It's hard to believe the Jags are 8-5. Going by the statistical rankings, 5-8 would seem a stretch.
The Jags rank 29th in passing yards at 186 per game (a ranking that could further decline as Garrard failed to even match that today). They rank towards the bottom in pass defense, are below average in points, yards gained and yards allowed and have given up the most points in the fourth quarter. They have a -11 eleven turnover differential and have even been outscored 295-331 (-26 point differential).
At quarterback Garrard is an average at best, having thrown for only 1982 yards and 20 touchdowns while tossing 12 interceptions. For Garrard its been a good year and he is fast becoming a media darling. By comparison, Peyton Manning, who just broke out of the worst multiple game slump of his career, has more than double Garrard's passing yards, 6 more touchdowns and only 4 more picks.
At pass blocking, Jacksonville's line is quite offensive having already surrendered 28 sacks (compared to just 14 for Indy).
Defensively it doesn't get any prettier for Jacksonville. In total defense, Jacksonville ranks 24th. They share that same ranking for the sack total and are only marginally better in terms of take-aways at 16th (One of the few stats they rank higher than the Colts).
So how is it possible, that the Jags are 8-5?!?!? What's missing... Well it doesn't hurt that the Jags have played miserable opponents. 10 teams Jacksonville has played have had a winning percentage of .500 or worse with Jacksonville going 7-2 in those games. Against winning teams, Jacksonville is a far less impressive 1-3 with their sole win coming on a record tying 59 yard game winning field goal against the Colts... #$@#$@%#!!!
A fortunate .450 opponent winning percentage however, isn't the only reason the Jags are on top of the division.
It certainly helps, but the main reason Jacksonville is one of the surprise teams in the league is it's running game, which watching the Jags the last few years isn't surprising. The Jags live and die by the run and currently rank 2nd in the league in rushing at 151.5 yards a game.The Jaguars pound the run and use it to control the clock. With 51.62 percent of their play calls runs, the Jags rank 4th in the league in terms of time of possession at 32:04 minutes a game. They also don't hurt themselves ranking in the top 5 of fewest penalties committed with 5.2 per game. Essentially, the Jags keep it moving on the ground, rarely go backwards and grind out the clock. Sounds like a successful formula.
But wait, the NFL is a quarterback's league right? That's what the pundits have been saying...Not this year. If the playoffs were to start today (and thankfully they don't) only 4 of the top 10 passing teams would make the playoffs. Compare that to 8 of the top 10 rushing teams who are currently playoff bound, and Jacksonville's success becomes a bit clearer.
For the Colts, its a huge challenge. Maurice Jones Drew is one of the best backs in the league. The Colts know what Jacksonville is going to do and must come ready for the challenge. One way the offense can help is by jumping out to a quick lead. If the Colts can do that, force Jacksonville to throw and take away the running game, Jacksonville - like they have in 4 of their 5 losses - will almost certainly fold.
If not, it will be a tough fight all afternoon. The Colts need to remember though, even if they have trouble slowing the run, statistics show, that there are other ways to beat the Jags.