The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking for a big turnaround in 2022. Perhaps not playoff contention, but they want to quickly wash away the dramatic failure that was their 3-14 season just a year ago under the embarrassing tenure of Urban Meyer.
Jacksonville will have to fend off its fair share of playoff teams and contenders as they venture to improve their record under first-year head coach Doug Pederson. They play the AFC West -- one of the NFL's toughest divisions -- as well as other playoff teams in the Eagles and Cowboys,
But the Jaguars also have several games that on paper look winnable. The same could have been said last year ahead of the Jaguars' three-win season, but the NFL is an unpredictable beast. Not many had the Jaguars getting swept by the Houston Texans last year, but even fewer had the Jaguars beating the Buffalo Bills.
So, which games look the most winnable on paper in May? Which games feel like they could truly lean toward the Jaguars, even after finishing last in the NFL for the past two seasons? We break it all down below.
Week 1 @ Washington Commanders
I projected a Washington win in my official predictions, but this game is still a complete pick 'em at this point. Washington is coming off a better season and has a more complete roster than Jacksonville arguably has, but the Jaguars have a coach in Doug Pederson who has a trend of success against Washington. Plus, there is Carson Wentz.
Wentz is the Commanders' new starting quarterback after an offseason trade with the Colts, with came following Wentz and the Colts having a complete meltdown in Week 18 in Jacksonville vs. the Jaguars. Wentz turned the ball over twice in a 26-11 loss to the NFL's worst team, keeping the Colts out of the playoffs. Wentz wasn't much better in the Colts' Week 10 23-17 win over the Jaguars, posting his fifth-worst quarterback rating of the season (78.1) and his fourth-worst adjusted yards per pass attempt (5.29). Wentz struggles against the Jaguars and they now have a coach in Pederson (and Press Taylor) who know Wentz inside and out and can prepare the Jaguars.
Week 5 vs. Houston Texans
The Jaguars have not had any success against the Houston Texans in recent years, even as the Texans have had their own series of personnel issues and struggles. The Texans and Jaguars have been two of the worst teams in the league in recent years, but that hasn't made the Texans any easier of an out for the Jaguars. Still, hosting Houston at TIAA Bank Field is, on paper, one of Jacksonville's easiest games.
The Texans are likely underrated to this point, but the Jaguars did show some life against them in their second matchup last year. If you are projecting Jacksonville's coaching to be significantly better this year than it was last year, then it isn't a stretch to imagine they could even be favorites entering this game.
Week 7 vs. New York Giants
The New York Giants added some big-name rookies in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, but they are still a young and rebuilding roster that has more or less been churned of its productive veterans this offseason. The Giants seem to be using this season as a bridge into a healthier cap situation as Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen get settled into their roles as head coach and general manager.
Daniel Jones has made plays throughout his career with his feet, but the turnover-prone passer and the relative youth of the Giants' roster gives the Jaguars the edge in this one, especially if Trevor Lawrence takes another step. This may be the most winnable game on the whole schedule.
Week 13 @ Detroit Lions
The Lions are a trendy pick as an improved team this offseason and for obvious reasons. Adding DJ Chark, Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, and Josh Paschal are all significant moves that add playmaking ability to both sides of the ball. At this point, the Lions may have the most underrated receiver trio in the NFL, along with playmakers at running back, tight end, and a strong offensive line.
With that said, the Lions are still a young team that has yet to learn how to win, and they are quarterbacked by a passer in Jared Goff who is unlikely to be an X-factor in any given week. If Lawrence can outduel Goff, then the Jaguars should have a healthy chance in this one.
Week 16 @ New York Jets
The Jaguars failed to beat the Jets in New Jersey last year but it was a closer game than it likely should have been considering the amount of players the Jaguars were missing due to injuries and COVID-19 protocols, along with the Jaguars still being in the thick of the fallout of the Urban Meyer debacle. The Jaguars and Lawrence kept it close with the Jets last year and each team likely improved to similar extents this offseason.
The real deciding factor will be Lawrence vs. 2021 No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson. Each struggled as a rookie due to a number of factors. If one takes a step forward that the other doesn't, then it will be an easy advantage for their respective team entering Week 16.
The Jaguars' full schedule is as follows.
Week 1: @ Washington Commanders, Sept. 11.
Week 2: vs. Indianapolis Colts, Sept. 18.
Week 3: @ Los Angeles Chargers (4:15 p.m.), Sept. 25.
Weel 4: @ Philadelphia Eagles, Oct. 2.
Week 5: vs. Houston Texans, Oct. 9.
Week 6: @ Indianapolis Colts, Oct. 16.
Week 7: vs. New York Giants, Oct. 23.
Week 8: vs. Denver Broncos (London), Oct. 30.
Week 9: vs. Las Vegas Raiders, Nov. 6.
Week 10: @ Kansas City Chiefs, Nov. 13.
Week 11: Bye
Week 12: vs. Baltimore Ravens, Nov. 27.
Week 13: @ Detroit Lions, Dec. 4.
Week 14: @ Tennessee Titans, Dec. 11.
Week 15: vs. Dallas Cowboys, Dec. 18.
Week 16: @ New York Jets (TNF), Dec. 22.
Week 17: @ Houston Texans, Jan. 1.
Week 18: vs. Tennessee Titans, Jan. 7 or Jan 8.