis (4-12, T-third in AFC South); TIAA Bank Field; December 2, 1 p.m. (CBS).A second game against the Colts in less than a month. Two games against a team in so short a time can sometimes make for a weird dynamic the second time around.
*At Tennessee (9-7, second in AFC South; Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.; December 6, 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFL Network).This has the feel of a big game. If the Jaguars get this victory, they'll head into the final three weeks of the season with momentum – and the benefits of 10 days between late-season games. If they lose, they'll get the same time off – sans momentum.
*Washington Redskins (7-9, third in NFC East); TIAA Bank Field; December 16, 1 p.m. (FOX).The first of back-to-back out-of-division December games, this one will be key for the Jaguars. It's their only home game in the fourth quarter of the season.
*At Miami Dolphins (6-10, third in AFC East); Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.; December 22-23 (TBD).The NFL has yet to decide whether this game will be played Saturday or Sunday. With college football essentially done for the year, the league wants to leave flexibility for its television schedule. Good for fans; brutal for team logistics guys.
*At Houston Texans (4-12, T-third in AFC South); NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas; December 30, 1 p.m. (CBS).A showdown for the AFC South title? The Jaguars must navigate a tricky first half of the season and peak in a manageable second half of the season to help make it happen, but guess what? The Jaguars are supposed to be good enough this season to do just that.