The Jaguars have scored 11 points this season and probably aren't even that good. And Sunday afternoon, they'll face a formidable Seahawks team in the world's loudest stadium, which, according to Vegas, makes them 19.5-point underdogs.
It's an absurd line for a professional team playing a sport that prides itself on parity. And while nobody expect Jacksonville to go into Seattle and pull off the biggest upset since the Giants upended the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, there's a chance for the Jags' first moral victory of the season.
* Dec. 5, 1976: Steelers (-27) vs. Buccaneers. Pittsburgh won 42-0.
* Nov. 25, 2007: Patriots (-24.5) vs. Eagles. New England won 31-28.
* Dec. 5, 1998: 49ers (-24) vs. Bengals. San Francisco won 21-8.
* Oct. 11, 1987: 49ers (-23.5) vs. Falcons. San Francisco won 25-17.
* Oct. 2, 1977: Cowboys (-23) vs. Buccaneers. Dallas won 23-7.
* Dec. 23, 2007: Patriots (-22.5) vs. Dolphins. New England won 28-7.
* Dec. 12, 1976: Patriots (-21) vs. Buccaneers. New England won 31-14.
Of those seven games, only one of the favorites, the 1976 Steelers, covered. So that's encouraging for the Jagaurs. They'll lose, yes, but history suggests that they won't get their doors blown off.
Except that the Seahawks just put a whuppin' on the 49ers, 29-3, one of the NFC's best teams.
But there are a couple things working in Jacksonville's favor this week. For starters, Seattle's coming off a huge win and a modified version of the trap game* is a possibility. Plus: Jaguars players get paid too. They take no joy in getting curb-stomped every week and no doubt want to prove that. Unfortunately, they don't have the personnel to win on the road in Seattle, but they can be competitive. Then there's this: First-year Jags coach Gus Bradley arrived in Jacksonville from Seattle where he was best bros with coach Pete Carroll.
It's reasonable to think Carroll might take it easy on his former assistant. He only saves the beatdowns for arch-nemisis Jim Harbaugh, right? We're going with yes.
The Seahawks will win, duh, but the Jaguars will cover.
Other Week 3 games
Houston over BALTIMORE: The Texans whipped up on the Ravens during the 2012 regular season but couldn't find a way to beat them in the playoffs back in 2011. Maybe that changes this year. While we wait, we expect Houston to outplay the Ravens on Sunday, finally putting together a complete game, and head into Week 4 as unquestionably one of the two-best teams in the AFC. Baltimore, meanwhile, will continue to have issues with that suspect secondary, and depending on Ray Rice's health, they could need to find depth at running back, too.
Green Bay over CINCINNATI: We remain wholly unimpressed with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, although some of that falls squarely on offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Cincy's front seven could have a field day with Green Bay's offensive line ... except that Aaron Rodgers knows something about playing behind that group of pourous pass blockers. (At this stage of the proceedings, he's a rich man's Ben Roethlisberger, which, Monday's game aside, portends bad things for the Bengals.) How Dalton handles the Packers' pressure will go a long way in determining the outcome, and based on us liking Green Bay, you can probably deduce that we don't expect Dalton do have much success.
PITTSBURGH over Chicago: The Steelers can't start 0-3, can they? And does anyone really believe the Bears are a 3-0 team? We feel more confident in the latter than the former, especially after watching whatever that was Pittsburgh called an offense on Monday night. But we've seen Chicago do this before: Come out of the blocks hot only to peter out by midseason. This really is a must-win game for the Steelers. Because if they lose, we're going to have to have the "So, should they take Jadeveon Clowney next April?" conversation.
* Modified version of the trap game: When the favorite plays poorly, but not poorly enough to lose to a decidedly dreadful opponent.