The Jacksonville Jaguars enjoyed a breakthrough season last year behind quarterback Blake Bortles and perhaps the best defense in the league. Their 2017 season produced their first division win since 1999 and ended a string of six consecutive losing seasons.
The Jaguars were a play away from advancing to the Super Bowl after opening the postseason with a home win over the Buffalo Bills and a road conquest of the talented Pittsburgh Steelers. In New England, the Jaguars led Tom Brady’s Patriots in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game only to have the future Hall of Fame quarterback lead the home team to a late victory.
It is no wonder that Jacksonville is full of confidence heading into the 2017 season.
Based on talent alone, they not only can rightfully anticipate a great season but they have the advantage of opening against a team that was only 3 and 13 last season, the New York Giants.
Is that really an advantage?
While the Jaguars won their first division title this century last year, the Giants are coming off their worst campaign since compiling an equally disappointing record of 3-13 in 1983. The Giants had more trouble last year than a naked beekeeper.
Their star receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., had a year to forget with problems with everyone from defenders to his hometown fans. In the circus that was the Giants last year most everything went wrong during their three win campaign.
The head coach that had guided them into the postseason in 2016 with an 11-5 record, Ben McAdoo, was let go after twelve games. When McAdoo was fired, the Giants had a record of 2 wins and 10 losses and his interim replacement, Steve Spagnuolo, completed the disappointing campaign.
In January, the Giants named Pat Shurmur their franchise’s 18th all-time head coach. Shurmur was the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator the past two seasons and has previous NFL head coaching experience with the Cleveland Browns. In 2011, he began a two year stint with the Browns that resulted in a losing record. Of course, a lot of head coaches have had losing records in Cleveland and gone on to future success, most notably, New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick.
Whether Shurmur can come close to the success Belichick has enjoyed after cutting his head coaching teeth in Cleveland, is yet to be seen. But, all indicators show that his career with the Giants is scheduled to get off to a good start.
Because these are two teams that had opposite seasond last year and are likely to switch roles this year.
The Giants are led by two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning, and he has a full offensive arsenal this year after the Giants eschewed the opportunity to pick his future replacement in the draft and instead spent the second pick on explosive Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. With Beckham back and geared for an atonement campaign following his down year, and with the rookie running out of the backfield, the Giants have an opportunity to have one of the most explosive offenses in the league this year.
And, they begin their rebound campaign against a team that cashed all their chips last season while winning their division and ending a string of losing seasons. There is no denying that Jacksonville has assembled one of the most talented rosters in football, but without a proven quarterback and significant motivational factors against them, this does not figure to be another great year for the Jaguars.
The role reversals will likely begin with a big home win for the Giants on Sunday.
Qoxhi Picks: New York Giants (+3) over Jacksonville Jaguars