2018 Jacksonville Jaguars game-by-game predictions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars were the surprise team in the NFL last season, going from three victories in 2016 to the AFC South championship and a surprising run to the AFC title game. They’ve got everybody’s attention now, though, and depending on how things shake out in New England, the Jaguars could very well be the AFC favorite by the time the season kicks off in September.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET

Surely Jaguars executive VP of football ops Tom Coughlin has this game circled on his calendar. He was fired in 2015 after 12 years with the Giants and this will be the first time he’s faced them since then. That storyline might threaten to overshadow the one-on-one battle between cornerback Jalen Ramsey and receiver Odell Beckham Jr.; that matchup alone should have made this a prime-time game. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, vs. New England Patriots, 4:25 p.m. ET

The rematch of the AFC Championship Game surprisingly wasn’t one of the Jaguars’ two prime-time games. It might feel like the Super Bowl to the Jaguars, though, after what happened in Gillette Stadium last January. Tom Brady's third-and-18 conversion, which led to the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, still stings, as does the early whistle on linebacker Myles Jack's fumble recovery. The Jaguars are just 1-11 all-time against the Patriots (including 1-4 in the postseason) and have never beaten Brady. That last part changes. Record: 2-0

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, vs. Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. ET

The Titans swept the season series in 2017, the first time either team has done that since the Titans did it in 2008. The biggest issue was turnovers: The Jaguars were plus-15 against every other team in turnover margin but minus-5 in two games against the Titans. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, vs. New York Jets, 1 p.m. ET

The Jaguars lost in overtime in New Jersey last season and haven’t beaten the Jets since 2009. They haven’t beaten them in Jacksonville since 2006. With the Jets expected to draft a quarterback third overall it could be a long day against Jacksonville's defense for the rookie. Record: 3-1

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. ET

The Chiefs are turning the team over to second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who started the 2017 regular-season finale and threw for 284 yards and no touchdowns with one interception in a victory over Denver. If he’s as good as he’s projected to be, the Chiefs could have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. The Jaguars’ defense might be the best one Mahomes faces all season. Record: 4-1

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET

This will be a pretty good matchup of the Jaguars’ defensive front and the Cowboys’ offensive line. This is a game where Jacksonville might miss recently retired middle linebacker Paul Posluszny the most. The Cowboys want to pound the ball with running back Ezekiel Elliott, and Posluszny thrived against the run. Record: 4-2

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, vs. Houston Texans, 1 p.m. ET

The Jaguars swept the Texans last season by a combined 74-14, which included a 45-7 romp in December in Jacksonville. That snapped the Jaguars’ six-game losing streak in the series. Quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive end J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus didn’t play in that second game, and they all should be back on the field for the opener, which makes the Texans contenders for the division title again. Record: 5-2

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. Philadelphia Eagles in London at Wembley Stadium, 9:30 a.m. ET

The Jaguars have won three in a row at Wembley Stadium, but the defending Super Bowl champs will be the toughest opponent they’ve faced overseas since they began playing there annually in 2013. It’ll be interesting to see how the loss of offensive coordinator Frank Reich affects quarterback Carson Wentz, but it’s hard to see Philly's offense slowing down much. Record: 5-3

Week 9: Bye

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET

The Jaguars outscored the Colts 53-10 in the two meetings last season, the first time they’ve swept the series since the 2011 season. That was the year before Andrew Luck's arrival, and Luck didn’t play in either game last season. His (expected) return will make the offense better, but he can’t do much to help a defense that ranked 30th in yards allowed and scoring. Record: 6-3

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m. ET

The Jaguars make their first appearance on Sunday night football since Oct. 5, 2008 (a 26-21 loss to the Steelers). The Steelers are still steaming about losing twice to the Jaguars at Heinz Field last season, and this series again feels like it did when the Jaguars and Steelers were in the old AFC Central. Running back Leonard Fournette was really good against the Steelers both times: 181 yards and two touchdowns in October and 109 yards, three TDs in the divisional playoff in January. Record: 7-3

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET

This will be Doug Marrone’s first trip to Buffalo as Jaguars head coach, and it’s sure to be a meaningful moment for him. The Jaguars beat the Bills 10-3 on QB Blake Bortles' fourth-down TD pass and Ramsey’s game-clinching interception in a wild-card playoff game at EverBank Field last season. Bortles actually had more yards rushing (88) than passing (87) in that game, and the Bills feel they let one get away. Record: 8-3

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, vs. Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET

The Jaguars have never beaten the Colts more than three consecutive times, but that streak will end. Since Ramsey entered the league in 2016, Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton has done little against the Jaguars. Hilton averaged 89.3 yards receiving in eight games against Jacksonville before Ramsey’s arrival. That number dropped to 53.4 yards per game over the past four meetings. Record: 9-3

Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 6, at Tennessee Titans, 8:20 p.m. ET

This game could be the one that eventually decides the AFC South. The Titans finished second last season by only a game, and the signings of cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis are two of the division’s better additions. Lewis should be a very good complement to Derrick Henry and will be a problem for defenses as a receiver. Record: 9-4

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, vs. Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET

The Jaguars have beaten the Redskins just once in six meetings. That came on Nov. 10, 2002, which was Coughlin’s last season as the Jaguars’ head coach. The last time these teams met (Sept. 14, 2014) was the last time Bortles did not play in a game for the Jaguars. He replaced Chad Henne at halftime the following week and has started every game since. Record: 10-4

Week 16: Saturday Dec. 22 or Sunday Dec. 23, at Miami Dolphins, TBD

The Jaguars get to see the guy other than Brady that beat them in the AFC title game last season: receiver Danny Amendola, who signed with the Dolphins in the offseason. Amendola caught the third-and-18 pass as well as both fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Patriots. Now he has Ryan Tannehill throwing to him, which should make things easier for the Jaguars. Record: 11-4

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. ET

Ramsey vs. Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins is turning into one of the best one-on-one rivalries in the NFL. It’s been a pretty even battle so far, too, which makes it even more entertaining. Record: 11-5