Can you believe we're halfway through the NFL season already? It's flying by, but in a much better way than last year. This week we get to see the Colts early, tonight in fact, against division rival Jacksonville on Thursday Night Football. It's the Colts lone primetime game on the schedule (for now), so it's a chance for all Colts fans to see them in action.
The Colts come into the game on a three game winning streak, defeating the Dolphins 23-20 last Sunday, and winners of four of five coming off their bye week. While the Colts have been riding high the past month, the Jaguars certainly have not. However, the one time they did get a win this season came against this same Colts team back in Week 3, 22-17. The Jaguars haven't played well at all since then, losing five straight games. The two teams couldn't be going in more opposite directions, but you and I both know that won't matter when these two teams get between the lines.
That Week 3 meeting between the Colts and Jaguars really is a strange one when you put it in the context of the entire seasons for each of these teams. The Colts have won their other four games at home, and they've won each of those other four games by a combined 13 points, so they clearly have figured out how to win close games. Whether that long pass they gave up against the Jaguars at the end of that game has played a role can be debated, but I'm guessing it certainly served as some motivation for the defense in late-game situations. Also, along with that pass play, they allowed a long TD run to Maurice Jones-Drew. Maybe I just can't remember one, but those are they only 50+ yard plays they've allowed this year. Just a strange, strange game.
Speaking of Jones-Drew, he's out with an injury tonight, which will be the first time in his career he'll miss a game against the Colts. Yep, it's been since 2005 the Colts have played the Jaguars without him doing his best impression of a bowling ball through the Colts defense. With it being a short week, it's no surprise the number of players that are "out" already is high, including both starting CBs for the Colts, Vontae Davis and Jerraud Powers, TE Coby Fleener, and Jaguars FB Greg Jones and FS Dwight Lowery. There are several others on both teams that'll be game-time decisions, so we'll see whether they play or not. Recovery time is the biggest issue with these Thursday games, which makes you wonder why during these weeks with bye teams, why couldn't two teams that didn't play five days prior play? I guess it just makes too much sense.
How do these two teams stack up? Let's take a look at the stats and find out:
Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Jaguars (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||45.8%||28||67.8%||31||52.8%||18||54.9%||15|
|Avg Start Pos||26.6||32||28.8||10||27.9||29||30.9||23|
|3 and Outs||2.54||3||3.13||27||5.66||32||3.29||25|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.830||16||1.290||1||0.980||26||0.869||13|
Keys to the game:
- Let's start with the Colts Defense this week, and one area we already touched on, big plays. The Jaguars barely average over four yards per play, worst in the league. In Week 3, they averaged over 7.3 yards per play. The Colts lost in Week 3 because of two big plays. Can't have that happen again.
- The Jaguars are pretty abysmal on Offense in all facets, except for one where they are really, really good, and that's inside the Red Zone. I'm not sure what is the cause, but they are quite good inside their opponents 20. How can the 30th ranked Defense in the Red Zone stop them? Keep them out of there. That's how they've been winning games, as once teams get there, they've scored touchdowns with regularity. Want a good sign? Jaguars were held to just 35% in Week 3. I told you it was a strange game...
- They also do a decent job taking care of the ball, ranking 12th in Turnovers, which surprised me a bit. As all of you should know by now, the Colts only have three takeaways all season, and none in a month. Not looking likely this will be the week to turn that around.
- The Jaguars outperformed their season average against the Colts in pretty much every offensive category, save the Red Zone. The absence of Jones-Drew will certainly help, but the Colts have played six of the worst nine Offenses in football so far this season, and haven't looked good statistically against any of them. Maybe this will be the week, but I'll wait and see.
- Andrew Luck and the Colts Offense had their best performance of the season last week in beating the Dolphins, so it should be a piece of cake against the 28th ranked Defense overall, right? Well, not quite.
- The Colts should be able to move the ball down the field, as they've been pretty consistent week-to-week doing that, no matter the defense. They were right around league-average back in Week 3 against the Jaguars. As you can see by the stats, the Colts hold an advantage in every drive-related stat.
- Last week the Colts won the game on Third Down, and on paper it looks like that success should continue (especially when you do it to the #3 team, you should do it to #28. If the Colts aren't converting on 3rd/4th down, they'll be in trouble.
- The weakest part of the Colts Offense just happens to be the Jaguars strength, and that's in the Orange Zone, where the Colts have really struggled this season, ranking just 28th in the NFL, scoring just over 45% of their possible points. Pay close attention here, as I think this will be the reason the game will be close at the end.
- The Colts Offense is by far the best unit of the four that'll be on the field. They'll need to play like it for the Colts to win.
There's no question the Colts have gotten an emotional lift ever since Head Coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, and remember that Jaguars game earlier in the season was the last game he was on the sideline for. There's no question these players will want to make up for that loss for him, and as we've seen this season, they just find a way to win these games.
We've been fooled by the stats several times this season, most recently last week, as I saw no way the Colts could hang with the Dolphins, yet they did it admirably. This week it looks like the Colts should have an easy go of it, especially against the worst home team in the league. As always happens with these guys, no matter how good or bad the Colts are, it's a one score game. The Colts are on a mission, and that includes a victory tonight in Jacksonville.
Colts 24, Jaguars 19