Packers to feel heat from hungry Jaguars
First in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers will face during the 2016 regular season.
Get ready to beat the heat.
The Green Bay Packers will feel plenty of it — along with high humidity — when they travel to Florida for their Sept. 11 opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a perfect world, that Sunday afternoon would provide an overcast day with unseasonably cool temperatures.
Instead, the Packers most likely will have to deal with temperatures pushing 90 degrees. The average high in Jacksonville for the month of September is 86.1 degrees.
It’s something for coach Mike McCarthy to keep in mind as he prepares his team throughout training camp. The benefit, perhaps, is the Packers will play the Jaguars fresh out of the most grueling time of their calendar year. Average highs in Green Bay for the month of August are 78.5 degrees.
The climate change would’ve been more extreme in November, where average highs are 42 degrees in Green Bay and 72 in Jacksonville. In theory, a November trip to Jacksonville could have presented a worst-case scenario in which the Packers practiced in the 30s all week only to play in an unseasonably warm 80 degrees down south.
They will not have to face that kind of adjustment, but beating the heat is still the biggest challenge as the Packers prepare for their opener.
Here are three things to know about the Jaguars.
» A long stretch of futility: It’s good to be spoiled in the NFL. It’s good to gripe about the Packers not returning to the Super Bowl in five, going on six years. Because the alternative is much worse. The alternative is the Jaguars, a team that hasn’t been to the conference championship game since the first month of this millennium. They’ve won only one playoff game since 2000, with two postseason appearances. Their lone win came in 2007, and they haven’t been back to the playoffs since. Bottom line, it’s been a while since the Jaguars played a meaningful December game, much less January.
» Big-play Bortles? There are plenty of aspects in Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles’ game that need refining. Start with his 18 interceptions, most in the NFL last season. Take his 58.6 completion percentage, which ranked 31st. But with a team starved for any decent play at the quarterback position — seriously, their previous three starters were Chad Henne, Blaine Gabbert and Luke McCown — Bortles also showed enticing potential. He had 35 touchdowns (tied for second in NFL) and 4,428 yards (seventh) in only his second season. As he grows, the rough spots in Bortles’ game should start to smooth out. There’s a chance he could be the franchise quarterback Jacksonville has been desperate to find.
» Not the Packer Way: Desperation is the key word in Jacksonville, and not just at the quarterback position. The franchise yearns to be relevant. Their desperation turned into aggressiveness on the part of general manager David Caldwell this offseason. Caldwell committed $64 million guaranteed (as much as $153.5 total) in signing defensive tackle Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson and running back Chris Ivory in free agency this spring. Compare that to Packers GM Ted Thompson’s big — actually, his only — free-agent splash, signing tight end Jared Cook to a one-year deal worth $2.75 million with only $825,000 guaranteed. If the Jaguars typically win free agency, the Packers win the regular season. Caldwell hopes that’s about to change for his team, which scored big in the draft, landing coveted cornerback Jalen Ramsey and outside linebacker Myles Jack.
Packers schedule glimpse
Sept. 11 at Jacksonville, noon, Fox
Week before: Preseason finale vs. Chiefs, Sept. 1
Week after: at Vikings, Sept. 18
On the horizon: Home opener vs. Lions, Sept. 25
Coach: Gus Bradley (12-36, fourth season).
2015 record: 5-11, third AFC South.
Scoring offense: 23.5 points per game (18th in NFL).
Total offense: 348.8 yards per game (18th).
Scoring defense: 28 points allowed per game (31st).
Total defense: 375 yards allowed per game (24th).
Series: Packers lead 3-2.
Last meeting: It was closer than expected, but the Packers beat the Jaguars 24-15 on Oct. 28, 2012, at Lambeau Field. They led only 14-12 at halftime and needed 10 points in the fourth quarter to avoid what would have been a major upset. With receiver Greg Jennings injured, there was a big-play element missing from the Packers' offense. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers made enough plays to win, completing 22 of 35 passes for 186 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Rodgers’ 4-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver early in the fourth quarter was the difference.
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