Jaguars vs Buccaneers Game Preview
It’s the other Battle of Florida as Jacksonville and Tampa Bay meet in a rematch of last year’s preseason contest. The Buccaneers won a low-scoring affair in Jacksonville but after the Jaguars’ one-season turnaround, the results here could be drastically different.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston should see some reps despite being suspended to start the regular season. He’ll contend with the AFC’s best defence. And Blake Bortles.
The Jaguars turned heads in 2017 when they improved on their 2016 season by seven wins and made it all the way to the AFC Championship game versus the Patriots. Their defence was top-two in both points and yards and as an encore, they added even more quality players.
Then there is Bortles and the offence. The quarterback sticks out like a sore thumb as he has been pedestrian at best. Thankfully, the presence of Leonard Fournette and an improved offensive line should minimize his liability.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are quite the contrast to the Jags. They are led by two potentially prolific quarterbacks in Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick but are lacking everywhere else, most notably on defence.
Tampa Bay finished dead-last in yards allowed in 2017 and was 23rd in points allowed. They made a few additions through the offseason but they are still far away from contending, especially playing behind the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers in the NFC’s toughest division.
It might be a replay of last season with Tampa eking out another win in a low-scoring game. The Jaguars have a stout defence that continues to the second unit but they have a barren offence beyond Fournette. Ultimately, Tampa’s superior offence could score when it matters most.
Jaguars vs Buccaneers Head-to-Head Records
Jacksonville and Tampa have met a total of six times beginning in 1995, the Jaguars’ inaugural year. Tampa won but just barely at 17-16. The close nature of the contest would become a theme in their series with all but one game being decided by more than a touchdown.
Despite being the younger team, Jacksonville leads the series 4-2. They won four consecutive from 1998 to 2011. Their biggest victory, a 41-14 blowout of Tampa at Jacksonville. The Buccaneers committed seven turnovers as Jacksonville scored 41 unanswered points including four total touchdowns from Jags’ running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Their last regular season meeting in 2015 saw the Buccaneers snap their drought after 20 seasons as they beat Jacksonville 38-31. Bortles threw for four touchdowns but the Jaguars couldn’t stop the Bucs’ Doug Martin and the running game as they ran for 183 yards and two scores.
Winston and Bortles are the few remaining players from that last meeting in 2015. They are scheduled to tangle in 2019. The Jaguars are most likely to stay the same but the Buccaneers could undergo a facelift depending how badly their 2017 season turns out. But the odds favour Jacksonville for their next game.
Jacksonville Jaguars Recent History
Jacksonville peaked early as a franchise. Tom Coughlin, their first head coach, led them to the AFC Championship in just their second year and won back-to-back division titles in 1998 and 1999. They also won 14 games in ’99 becoming the fastest franchise to do.
But following Coughlin’s departure in 2002, the franchise has yet to match this era. The Jaguars would be mostly futile from the 2000’s onwards making only two playoff appearances and no division titles until 2017: a season of resurgence.
New coach Doug Marrone has sparked a defence that has the makings of an all-time great. Coughlin is back in the organization. They won the division title in 2017, the first time in almost two decades when Coughlin was also part of the team. The Jags are primed to have their best seasons for the next few years.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Recent History
The Buccaneers started out as a joke in the NFL setting a record 26-straight losses including some of the most hilarious quotes from then-head coach John McKay. But they would only take four seasons to register a winning record plus a division title AND an NFC Championship appearance in 1979.
They had great seasons but they were few and far in between. Following their run in 1979 and the early ’80s, it would take the franchise 15 years before turning to the playoffs. This was the Tony Dungy era of the late ’90s where he assembled the greatest Bucs team in franchise history culminating in a Super Bowl victory although Dungy himself was fired before.
Tampa would regress almost immediately failing to make the playoffs the next season then going on a few one-and-done playoffs runs with their last coming in 2007. They now have the second longest active playoffs drought just behind the Browns.
Jacksonville Jaguars Outlook
With Coughlin overseeing things again, the Jaguars had one of their best offseasons. They are returning all six Pro Bowlers on defence while adding topnotch rookies like Taven Bryan (DT), Ronnie Harrison (S), and Leon Jacobs (LB). While they are unlikely to start, they add depth to the defence and are building blocks for the future.
On offence, Jacksonville took a hit losing Allen Hurns (WR) and Marcedes Lewis (TE), the franchise’s longest-tenured player. But they are getting back a talented receiver in D.J. Clark through the draft as well additions to the offensive line like All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell and second-round choice Will Richardson at tackle.
Few AFC teams had a better offseason than the Jaguars and they improved in a lot of areas. The onus is now on Bortles to at least do a moderate job at keeping the team competitive as the rest of the AFC South upgrade. But even if the Jaguars regress in 2017, pieces are in place to keep this team an AFC power for the next few years.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Outlook
The Buccaneers made a few great additions in the offseason but the problem is, they have so many holes to plug. And they play in the loaded NFC South. They first addressed their offensive line by paying a fortune for Ryan Jensen at centre.
They drafted Ronald Jones who should finally be the solid running back they’ve needed since before Martin got hurt. Defensively, Tampa is solid and they beefed up the d-line by drafting Vita Vea in the first-round and adding edge rushers Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Winston will be out for the first three games and although Fitzpatrick is a capable starter, the Bucs are likely to start the season slowly. Coach Dirk Koetter could be fired prompting a dumpster fire of a season. Although this only expedites their rebuild, which isn’t a bad thing.
This may be Winston’s final time seeing reps until week four of the regular season. He will likely be playing with the second team, which consists mostly of rookies and second-year players aching to crack the starting lineup.
The Jags are superior on defence even with their second unit and they should control the game. But their offence beyond their first team offensive line and Fournette leaves plenty to be desired. Either Cody Kessler or Tanner Lee is enigmatic as a quarterback.
Defence usually trumps offence but not when the offence is horrible. Jacksonville already struggles when Bortles is on the field and Tampa doesn’t exactly have a pushover defence even when it comes to their second unit.
Fitzpatrick and Winston is a better one-two quarterback combo than Bortles and whoever else. Expect another low-scoring affair with Tampa prevailing just like in 2017.