Week 1 Game Preview: Colts vs Jags
Finally it is here. After months and months of waiting in anguish, this Sunday the Indianapolis Colts open up the 2009 season against division foe Jacksonville Jaguars. In recent years the Jags have played the Colts very well, yet somehow the Colts usually seem to come out on top. The Jags have also been rather dominant against Indy with the run, including the diastorous game several years ago where Jacksonville ran for like 857 yards.
Last season the Colts turned an ugly opening month into another impressive season going 12-4 and making it to the playoffs once again. The Jags, on the other hand, riding very high preseason expectations, effectively laid an egg. Some writers predicted last season would be the year the Jags would finally supplant the Colts at the top of the AFC South. It didn’t really happen that way as Jacksonville finished the year a disappointing 5-11. The Jags were 3-5 on the road, but a sad 2-6 at home.
This season marks major changes for both teams.
The Colts let go of long time superstar wide receiver Marvin Harrison and also underwent massive changes on the sideline, bringing in a new defensive coordinator and special teams coach. Key additions for the team came primarily through the draft, including running back Donald Brown, defensive tackle Fili Moala and receiver Austin Collie.
For the Jaguars, the major change comes in letting go longtime running back Fred Taylor. A staple of the offense, Taylor left for the New England Patriots and now Maurice Jones-Drew leads the ground attack all alone. The Jaguars also tried to improve the air game, bringing in veteran Torry Holt. However, Holt is a year older and not the same player he used to be lining up opposite Isaac Bruce years ago.
The Colts appear to be favorites in this one, as they are playing at home, Peyton is healthy and the Jags appear to be in somewhat of a re-building phase, including starting two rookies on the offensive line. None the less, Jacksonville usually comes with in with a good game plan and will make Indy earn the win. There are clearly some things each team should try and focus on doing to swing the contest in their favor.
THE KEYS TO THE GAME
For Indy, the keys to the game are simple:
1. Stop Maurice Jones-Drew. Simple as that. If the Colts can shut down the run game, they’ll force David Garrard and the Jags to pass the ball. This is what we want. Passing downs will allow Dwight Freeney and crew to attack the young offensive line and pressure the quarterback. Control the Jags run game and we have a good shot at a blowout win.
2. Score early and score often. Achieving this will once again force the Jags to attack via the pass. Garrard is an effective game manager, but he’s not known for his qb heroics by any means. If we can build a lead and keep adding on, it will force the game into Garrard’s hands.
3. Get the Jags off the field. This was the Colts achilles heel last year (and many years before that as well). If we can actually stop the Jags offense and force some three and outs, we will be in really good shape to let Peyton Manning and the Colts offense do their thing.
And the Keys for the Jags:
1. Just the opposite of number three above, keep Peyton Manning of the field. If the Jags want to win, they MUST, absolutely must keep the clock going, run the ball and keep #18 on the sideline.
2. The Jags have to control the tempo. If they get down, they can’t get flustered and they can’t quit the run game. The game is in Indy, so they will have to work hard to control the clock and control the pace of the game. Doing this just might give them an edge.
3. Lastly, a major factor for the Jags will have to be pressuring Peyton Manning. At times the offensive line looked really good in the preseason, at others, not so much, giving up plenty of sacks in the process. Manning will be working with some new players with Donald Brown and Austin Collie, as well as sophomores Pierre Garcon and Jacob Tamme. Forcing quick or errant should be high on the Jags to do list. Frustrate Manning and they might have a chance to pull this one out.
Alas, I think the Colts win this one handily. It might not be a blowout, but I think Manning and crew will deliver an impressive win. There will be kinks to work out and the defense might need several games to get in sync, but I feel a nice win this Sunday. Let’s hope that’s true. GO COLTS !!!