As the clock struck zeroes in Santa Clara, CA, Sunday night, and the Jaguars 44-33 defeat to the 49ers was over, so, too was their hopes to have a bye in the AFC Playoffs. It’s now official, as the Steelers destroyed Houston on Christmas Day to clinch the second of the two byes themselves.
Therefore, New England and Pittsburgh will get the first playoff weekend off, putting Jacksonville and Kansas City as the division winning host teams. playing s in the AFC Wildcard games.
While the NFL will wait until Sunday evening to determine and announce which games will be where for Saturday and Sunday’s doubleheaders (includes the NFC match-ups), we have used some logic and previous pattern to make our assertion that the Jags will be on Saturday.
First, as we have written for weeks, this is the first time in 11 seasons (2007), Jacksonville is in the playoffs. And while it’s a great turnaround story, most of the country isn’t familiar enough with the players or story lines for the Jags to truly matter, nationally.
A perfect example of this is the league and partners, NBC and ESPN, did not have a single Jags game on Sunday or Monday Night Football all season. The only other team in the NFL that was not prime time on Sunday or Monday night? Cleveland. Not good company.
Next, Jacksonville at #47, is one of the smallest TV markets for the NFL, along with New Orleans (#50), Buffalo (#53) and Green Bay (#68). The NFL has repeatedly put lesser TV market teams on playoff Saturdays, as opposed to better known/larger TV markets on Sunday, where there are more eyeballs available.
Also realize that the L.A. Rams (TV market #2) have clinched the NFC West, and will be playing this weekend for either the #3 or #4 seed in the NFC Playoffs. And, there is strong precedence that the NFL and TV partner Fox, who has the NFC Sunday game, will want them playing Sunday in the 4:00 p.m. Eastern slot.
So this leaves the 1 p.m. Eastern slot for the NFL and AFC TV partner CBS, and the network will likely want the Chiefs (TV market #33) hosting potentially Baltimore (TV market #26) in that #4 vs. #5 match-up.
This would mean that the Jaguars and the other NFC hosting team (New Orleans? Carolina?) would be both play on Saturday. It’s not a guarantee, but very likely.
One more wrinkle for the Jaguars playing at Nashville this Sunday. The Titans will be in the playoffs with the win, and depending on a possible tiebreaker with Kansas City for the #3 or 4 seed, the Jags may be hosting Tennessee the following the weekend.
Would this game be the lead-off game on ESPN Saturday afternoon? Likely.
If it ends up that Jacksonville is playing the L.A. Chargers, for example, on Wildcard weekend, would the NFL look at market #2 and put the Jags in prime time on NBC on Saturday night?
Also would be likely.
And once more, there are lots of variables on if Jacksonville is #3 or 4 with Kansas City.
Let’s see what plays out, but be prepared for Saturday January 6th to be the history making day the Jags host their first playoff game in 18 years.
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