The Jacksonville Jaguars had come into the NFL in 1995 as an expansion team at the same time as the Carolina Panthers. The NFL had not expanded since 1976 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks came into the league. Both of those franchises had to wait quite some time to experience their first very successful seasons and that is the norm for expansion teams. How long would the Jacksonville Jaguars have to wait to have their first winning season though?
The Jaguars achieved their first winning season in the franchise’s second year in professional football. They were coming off a four win season in 1995 and expectations were up, but they were not up that high.
The team started off their season at home and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-9 to achieve being undefeated for the first time ever. This feeling was quickly taken away though as a 34-27 loss at home to the Houston Oilers followed by a 17-3 loss on the road to the Oakland Raiders brought their record to 1-2. On September 22nd of that year, the Jaguars headed off on the road to face the New England Patriots and lost a heartbreaker in overtime by the score of 28-25. They would get their second win in week six when they defeated their expansion comrades the Carolina Panthers at home 24-14. The would then lose the next week on the road 17-13 in New Orleans to the Saints before winning 21-17 in week seven to the New York Jets. Another road loss would follow as they would fall to the St. Louis Rams 17-14. This saw the Jaguars at the midway point of the season with a 3-5 record. Four of their five losses though were by a touchdown or less, so there was still hope that the team could turn it around.
They would start the second half of their season out with another close loss, falling 28-21 to the Bengals in Cincinnati. Week 10 saw the Jaguars get some time off thanks to a much needed Bye Week. The team would host the Baltimore Ravens in week 11 and defeat them by the score of 30-27. The next week, on the road in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars would get blown out 28-3. At 4-7, Jacksonville really needed to turn things around in week 13. They traveled to Baltimore to face the Ravens for the second time in three weeks and this time emerged victoriaous 28-25 in overtime. They then defeated the Bengals at home 30-27, the Oilers on the road 23-17, and the Seahawks at home 20-13. They had clawed there way to an above .500 record at 8-7, but a playoff berth could be attained with one more win. At home, the Jaguars defeated a very tough Atlanta Falcons team by the score of 19-17, finishing their season at 9-7 and earning a wild card trip to the playoffs.
In the wild card round of the playoffs, the Jaguars were on the road to face the always dangerous Buffalo Bills. They would win the game 30-27, advancing to a divisional round game in the Mile High City against the Denver Broncos. In a surprising upset, the Jaguars would escape Denver with a 30-27 win and advance all the way to the AFC Championship Game in just their second year in the league. That game would take place on the road against the New England Patriots and that is where this dream season stopped when the Patriots would defeat them 20-6.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were something else in 1996. They had at one point been 4-7 and looked to have a hard time making it back to a .500 record, much less gaining entry to the playoffs. They won five straight games to finish the regular season and then did something many experienced teams have a hard time doing, defeated two quality playoff opponents on the road. The loss on the road to New England in the AFC Championship Game was nothing to be ashamed of for this team that did not even exist less than two years before. 1996 was a magical season for the Jaguars and their fans will always remember well the ride this team took them on.