We have known for some time who the Jaguars would play in 2021, but it wasn't until Wednesday night that the cobwebs were removed and it was revealed the exact order the Jaguars will play the games in.
What will follow next is a 17-game march in which we will see one of the most anticipated seasons inf franchise history play out. From Trevor Lawrence to Urban Meyer to Travis Etienne, the Jaguars have a host of new additions the fan base is dying to see unveiled on the field.
So, which games over the 17-game season are the most intriguing as of today? We weigh storylines, implications, and placement on the schedule to determine our 1 through 17 ranking below.
1) Week 16 at New York Jets
There is a good chance the Jaguars and Jets won't be playing for anything at this point in the season, but there are no other new regimes whose futures will be compared more than the Jets and Jaguars. The Jets and Jaguars were in a season-long race for the No. 1 overall pick, with the Jets being the favorites until a pair of wins late in the year. Now, the Jaguars' and Jets' selections of Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson at No. 1 and No. 2 overall will be tied together for the rest of their careers. Plus, each team has a first-time NFL head coach in Urban Meyer and Robert Saleh, who will be compared just as often. For the next few years, the Jaguars and Jets will attempt to pull in front of one another, with Week 16 as our first real glimpse at how the two teams stack up.
2) Week 4 at Cincinnati Bengals
Typically, a game between two teams who just picked in the top-5 wouldn't make for appointment viewing, but this game is different thanks to the quarterbacks who are expected to play. Plus, this is the first prime-time game of the Urban Meyer/Trevor Lawrence era, the first of what the Jaguars' fan base hope is many more to come. As long as Joe Burrow is healthy enough to get the start for the Bengals by Week 4, we will see each of the last two No. 1 overall picks and two of the most productive college quarterbacks in the last decade duke it out. Burrow and Trevor Lawrence faced off in the 2020 National Championship and Burrow's LSU Tigers got the best of Clemson and Lawrence then, but this game would give Lawrence a chance to take a step above Burrow on the hierarchy of young quarterbacks. Plus, this will be Urban Meyer returning to Ohio for the first time as an NFL coach, and we will see matchups like Ja'Marr Chase against CJ Henderson.
3) Week 13 at Los Angeles Rams
Why are the Los Angeles Rams this high on this list? We can think of about 20 reasons.
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey has essentially been the villain of the Jaguars' fan base since he forced his way out of Jacksonville during the 2019 season. Ramsey requesting a trade just two weeks into the season rubbed some the wrong way, but his refusal to play for the Jaguars due to a back injury following Week 3 was one of the biggest storylines of the 2019 season. The Jaguars ended up trading Ramsey to Los Angeles in October for two first-round picks, which the Jaguars turned into K'Lavon Chaisson and Travis Etienne. Ramsey hasn't been shy about throwing shade toward the Jaguars' organization since his departure, either, so this game offers plenty of revenge storylines for both parties.
4) Week 1 at Houston Texans
Normally, a Houston Texans game in 2021 would offer little to zero intrigue, but a season-opener is always going to be near the top half of this list. What moves this into the top-5 is the fact that it will be the first time we see Trevor Lawrence under center in the NFL and the first time Urban Meyer coaches an NFL game. Those are the two most anticipated debuts in franchise history, so there is zero question the intrigue surrounding this game is fully focused on the first appearances of Lawrence and Meyer in a regular-season game.
5) Week 8 at Seattle Seahawks
There are countless storylines to track in this one. Urban Meyer and Pete Carroll are two of the most successful college football program builders of their era, with Carroll serving as a potential best-case scenario for the Jaguars and Meyer as he makes the same transition from college to the NFL. Then, there is Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer making their returns to Seattle, a place where each called plays time and time again as former Seahawks offensive coordinators. Finally, we get a chance to see Shaquill Griffin, the Jaguars' big fish in free agency, face off against the team that drafted him and ultimately failed to retain him. The Seahawks' combination of Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson, and the development of Wilson, are all things the Jaguars would like to duplicate with Meyer/Lawrence, making this a fascinating game.
6) Week 5 vs. Tennessee Titans
Two reasons this game is one of the most interesting contests on the Jaguars' schedule: Joe Cullen vs. Derrick Henry, and Urban Meyer vs. Mike Vrabel. Henry has been a thorn in the Jaguars' side for years and several of his career highlights have seen Jacksonville on the receiving end of his punishing runs. With that said, Joe Cullen helped the Baltimore Ravens dominate the Titans in the trenches and completely eliminate Henry from the equation in last year's Wild Card round. If the Jaguars are going to finally stop Henry, it will have to depend on Cullen's plan to defend him. As for Vrabel, this will be a classic battle of student vs. teacher. It will be the first head coaching matchup between Vrabel and Meyer after Vrabel served as Meyer's defensive line coach for two seasons at Ohio State.
7) Week 17 at New England Patriots
While I personally don't think this game will be one that holds playoff implications for either team, this is still a fascinating game. We will see Meyer, a first-time NFL head coach, go toe-to-toe with arguably the greatest head coach in the entire history of the NFL in Bill Belichick. Seeing Belichick attempt to defend Trevor Lawrence will be an interesting test for the Jaguars' No. 1 overall pick. Belichick frequently dominates rookie quarterbacks, so if Lawrence can produce against him by the end of his first season, it will be quite a positive sign for his future.
8) Week 3 vs. Arizona Cardinals
No. 1 pick vs. No. 1 pick. College coach turned NFL coach against college coach turned NFL coach. This one is easy to sell. We get to see Kyler Murray and his electric skillset face-off against Trevor Lawrence, while also getting a chance to see how Kliff Kingsbury and Urban Meyer compare at the NFL level. Plus, we will see the Jaguars once again face two of their most high-profile rivals in recent years in J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins.
9) Week 9 vs. Buffalo Bills
The first home game against the Bills since the Jaguars defeated them in the Wild Card Round in January 2018, this will also be a clash of two of the most talented quarterbacks in the league in terms of physical tools. Bills quarterback Josh Allen is an MVP candidate after putting up the best numbers of his career in 2020, while Lawrence is the most celebrated quarterback prospect of the last decade. If the Jaguars can hang with the Bills, who are one of the AFC's best teams both in the short-term and in the long-term thanks to their drafting, then it will say a lot about Jacksonville.
10) Week 14 at Tennessee Titans
There isn't much to say about this game. If the Jaguars are in the running for the AFC South or a postseason spot late in the season, this could prove to be one of the most important games on the Jaguars' entire schedule. Still, this will be a repeat game since the Jaguars will have already played the Titans earlier in the season. This one could be much more interesting when looking at it in October compared to now, though.
11) Week 10 at Indianapolis Colts
There is some intrigue here since it will be the first time we see Carson Wentz take on the Jaguars as the Colts' starting quarterback, but it is otherwise a run-of-the-mill divisional game. There will be divisional implications and it will be a tough test for Meyer and Lawrence in their first contest against the Colts, but it also isn't a game that is overflowing with storylines. One storyline worth watching will be Lawrence by default since he is considered by many to be the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, the former Colts' No. 1 overall pick and franchise quarterback.
12) Week 11 vs. San Francisco 49ers
If it wasn't for Trey Lance, this game would be a good bit further down the list. Nonetheless, we will now see the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 3 overall pick potentially clash, which is always going to generate interest. With that said, there isn't exactly a guarantee that Lance is who will be taking snaps for the 49ers by this point. This game will give Meyer his first-ever crack at game planning for former Buckeyes defensive end Nick Bosa, but there are limited threads to follow otherwise.
13) Week 6 vs. Miami Dolphins (London)
London is more often than not one of the more bland games on the Jaguars' schedule. It is typically a sloppy game, a result of the intense travel and change in routine that the game requires. This game will be interesting in some aspects since it will be Lawrence vs. Tua Tagovailoa, but ultimately there aren't many other storylines to track in a game that rarely exceeds expectations when looking at past London contests.
14) Week 2 vs. Denver Broncos
I wanted to slot this game higher, but I struggle to do so unless the Broncos make a big move for Aaron Rodgers. The Broncos have a talented roster and one of the NFL's most imposing secondary depth charts, so they will be a big test for Trevor Lawrence. Plus, this will be the first home game of the Lawrence/Meyer era. With that said, the Broncos don't figure to be anything more than an average team until they get more out of the quarterback position. Until they do, they will be a middle-of-the-pack draw in terms of storylines and intrigue.
15) Week 12 vs. Atlanta Falcons
The biggest storyline in this game is going to be Kyle Pitts returning to Jacksonville and TIAA Bank Field. Urban Meyer badly wanted to draft Pitts to add to his arsenal of weapons, but the Florida Gators tight end was the first non-quarterback drafted, going off the board to the Falcons at No. 4 overall. Otherwise, this is a non-conference game against an opponent we have seen the Jaguars play quite a bit in recent years. It is worth noting that Falcons head coach Arthur Smith interviewed for the Jaguars' job before the Jaguars gave it to Meyer.
16) Week 18 vs. Indianapolis Colts
The last game of the season, there is a small chance the Jaguars could be competing for a spot in the postseason during Week 18 if everything falls right. But if the Jaguars are a year or so away from competing in the AFC South, then this game will more or less be an anticlimactic closing of the book on the 2021 season in terms of storylines.
17) Week 15 vs. Houston Texans
The strong odds are the Texans will be playing for 2022 by this point in the season. Houston just looks like a team that could have the wheels fall off as the season drags on, so this game doesn't have much to be excited about. We also will have already seen the matchup in Week 1. Overall, this is a game that doesn't hold much interest but is still an important game in terms of how the Jaguars finish in the AFC South.