The Jaguars got a piece of good news when Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew ended his holdout and rejoined the team. He returned just in time to be a factor for Week 1, although it appears Rashad Jennings will be the starting tailback.
Not much is expected of the Jacksonville Jaguars according to the NFL odds makers this season but Week 1 offers them the opportunity to surprise. They’re a young team and a win in the first week of the season can reinforce all of that offseason optimism that the new head coaching staff has instilled.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Minnesota Vikings
Betting Line: Vikings -4
The key to the 2012 season for Jacksonville will be the performance of quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The new coaching staff rebuilt his confidence, he looked good in the preseason, but now he has to carry it over into the regular season.
The good news is he’s facing a Minnesota Vikings defense that isn’t exactly the 2001 Baltimore Ravens. In particular, their secondary is vulnerable and since the Jaguars made significant upgrades at wide receiver, this could be an area that the Jags exploit.
On defense, the Jags should clearly have the better of the two defenses on the field this Sunday and they’ll catch a couple of big breaks with the Vikings missing a couple of playmakers. Star Adrian Peterson will play a minimal role – if he plays at all – and wide receiver Jerome Simpson is suspended. That could leave the Vikings offense quite toothless – especially against a very underrated defense.
Don’t be surprised if the Jags take care of business in Week 1. The biggest challenge might be the fact that this game is on the road. Otherwise, the Jags appear to be the better team pound-for-pound.