When the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts square off at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the Indianapolis Colts will be looking to rebound from a disastrous showing that saw them get beat handedly 42-20 by the New England Patriots. For the Colts, there’s been no place like the AFC South, where they are 3-0 against divisional competition on the season (combined 9-0 over the past two seasons), looking to improve to 4-0 at home on Sunday.
While the Jaguars are among the league’s worst teams at a 1-9 record, it’s a team that doesn’t necessarily lack in young talent. On offense, the Jaguars are led by rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft out of UFC. Bortles is 176 for 278 (63.3%) in pass attempts for 1,921 passing yards, 8 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
Sep 21, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Erik Walden (93) sacks Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne (7) in the second quarter of their game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
They also feature a dynamic playmaker in young running back Denard Robinson, who the Colts will have to make a focal point of their defensive attack. Since taking over the starting running back role in Week 7, Robinson has rushed for 4 touchdowns in 4 games, having gone over 90 rushing yards in 3 of those 4 games with a ypc average of 5.4 during that span. He’s flashed tremendous explosion and big play ability as a starter, having long runs of 20 yards (Week 7), 41 yards (Week 8), 39 yards (Week 9), and 32 yards (Week 10) respectively.
With their 2nd round pick wideout Allen Robinson out for the season (foot), the Jaguars’ active leading wide receiver is Allen Hurns. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Fla.), Hurns is quietly putting together a very solid rookie season for the Jaguars himself, already with 475 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He had a 63-yard touchdown reception in the first meeting of these two teams in Jacksonville, as the Colts’ secondary failed to tackle him, and he consequenty took it to “the house”.
Defensively, the Jaguars were dealt a significant blow when leading tackler and Pro-Bowl caliber inside linebacker, Paul Posluszny, was lost for the season in late October because of a torn pectoral and placed on injured reserve. The Jaguars have one of the league’s worst defenses in many significant categories, so signs indicate that QB Andrew Luck and the Colts offense could potentially have a big day. However, one young playmaker to watch is Johnathan Cyprien, a 2013 2nd round pick of the Jaguars from Florida International, who plays safety and is the Jaguars’ active leading-tackler on the season.
Offensively, the Colts will have to establish a running game. With 4 total rushing yards from their running backs last weekend, the offense will have to maintain better balance. With running back Ahmad Bradshaw now out for the season, the team will lean heavily on Trent Richardson, as it’s bell-cow. It truly is “do or die” time for the Colts’ once heralded young running back to live up to the 2014 first round pick that was surrendered for him.
Unfortunately, the offense will be without one of its young playmakers in tight end Dwayne Allen, who is not only an asset as a run blocker, but a solid receiving option for quarterback Andrew Luck in the passing game. His tight end counterpart, Coby Fleener, will have to carry a bigger load of the offense. In Allen’s absence last weekend, Fleener connected with QB Andrew Luck for 144 receiving yards.
Sep 21, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) breaks free of Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Abry Jones (95) during the second quarter at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking of QB Andrew Luck, he had 4 touchdowns and 370 passing yards the last time these two teams met earlier this season. At home against a bad Jaguars’ secondary, he should be in-line for another big day. If any Colts’ fans have either T.Y. Hilton or Reggie Wayne in fantasy football, I’d be looking at getting them into my lineups. Hilton is coming off a pretty quiet game against the Patriots (3 receptions for 24 receiving yards) and could be looking to make amends at home. Wayne has had 2,018 career receiving yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the most against any of his opponents during his prestigious 14-year NFL career.
Defensively, the Colts defense simply has to be better. While Bortles isn’t Tom Brady, this isn’t an offense to sleep on either. As mentioned, Denard Robinson is a dynamic playmaker, who the Colts will have to keep in check. They’re coming off a game in which they surrendered 201 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns to Jonas Gray, so the run defense has and will continue to be a key concern. Getting Arthur Jones back into the defensive line rotation should help, but it’s going to take a collective team effort.
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The Colts’ defense only forced the Patriots to punt once during all of last weekend’s game, and outside 2 Mike Adams interceptions, couldn’t stop New England’s offense at all. This Sunday’s game will enable the Colts defense to get back to the basic fundamentals: fighting off blocks and proper tackling, two issues that plagued the unit throughout all of last weekend’s game.
The AFC South has been nothing but good to the Colts over the past few seasons, and Sunday’s game should enable this Colts’ team to get back on-track during a time of the season where playoff seeding is becoming incredibly important. With the home cooking at Lucas Oil Stadium, one can expect QB Andrew Luck and the passing offense to have a big day, and the Colts’ defense to play with a bit of a chip on its shoulder, especially with the amplification of the home crowd.
Still, the Colts can’t afford to sleep on the Jacksonville Jaguars, nor any other team in the NFL, and should come out ready to play on Sunday. If they come out focused and take care of business, they should win this one fairly handedly.