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Colts Face Early Must-Win Game versus Jaguars

Though it's only week three, the Colts face a must-win game on Sunday versus the division rival Jaguars.

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts are 0-2, but no one is freaking out about it - at least, no one should be.  This Colts team is exactly who we thought they were.  Losses to two playoff teams, the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles, in the first two weeks doesn't spell season-ending defeat, especially as the schedule lightens up from here.  One of Chuck Pagano's favorite refrains, "stick to the process," was heard a lot this week around the Colts' West 56th Street Complex.  And that's exactly what the Colts are going to do, because despite being 0-2, they aren't doomed.  Theirs is a different scenario than the statistic would suggest - that just twelve percent of teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs.  The Colts will right the ship.

Because they're 0-2, however, they've left much less room for error.  And that makes today's game in Jacksonville against the Jaguars a must-win.  The team absolutely can't start the season 0-3 and with a loss to a division opponent.  Only three teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after starting 0-3, and none since 1998.  This loss is one the Colts can't afford.

And while the team can't say this or think this, I can: the Jaguars are the worst team the Colts will play this year.  Jacksonville is also 0-2 and their defense ranks dead last in the NFL in terms of points per game allowed.  Their offensive line is awful, giving up 10 sacks in a single-game last week.  Their starting running back has averaged just 2.0 yards per carry.  Their point differential of minus-48 is the second worst in the league, ahead of only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - who have a point differential of minus-50, but through three games.

With teams like the Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, and Patriots looming in the next few months, along with five other divisional matchups throughout the season, the Colts don't have a lot of margin for error.  In other words, they simply must beat the teams they're supposed to beat.  And that starts with the Jaguars today.

It's hard saying that a week three matchup against quite possibly the worst team in the NFL is a must-win for a team that won the division a year ago and has Andrew Luck at quarterback, but that is what it has come to.  There's no reason to freak out about the Colts yet because they'll be fine - but if they lose to the Jaguars today, there's plenty of reason to freak out.  Good teams don't lose to the Jaguars to fall to 0-3 with a division loss already.  This is one that the Colts simply must-win.

On paper, it looks certain that they will.  Despite both having 0-2 records, you won't find anyone who will tell you that the Jaguars are a better team than the Colts.  Indianapolis should win handily.  But these are the Jaguars that always manage to stick around against the Colts and play them tough.  These are the Jaguars that you can't count out of a division game.  The Colts had good opportunities to win each of their first two teams and didn't take advantage of them.  The Colts made plenty of mistakes.  Today, the Colts can't beat themselves and they need to take advantage of some of those opportunities.

I'm absolutely confident that the Colts will win, and I picked them 34-17.  But I've watched enough games between these two teams to know that nothing is certain.  What is certain, however, is that this is a must-win game for the Colts, despite it being only week three.