The Jaguars open the regular season on the road for the first time since 2009 and the eighth time in franchise history as they visit Minnesota on Sunday.
The Jaguars own the NFL's second-best record on Kickoff Weekend with an 11-6 mark (.647 pct.) in their 17-year history including two straight the last two years. Sunday marks only the fourth time (1998, 1999, 2003) in franchise history the club opens the season against an NFC opponent.
Importance of a fast start
Win or lose at Minnesota, the Jaguars still have 15 games remaining to make a run at the postseason. But evidence does suggest that getting off to a solid start in the first month increases a team's chances of playing in January.
In the previous 17 seasons, the Jaguars have posted a record of .500 or above nine times and were .500 or above in September in eight of those nine seasons. The Jaguars are looking to have a winning record in September for the first time since 2007. Over the past 10 years, 14 NFL teams posted a winning record through the season's first month. Those 14 clubs combined for 78 playoff appearances in that span and won all 10 Super Bowl championships.
Other points of interest:
- The Jaguars are 15th in the NFL the last 10 years (2002-11) in September with a 16-16 mark (.500). The Colts lead the NFL with a 24-8 mark (.750).
- The Jaguars have started one season (1998) undefeated over the first four games and have been winless twice (1995, 2003).
- In the previous 17 seasons, the Jaguars have been above .500 eight times after their first eight games and advanced to the playoffs in five of those seasons. The Jaguars won a franchise-record seven of their first eight games in 1999.
- The Jaguars have advanced to the postseason six times and they won on Kickoff Weekend in five of those six seasons.
- The Jaguars have posted a .500 record or better in nine of 17 seasons and have been victorious in eight of those nine seasons on Kickoff Weekend.
- Since 1978 when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule, and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, teams that are victorious on Kickoff Weekend are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs as losers of an opening game. Of the 490 teams which won openers, 258 went to the playoffs (152 won division titles). Of the 490 teams which lost openers, 111 went to the playoffs (66 won division titles).
- Seven of the 12 playoff teams in 2011 won on Kickoff Weekend - Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, New England and San Francisco.
Welcome to Jacksonville
There are 16 new faces among the 54 players on the Jaguars' current roster. Here is the breakdown.
Unrestricted free agents (3) - QB Chad Henne, WR Laurent Robinson, CB Aaron Ross
Veteran free agents (3) - G/C Josh Beekman, RB Jalen Parmele, RB Keith Toston
Draft choices (6) - WR Justin Blackmon, DE Andre Branch, P Bryan Anger, LB Brandon Marshall, CB Mike Harris, DT Jeris Pendleton
Undrafted rookies (4) - CB Antwon Blake, C Mike Brewster, WR Kevin Elliott, LB Julian Stanford
Special memories for Mularkey
Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey returns to Minnesota on Sunday for the first time as a head coach. Mularkey spent six seasons (1983-88) with the Vikings as a player where he played in 75 games as a tight end. He was originally drafted in the ninth round by San Francisco in 1983 and was released at the end of his first training camp before joining the Vikings.
Jones-Drew looking for record
Maurice Jones-Drew enters Sunday's game tied with Fred Taylor for the most rushing touchdowns in franchise history with 62. Jones-Drew set the franchise record for total touchdowns in 2011 with 74.
The Jaguars and Vikings will meet for the fourth time on Sunday. The Vikings lead the regular season series 3-1 with three of the four games played in Minnesota.
The Jaguars own a 35-32 mark against the NFC. The Jaguars were 1-3 against NFC opponents in 2011 with a win against Tampa Bay and losses at Carolina, vs. New Orleans and at Atlanta.
The Jaguars will face all four NFC North teams in 2012 for the third time (2004, 2008) since realignment in 2002. The club last faced the NFC North in 2008 and finished 2-2 with wins over Detroit and Green Bay and losses against Minnesota and at Chicago. The Jaguars will host Chicago (Oct. 7) and Detroit (Nov. 4) and travel to Green Bay (Oct. 28). The Jaguars own an 8-9 all-time mark against teams from the NFC North.
Not the same Jaguars
There are just eight players on the Jaguars' current roster who played in the last game between these teams on Nov. 23, 2008, including five who started. Linebacker Daryl Smithand*cornerbackRashean Mathis* are the only remaining defensive players that played in the last game against the Vikings in 2008.
Vikings staff includes Jacksonville native
Vikings assistant offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield attended The Bolles School in Jacksonville and was part of two state championship teams. He later began his coaching career as an assistant at the school in 1999 and also spent time on the Jacksonville University coaching staff in 2005.
Close to home
Jaguars center Brad Meester hails from Parkersburg, Iowa, approximately three hours south of Minneapolis. The Vikings are the closest NFL city to Parkersburg and more than 30 of Meester's family members will be in attendance for the game.
Mosley returns to where career started
Defensive lineman C.J. Mosley was a sixth-round pick of the Vikings in 2005 and played in 12 games with two starts as a rookie. He was traded to the New York Jets prior to the 2006 season.
The game will be broadcast regionally on CBS, locally on WTEV CBS47 (Ch. 6 cable). Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Solomon Wilcots providing analysis.
Did you know?
The Jaguars have 10 players on their current roster who have played a regular season game in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome: QB Chad Henne (2010), FB Greg Jones (2004), WR Laurent Robinson (2007), K Josh Scobee (2004), DL C.J. Mosley (2006), LB Paul Posluszny (2010), LB Daryl Smith (2004), S Dawan Landry(2009), CB Rashean Mathis (2004) and CB Aaron Ross (2010).
Wrapping up the preseason
The Jaguars finished the preseason 3-1 with wins against the New York Giants, at New Orleans and Atlanta. The only loss came at Baltimore in week three.
Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert posted a 94.9 passer rating during the preseason, completing 36 of 59 passes (61.0 pct.) for 355 yards with three touchdowns. The club's 2011 first-round pick was under center for 127 snaps in the preseason. Despite injuries along the offensive line, Gabbert was sacked only once which resulted in a fumble in the preseason opener.
Gabbert was one of only four quarterbacks in the preseason with 50 or more pass attempts and no interceptions. His only two turnovers came on a sack/fumble against the New York Giants in the preseason opener and a fumbled pitch exchange last Thursday against Atlanta. With Gabbert* *under center, the Jaguars converted 16 of 30 (53.3 pct.) third down attempts. Two of Gabbert's three touchdowns passing in the preseason came on third down.
Here are additional notes from the preseason:
- Running back Rashad Jennings led the Jaguars with 209 rushing yards on 47 carries for a 4.4 average per carry. The 209 rushing yards led the AFC and ranked second in the NFL. He had six rushes of 10-plus yards. The Jaguars had the NFL's third-best rushing attack in the preseason, averaging 164.0 yards per game on the ground.
- The Jaguars registered 12 sacks including five in the opener against the New York Giants. The club had only two sacks in the 2011 preseason. Third-year defensive end Aaron Morganled the club with 2.5 sacks including a takedown of Saints quarterback Sean Canfield as time expired to seal the victory at New Orleans. Tackle Terrance Knighton posted two sacks while defensive end Jeremy Mincey was in on two sacks against the Saints including a sack/forced fumble of quarterback Drew Brees.
- The Jaguars had 19 trips to the red zone and scored 15 times (78.9 pct.) including 10 touchdowns (52.6 pct.). The Jaguars controlled the ball for 32 minutes or more in three of four games including 35:30 last Thursday against Atlanta.
- Wide receiver Mike Thomas tied for third in the AFC and sixth in the NFL with 13 receptions for 161 yards.
- Linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) was the only starter to not play in the preseason. Cornerback Derek Cox suffered a hamstring injury on the fourth play of the preseason opener against the Giants and did not play in the final three games.
- Defensive end Andre Branch was the only rookie to start all four games while 2012 first-round pick WR Justin Blackmon started the final three games. The Jaguars had 10 completions of 20-plus yards including a 77-yard touchdown catch by rookie WR Kevin Elliott from QB Chad Henne last Thursday against Atlanta.