The long, excruciating, and dreadful 2011 NFL season has reached its final week for the Indianapolis Colts. Over the past two weeks, however, the time between games hasn't been nearly has noticeable, as the Blue Horseshoe have pulled off consecutive wins after losing their first 13, showing that they still know how to do that winning thing. In doing so, however, they've split the fan base once again, much like they did in 2009.
After beating the Texans last Thursday night, and with the Rams losing on Sunday, this Sunday's game in Jacksonville has led to a dichotomy of opinion on whether the Colts should try to win the game. With the Rams playing the 49ers, who are trying to clinch a first round bye in the Playoffs and sit at 12-3, it's certainly unlikely the Rams will help all Colts fans by winning, making the result of the Colts game irrelevant. Which means, just like those last two weeks in 2009, a decision has to be made on how to play the game.
I'm not going to use this game preview to debate what the Colts should do, but I will point out that if the Colts want to be consistent with their messaging from 2009, they would play their second team for most of the game. If the only thing that matters is winning Super Bowls, which was their reasoning two years ago, then securing the #1 overall pick, regardless of whether Andrew Luck is actually selected, puts the team in a better position to win the Super Bowl going forward. I don't agree with this line of thinking, but if they are going to be consistent, this should be how they play this Sunday in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars are a disappointing 4-11, fired Jack Del Rio weeks ago, and have lost five of the six games since they beat the Colts back in early November. In that one win over Tampa Bay, they forced seven turnovers and scored two defensive touchdowns, rattling off 41 straight points after being down 14-0 early on. I'm not sure what their level of motivation will be either, as allowing the Colts to get the #1 overall pick is probably not in the best interests of a team that competes with them twice every year. They also haven't shown many signs of life after Mel Tucker took over, so I can't see them playing lights out to keep him as their Head Coach.
What do the numbers have to say about these two teams that could both be picking in the top 5 next season? Let's take a look...
Adjusted Statistical Comparison between Colts and Jaguars:
|Avg Start Pos||26.7||32||33.1||29||30.9||15||32.4||25|
|3 and Outs||5.21||30||3.46||23||5.12||29||5.09||3|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.544||2||0.756||28||0.671||5||0.936||5|
|Net Punts Yds/Game||38.19||18||40.19||28||36.43||26||40.62||30|
Keys to the Game:
- The Colts Defense has been playing like a completely new unit the past two weeks, and they will get one of the worst offenses in the NFL to feast on this week. Being on the road might make a difference, but we should expect the same level of play we've seen each of the past two weeks out of the Colts Defense.
- The Drive-related stats show the Jaguars really have a hard time moving the ball, ranking dead last in a bunch of those stats. The first time around they only managed three drives (out of 11) for more than 30 yards, with the killer being a 16 play, 85 yard TD drive in the third quarter, eating up almost 10 minutes of the clock. If we see a drive like that this week, it's probably bad news for the Colts.
- The Jaguars are pretty poor in the Red Zone as well, so if they happen to get there, the Colts need to keep them out of the end zone, as that is what most other teams have done.
- Arian Foster had a big day last week despite the Defense playing so well overall. I expect to see a few big gashes by Maurice Jones-Drew, but also expect to see him get bottled up on occasion too. If those big gashes are TD runs, it'll be bad news for the Colts.
- The Jaguars defense looks really good overall, but they haven't been so great since Del Rio was fired, only playing well in that Tampa game. They've also played much, much better at home, making the task a little taller for the Colts Offense.
- The Colts will have to take advantage of their Red Zone trips, as the Jaguars have really struggled with that all year. However, the Colts haven't been so great inside the 20, especially coming off last week where they could only manage one TD in five trips. For the Colts to win, they'll need to cash in with 7 points rather than 3.
- The Colts will also have to not turn the ball over, as Jacksonville is about league-average when it comes to forcing turnovers. If you take out that Tampa game they forced seven of them, they have 18 turnovers in 14 games, which isn't that great. I actually fear a Dan Orlovsky sack-fumble more than I do an interception.
- If the Colts can move the ball consistently like they did last week against the Texans, they'll have a great chance of winning. The Jaguars have been good in the drive-related stats, again especially at home, so it'll be a little tougher going than last week, although the Texans defense is slightly better than the defense they'll face on Sunday.
- The Jaguars have benefited from very few penalties called against them, and quite a few called on their opponents. This shouldn't be the case this week, as the Colts haven't had many penalties called on them this year. I don't expect penalties to play a big part in the game.
- Want a bold prediction? We'll see a punt returned for a touchdown by the Colts. Don't know if it'll be Pierre Garcon or Joe Lefeged, but I think it'll happen this week.
My opinion is that teams should try to win each and every week, and I believe right now, the Colts are the better team. Obviously that doesn't mean that the Colts will win, but seeing how these teams have played as of late gives the impression the Colts should win. I believe both teams will be playing like it is Week 1, and I think the Colts will come out on top, and they'll get the #2 overall pick, something I thought almost impossible three weeks ago. The players don't care about draft picks, as they just want to win. The Colts will do just that on Sunday.
Colts 20, Jaguars 16