The Jags are back. But will they be back in prime time?
The 2017 final-four franchise will receive plenty of preseason hype as the 2018 season approaches. The real question is whether they’ll be playing many/any of their games under the lights, at home or on the road.
Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union takes a closer look at the NFL’s conundrum when making its schedule, fueled by the size of the team’s market (42nd), the team’s recent history of struggles, and the fact that the Jaguars are a team that wins without a high-powered offense.
They’ll host both the Patriots and Steelers, postseason rematches that should attract serious consideration for Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night placement. Road games against the Cowboys (hello, Thanksgiving?), Chiefs, and Giants (with Tom Coughlin returning to New York) also should draw interest. And a “home” game against the Eagles in London could end up getting early-morning treatment on a Sunday, pulling it from the scrum of 1:00 p.m. ET games.
The Jaguars haven’t played on Sunday night since 2008, and they’ve been absent from Monday night since 2011, when they hosted two games. Those games, per O’Halloran, against the Ravens and Chargers were ESPN’s two lowest-rated games for the year. A 2010 Monday night game against the Titans was the lowest-rated ESPN game that year, too.
O’Halloran explains that conference finalists since 2010 have received at least four prime-time games the following year. Last year, the Browns and Jaguars were the only two teams to have zero prime-time games. (Jacksonville’s stand-alone Sunday morning game in London against the Ravens did so poorly in a Yahoo Sports broadcast that the streaming numbers never were released.)
Given the possibility of a backslide in 2018 (especially with a first-place schedule, an improving AFC South, and games against the teams of the AFC East and NFC East), it could make sense to slate any Jacksonville prime-time games early in the year. If Jacksonville takes a step backward this year, those games against Pittsburgh and New England will have far less sizzle. Getting them on the books for evenings in September could be the best place to put those games.
Either way, we’ll find out more this week, when the sheet is expected to be removed from the all-important “when,” to go along with the “who” and “where” that we’ve known for more than three months. We’ll also find out what the Jags will look like when playing those games; their uniform reveal is coming Thursday night.