Jacksonville Jaguars' 2021 schedule: Just one prime-time game

Lawrence ready to get to work with Jaguars (2:21)

Trevor Lawrence reflects on being drafted first overall by the Jaguars, and handling the expectations that come with that. (2:21)

The Jacksonville Jaguars' 2021 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate on Wednesday.

The 2021 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m. ET). ESPN’s Monday Night Football opener on Sept. 13 will feature the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

The NFL will change its schedule for the first time 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs begin Jan. 15, 2022 and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022 at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.

Here's what in store for the Jaguars:

2021 schedule

Sept. 12: at Houston

Sept. 19: vs. Denver

Sept. 26: vs. Arizona

Sept. 30: at Cincinnati (TNF)

Oct. 10: vs. Tennessee

Oct. 17: vs. Miami (London)

Oct. 24: Bye

Oct. 31: at Seattle

Nov. 7: vs. Buffalo

Nov. 14: at Indianapolis

Nov. 21: vs. San Francisco

Nov. 28: vs. Atlanta

Dec. 5: at LA Rams

Dec. 12: at Tennessee

Dec. 19: vs. Houston

Dec. 26: at NY Jets

Jan. 2: at New England

Jan. 8 or 9: vs. Indianapolis

Strength of schedule (hardest to easiest): 18th, .491

Biggest takeaway

Apparently the presence of first overall pick Trevor Lawrence and new head coach Urban Meyer didn’t do much for TV executives, because the Jaguars have only one prime-time game: the obligatory Thursday nighter at Cincinnati on Sept. 30. Fans were hoping Lawrence and Meyer would have gotten them multiple night games -- at the New York Jets for a battle of the top two picks, maybe? It has been 13 years since the Jaguars played a Sunday night game (a 26-21 loss to Pittsburgh on Oct. 5, 2008) and 10 years since they played a Monday night game (a 38-14 loss to San Diego on Dec. 5, 2011), both of which are the longest active streaks in the NFL per ESPN Stats & Info. There’s always the chance the Jaguars could get flexed into a night game later in the season, but it’s unlikely.

One question that needs to be answered

What’s the pass rush going to look like? Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson, the two starting outside linebackers/defensive ends, have a combined 13.5 career sacks. Allen had 10 as a rookie in 2019 but managed just 2.5 in eight games last season. Chaisson had just one as a rookie in 2020. Allen’s 12.5 is the most of any player on the roster, followed closely by nose tackle Malcom Brown and defensive end Dawuane Smoot (both have 11.5). The only other player with double-digit career sacks is middle linebacker Joe Schobert (11). New defensive coordinator Joe Cullen may be tested early if Deshaun Watson does play for Houston and Denver does pull off a trade for Aaron Rodgers in the first two weeks, followed by Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow the next two weeks.

What Vegas thinks

The oddsmakers have the Jaguars’ win total at 6, which would be a significant jump from 2020 (1-15). Three of their first four opponents won five or fewer games last season, so that gives them a decent chance to put several victories on the board early -- provided, of course, Lawrence is the real deal. Even so, the Jaguars play four playoff teams in a five-game stretch after the first month and have road games against the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans in early December. Rookie QB plus rookie NFL head coach plus defensive issues up front means it’ll be hard to see the Jaguars winning more than six games.

Bold prediction

The Jaguars will snap their eight-year losing streak in Nashville against the Titans (they haven’t won there since 2013, which was Gus Bradley’s first season as coach). Why? Because Meyer is fantastic in rivalry games. He went 16-2 at Florida against Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State and 7-0 at Ohio State against Michigan. The Titans are the Jaguars’ biggest rival.