New season brings renewed hope for Jags’ championship season

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Andrew Luck retired in Indianapolis. Lamar Miller is out at Houston with a torn ACL. And the Tennessee Titans are, well, the Tennessee Titans.

For the Jacksonville Jaguars, who spent $88 million on free agent quarterback Nick Foles during the offseason, it shouldn’t get any easier to win the AFC South.

The only thing standing between the Jaguars and a second division title in 20 years are 16 regular season games. A lot will happen between the Sept. 8 opener with the Kansas City Chiefs and the regular season finale against Indianapolis.

That leaves a lot of time to build hope, lose it and rebuild it again. We will scream with every touchdown, swear every time Foles is sacked and cross our fingers every time a player is slow to get off the turf.

It’s not easy being a football fan, especially in a town like Jacksonville. Blake Bortles took us less than three minutes away from beating New England at the end of the 2017 season in the AFC Championship game and a spot against Atlanta in Super Bowl LI.

A year later, Bortles was sent packing.

A 2-0 start, which included a resounding 31-20 victory over defending Super Bowl champion New England, had everyone in the Land of Teal, Black and Gold in a frenzy. A week later, the Jaguars lost to the Titans, 9-6. And it only got worse after that.

Along with signing Foles, Jacksonville also signed two tight ends, wide receiver and five offensive linemen during the offseason to give Foles some much-needed support – the same kind of support Bortles could have used a year ago.

Jacksonville has asked its fans in the past to “Stand United” and be “All-In.” The team also wants its fans to be tolerant of giving away a home game in each of the past six years – and through the 2020 season – to London.

Casino.org ranked the Jaguars’ fanbase as the most-vulgar in the league. And marketing professor at Emory University said Jacksonville had the 29th-best fans in the 32-team league. Michael Lewis also said the Jaguars were 30th overall in how much fans spend on team products, 31st in how much time they spend talking about the team on social media and 23rd in how the team draws for away games.

That kind of dubious notoriety happens when your team has just four winning seasons since the end of the Bill Clinton presidency.

Although Foles has only played four series in the preseason, Jacksonville is teeming with confidence. That’s what the start of a new season means to football fans. Anything is possible.

We all will be mindful of keeping key players healthy, getting consistent play out of our left offensive tackle and tight end and keeping running back Leonard Fournette headed in the right direction – both on and off the field.

Still, there’s no reason not to expect the best, especially with a defense that clearly became more dominant with the addition of first-round draft pick Josh Allen.

That’s why we love football. There’s so much anticipation and anxiety that goes into the start of a new season. We hope for the best, fear the worse and prepare for something in the middle.

I can’t wait.

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