Alright, everyone, we made it. The NFL regular season is about to begin. I have powered up my crystal ball, with the finest sugar crystals that Dixie Crystals has to offer, and am ready to give you my week 1 prediction for when the Panthers visit the Jaguars on 13 September 2015, at EverBank Field.
5 Points of Emphasis
Jacksonville’s Secondary vs. Carolina’s Receivers
The Panthers did not make many moves in the offseason to upgrade their receiving corps. I expect TE Greg Olsen, RB Jonathan Stewart, and even FB Mike Tolbert, to be heavily involved in the passing game.
As far as their receivers are concerned, I think that this is a good match-up for the Jaguars’ secondary (Ted Ginn, Jr., Jerricho Cotchery, Corey Brown, Kevin Norwood, and Devin Funchess don’t exactly scare me).
I’m interested in seeing how physical House, McCray, and Gratz are in coverage. I expect Cyprien to be flying around all game but I wonder how our safeties will play in general. I think the secondary has a solid, but not perfect, outing.
Jaguars’ LT Luke Joeckel
Panthers’ DE Charles Johnson knows how to get to the quarterback. I’m going to be looking at his match-up with Luke Joeckel very carefully. Can Joeckel avoid getting pushed into Bortles?
My gut says not quite. I’m thinking that Johnson gets 1-1.5 sacks this game.
Jacksonville’s Front 7 Remaining Disciplined
This is a huge concern for me. Everyone knows what Cam Newton brings to the table as a QB and athletically. Should he be flushed out of the pocket, can our defensive ends and linebackers keep proper containment and/or judge appropriately if someone releases out of the backfield?
I think the defense will get burned big once on a play that breaks down but is improvised into a big gain. I do not see that there will be a lot of big plays for Carolina, however.
Jaguars Receivers’ Hands
My question here is short and sweet, will they drop the key passes? I’m thinking that Bortles will have adequate time to go through his progression in this game, but when he does what will be the outcome?
I’m going to give the receivers the benefit of the doubt here and say that they will be solid in this department.
Quick note: I think if Robinson gets matched up against Tillman that it could be bad news bears for the Panthers (I almost typed the Bears) defense.
Jaguars’ QB Blake Bortles
I think that Jaguars’ QB Blake Bortles will have a great game in the season debut. I expect that his orchestration of the offense and comfort with the scheme will show in the second half.
I’m looking for sustained drives throughout the game. For now, I do not mind a mix of touchdowns and field goals, but I think it is time to move beyond multiple 3 and outs in a row. I place this responsibility on Bortles.
Extra Point: Jaguars’ Running Back Stable
The Jaguars have some horses back there and I expect there to be fresh legs at RB for the entirety of the game. If the Jaguars dominate the clock and have the ball late with a 4+ point lead, look out.
RB Yeldon just got the nod as the starter, but I do expect to see him, Robinson, and Gerhart pound the football. I think the offensive line is a lot better and will open holes for the attack. We’ll see if they get to impose their will late in the game.
So those are my points but who is my pick when the expansion teams of the mid-1990s meet? The Jaguars are at home and I think their offense is more explosive (yes, even though the Panthers have Cam Newton).
My Prediction: Jaguars 27 – Panthers 23