The suspension of receiver Justin Blackmon for the opening four regular-season games wiped away the bit of hope I had for the Jacksonville Jaguars emerging from September with a winning record. That might seem like a ridiculous utterance to open a story on the Jaguars — the squad with Blaine Gabbert beating out Chad Henne for starting quarterback — but under a promising new head coach in Gus Bradley, it wasn’t entirely crazy for Jacksonville to start off surprising people.
I wasn’t exactly considering Jax for a playoff berth, but check out their September schedule: hosting Kansas City Chiefs, at Oakland Raiders, at Seattle Seahawks and hosting Indianapolis Colts. Three of those opponents are beatable on any turf while the Seattle contest comes against Bradley’s former team, so you never know.
In weighing the pros and cons to Jacksonville becoming the surprise squad of September, the scales tip without the Jaguars’ top-ten receiver pick from the 2012 draft. Blackmon really came on down the stretch last season as one of the league’s very best non-quarterbacks out of the draft class. If Blaine Gabbert — who released the ball so quick this preseason it’s hard to tell if play design was his primary August success factor — could play at least decent, find rhythm with Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, clear the box a little for Maurice Jones-Drew to look his former self; I could see the Jags starting strong before cooling off to a 5-7 win season.
Then more bad news came for the Jags and I’m seeing this opening stretch as more 4-0 than 3-1. I found other places to be bold with my standings projections. Hopefully Jonathan Cyprien and this young, deep and talented secondary progress greatly over the course of 2013 to make this defense venerable in 2014, but for now I’m playing it safe and assuming Jacksonville battles for the No. 1 overall pick once again.
Predicted Regular Season Record: 2-14 (3rd in AFC South)
Predicted Finish: Miss postseason
More of Thomas Emerick’s 2013-2014 NFL team predictions: NYG | WAS | PHI | DAL | GB | CHI | DET | MIN | TB | ATL | NO | CAR | SEA | SF | STL | ARI | NE | MIA | BUF | NYJ | BAL | CLE | CIN | PIT | HOU | IND | TEN | JAX | DEN | KC | SD | OAK