The NFL’s computers didn’t do the Jacksonville Jaguars any favors when they spit out what turned out to be the schedule this season.
They play two of their toughest games – Kansas City in the opener and New Orleans – in the first six games.
And in the second and third games of the year, the play two division teams – Houston and Tennessee — that swept them last year. And Tennessee has swept them the last two years.
The Tennessee game will be a Thursday night game, so they have three games in the first 12 days. It could be a 12-day season.
The Jaguars went 0-5 against their first three opponents last year and will be underdogs in all three games.
They are listed as five-point dogs at home against the Chiefs in the early line.
Still, those three games will give a good indication of what kind of a team they will have with Nick Foles at quarterback.
They also play three of their first five games on the road against the Texans, Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.
And then the sixth game is at home against the Saints before they play Cincinnati on the road and host the New York Jets before playing the Texans again in London.
The focus of the offseason is usually on the opener, and this year’s opener against the Chiefs will take on a special significance.
Not only are the Chiefs a playoff team, but the Jaguars get a chance to see whether Foles can have an immediate impact.
In the 30-14 loss at Kansas City last year, the Chiefs had five turnovers as they intercepted Blake Bortles four times, including a pick-six. That was the beginning of the end for Bortles, who was later benched and then released in the offseason after Foles was signed.
The Chiefs’ much maligned defense, not Patrick Mahomes, who tossed two interceptions while throwing for 318 yards, was the difference in the game.
The Jaguars actually wound up with 29 first downs to 26 for the Chiefs, but fell behind 20-0 and weren’t in the game after that. With better quarterback play, the Jaguars could have stayed in the game. The Chiefs defense actually gave up 502 yards, but the turnovers were the difference.
The Jaguars abandoned the running game after falling behind and Bortles threw 61 times.
The game will also be the debut for the Chiefs’ new defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, who was hired after Bob Sutton was fired.
It will be interesting to see how Spagnuolo will defend against Foles and how Leonard Fornette will play coming off a disappointing season that saw him plagued with injuries, suspended and eventually criticized in a statement by director of football operations Tom Coughlin for looking disinterested on the bench in the season finale.
The NFL also doesn’t appear to have much confidence in Foles making that much of a difference as they scheduled the Jaguars for just one Thursday night primetime game. The only team with fewer is Buffalo, with none, although both could be flexed into primetime games.
By contrast, 10 teams are making five prime time appearances.
Since the teams share TV money equally, the lack of primetime games doesn’t affect their bottom line.
The Jaguars are the not-ready-for-primetime players. They haven’t appeared on Sunday Night Football since 2008 and Monday Night Football since 2011.
They were scheduled to play a SNF game last year against the Steelers and were flexed out of it.