Yes, it is finally real football following over a month of training camp, too much preseason and roster cuts. If you are like us – somewhat recovered from the late nights and fun games of Texas-Notre Dame and Florida State-Ole Miss, you are ready for NFL Sundays.
The Jaguars are on a current four-game losing streak in season openers. They have, we think, the toughest test all season with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at EverBank Field. The Pack should be capable of winning its fifth straight NFC North title and many folks have them making the Super Bowl.
Jacksonville does not have much to lose in this one. But a win would give the teal and black the biggest win in the Gus Bradley era and hope to match the hype of the off-season.
Meeting: Sunday will be the sixth meeting between the two teams. The Jaguars trail in the all-time series, 2-3. The last matchup was in 2012 when the Packers won at Lambeau Field, 25-14. The Jags box score has Blaine Gabbert, Rashad Jennings, Cecil Shorts and Jeremy Mincey. Much has changed over the last four years.
Humble-brag to Packers fans:
Allen Robinson is 52 yards away from 2,000 career receiving. The third-year pro could start for any team.
You have history at Lambeau, and we have pools. If you attend the game, you will be in a pool whether you want to or not. It will be close to 90 degrees with plenty of humidity.
Blake Bortles led the league last season with 72 pass plays of 20 yards or more. Aaron Rodgers is coming off a rough year while BB5 is returning from his best season.
Connections to the River City:
Dom Capers was the Jaguars defensive coordinator for two seasons in 1999 and 2000. He’s been in the same role with Green Bay since 2009.
Jags defensive assistant Monte Kiffin was the Packers LB coach in 1983.
Cornerback Davon House was drafted by Green Bay in the 2011 draft’s fourth round. Jacksonville signed him as an unrestricted free agent in March 2015.
What to Watch:
Blake Bortles will start the season opener for the second consecutive season. The Jags have never had a 300-yard passer against Green Bay. And the most passing yards in a season opener by a Jax QB is Mark Brunell with 301 at Cleveland in 2000. Bortles could set new franchise marks come Sunday.
The first-year players will have Jags fans scanning the field. Whether it is Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Sheldon Day, Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue, the youngsters will need to produce to allow Jacksonville to keep it close.
Safety Johnathan Cyprien is set to start his 45th game this Sunday. Will adding Tashaun Gipson in free agency help Cyp become the box safety the team has dearly needed? We will be keeping an eye on how the other free agents – Malik Jackson, Chris Ivory, Kelvin Beachum and Prince Amukamura – help their position groups too.
Trying to Figure Out:
Were penalties solely a preseason thing?
Jared Odrick sustained a concussion during Wednesday’s practice. If he is out, how will the depth step up for the defensive line? We saw examples in the third preseason game versus Cincinnati.
LB Dan Skuta will have his 100th career appearance Sunday. He’ll be the OTTO starter with newly-acquired Arthur Brown backing him up. Is this position anything for opponents to be concerned about in 2016? Could Ryan Davis be a Monday morning sports radio topic?
About the Opponent:
The Pack could set multiple offensive records this season. With the Teddy Bridgewater injury, Green Bay is the easy favorite to take the NFC North.
Aaron Rodgers, a slimmer Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson, who missed all of 2015 with a knee injury, creates a well-balanced offense. Tight end Jared Cook provides Rodgers with another big-play target.
This team is always dangerous. It seems like you can put them in the top-5 annually with the likes of New England, Seattle, Denver (excluding this year?) and Carolina.
This Equals a Win:
Like Bortles and Bradley have reiterated, the offense needs to start fast and play consistent and balanced ball. That phrase is sort of the new “do your job.”
At least keep Eddie Lacy contained. If the Packers have both the air and ground clicking, Sunday will not end quick enough.
Limit penalties, turnovers, and improve special teams coverage. No reason to give a solid franchise more opportunities because of your own mistakes.
How to Listen:
For the third straight regular season, Frank Frangie, Tony Boselli and Jeff Lageman will provide the call on 1010XL and 92.5 FM. Rick Ballou will provide sideline updates.
The Jaguars Radio Network will have three hours of the Publix Tailgate Show starting at 10 a.m. Sunday. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
Where to Watch:
FOX will have the regional broadcast for Jaguars-Packers. WFOX-TV 30 will carry the game locally with Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch in the booth. Pam Oliver – one of the all-time best – will cover the sidelines.