The unflattering statistics have been dredged up. The 0-16 Detroit Lions of 2008 have been invoked. The trading of offensive tackle Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens suggests a fire sale has already begun.
At best, the Jacksonville Jaguars can say their winless start through four weeks doesn’t include the sort of off-the-field unpleasantness enveloping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But how much longer will their followers have to listen to coach Gus Bradley keep referring to “the process” while the product remains as unpalatable as processed meat?
The Jaguars have scored a total of 31 points, which is less than what the Denver Broncos are averaging per game. Their average rushing attempt of 2.3 yards is the worst in the NFL, and Blaine Gabbert’s passer rating of 30.7 is lower than that of every quarterback except for New York Giants backup Curtis Painter. Their offense has scored as many touchdowns as the defenses of the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins.
Since the Bucs, Giants or Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t included on their schedule, it’s fair to ask when in the world are the Jaguars going to get their first victory under Bradley. Yes, the same question was probably being raised in Cleveland about the Browns when they started off 0-2 and dealt away running back Trent Richardson for draft picks. They’ve since gone 2-0, but they didn’t have to go to Denver either.
Here is what lies ahead for the Jaguars:
Sunday: At St. Louis Current record: 1-3 Chance of victory: 40 percent With Steven Jackson now in Atlanta, the Rams are the only team to have rushed for fewer yards than the Jaguars. And former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford has yet to produce as expected. It’s not unusual for a struggling team — witness the 1976-77 Bucs, the 1980 New Orleans “Ain’ts” or the 1999 expansion Browns — to break through away from home, so don’t sell the Jaguars short.
Oct. 13: At Denver Current record: 4-0 Chance of victory: 0 percent The thought of Peyton Manning against a secondary which could start as many as three rookies ought to boggle the mind and light up the scoreboard. If the Jaguars were listed as almost 20-point underdogs before the 45-17 beating they took two weeks ago at Seattle, imagine how large the spread will be for this mismatch on paper. Four touchdowns, anyone?
Oct. 20: San Diego Current record: 2-2 Chance of victory: 35 percent Conventional wisdom says teams from the Pacific time zone encounter trouble when they head eastward, especially while it’s still warm and relatively humid. But that didn’t hold true when the Chargers played at Philadelphia in Week 2. All of the doubts about Philip Rivers from recent years are no longer an issue following his 35-of-42, 401-yard performance in a win over the Cowboys.
Oct. 27: San Francisco (at London) Current record: 2-2 Chance of victory: 10 percent Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has become like a starting pitcher that opposing teams learn to adjust to the second time around, and linebacker Aldon Smith is in an alcohol treatment center. But don’t write off the reigning NFC champions just yet. Given the problems the Jaguars had containing Russell Wilson of the Seahawks in the read-option, Kaepernick could regain his mojo.
Nov. 10: At Tennessee Current record: 3-1 Chance of victory: 30 percent If Jake Locker hasn’t returned from the hip injury he suffered Sunday against the New York Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t picked up the slack, the Jaguars could stand a break-even chance. But this will also be their first game since the league’s trading deadline. Don’t exclude the possibility of Maurice Jones-Drew or Marcedes Lewis following Monroe out the door.
Nov. 17: Arizona Current record: 2-2 Chance of victory: 60 percent The Cardinals escaped with a win at Tampa after looking horrible for the first 57 minutes. They might not be able to get away with a similar performance after a second cross-country trip. One thing is certain: The Jaguars’ chance of victory will be larger than the percentage of the country to which FOX will be televising the game.
Nov. 24: At Houston Current record: 2-2 Chance of victory: 20 percent Gabbert might not be the most popular figure in Jacksonville. But his status is almost Manning-like compared to how people in Houston are setting Matt Schaub’s jersey on fire and naming a “pick-six burger” after him in the wake of an overtime loss to the Seahawks. For the second year in a row, the Jaguars could fare better against the Texans on the road than at home.
Dec. 1: At Cleveland Current record: 2-2 Chance of victory: 30 percent After two weeks, this matchup was being viewed in some quarters as the fight for the right to take Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota or Jadeveon Clowney first overall next spring. Brian Hoyer might not be the long-term solution at quarterback for the Browns, but he could be the answer to the question of who made Brandon Weeden expendable.
Dec. 5: Houston Current record: 2-2 Chance of victory: 10 percent There must be a statistic on how poorly first-year coaches have done when faced with a short work week to accommodate NFL Network. It doesn’t help Bradley and the Jaguars that they have to take on Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt and company for the second time in 11 days. Unless the Texans have imploded, this could get ugly in a hurry.
Dec. 15: Buffalo Current record: 2-2 Chance of victory: 50 percent Garnet and gold, not black and teal, could be the color scheme of choice in the stands if rookie quarterback EJ Manuel from Florida State has the Bills challenging the New England Patriots’ dominance in the AFC East. They are off to a better start than anyone expected, but if the Bills can’t keep up that pace, this could become just another inconsequential late-season game.
Dec. 22: At Indianapolis Current record: 3-1 Chance of victory: 5 percent Andrew Luck wasn’t particularly sharp against the Jaguars, and Richardson averaged only three yards a carry in his second game since joining the Colts. That being said, they still crushed them 37-3. While this isn’t the stone=cold lock that the Broncos-Jaguars game is, it’s hard to envision the Colts having their hands full at home in what could be a must-win situation for them.
Dec. 29: Tennessee Current record: 3-1 Chance of victory: OFF Heaven help the Jaguars if they come into the game at 0-15. But unless the Titans are in the running for a wild card, these teams are likely to play in a half-empty stadium with nothing at stake. If you believe in Santa Claus, you’ll believe the tickets distributed and the actual attendance are one and the same.