The NFL reaches Week 4 this week, and the Colts face another division rival this week, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium. Both teams come into the match-up 1-2 (just like the other two AFC South teams), but both of them have reached this point in different ways.
The Colts looked pretty lifeless the first two weeks of the season, and were all-but-dead against the Titans until they flipped the switch and escaped with a two point win. The Jaguars, on the other hand, looked pretty good defensively in the first two weeks of the season against the Panthers and Dolphins, but got barraged last week in New England, where the Patriots pretty much did whatever they wanted. Their win came against the Dolphins at home in Week 2, a game I don't think they would have won in years past, driving 66 yards in 68 seconds to set up the game winning field goal.
The biggest story this week is the health of Andrew Luck, who suffered a shoulder injury sometime during the win against the Titans. Head Coach Chuck Pagano said Luck is definitely playing, and Luck said the same thing Wednesday, so at least we won't have to have the debut start of Matt Hasselbeck in Indianapolis. Instead, we have to speculate on how severe the injury is, and how it will affect his play. We can assume he played through part of the injury last Sunday during the 4th quarter, when he finally started to look like Andrew Luck again, but that could have been all adrenaline at that point. We know all about the protection problems the Colts have had this season, but they will be ever more prevalent on Sunday.
The Colts won both match-ups with the Jaguars fairly easily last season, a 44-17 win in Jacksonville in Week 3, and a 23-3 victory at home in Week 12. Over the past five meetings, the Colts have won by an average score of 32-9, so to say the Colts have dominated this series of late would not be an understatement. We won't talk about the first time this current Colts regime faced the Jaguars, as the haunting memory of Cecil Shorts running 80 yards still doesn't sit well. Overall the Colts hold a 20-8 record against the Jaguars.
Will this meeting be any different than the last five? Let's find out:
Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Jaguars (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||65.0%||4||53.0%||15||52.3%||22||53.9%||17|
|Avg Start Pos||27.3||31||31.4||29||28.3||26||31.3||28|
|3 and Outs||3.68||16||3.23||26||3.98||26||3.42||20|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.902||26||1.036||3||0.864||21||0.757||20|
Keys to the Game:
- The Colts lead the NFL in Turnovers, and the Jaguars are the 2nd worst team in creating Turnovers. Which side gives will go a long way in determining this game. Luck has thrown an interception in five straight games. Let's end that streak this week. Please.
- We should also see the Colts shine on 3rd/4th Down this week, as the Jaguars rank just 28th on Defense, while the Colts are 2nd best. It's still strange to see how good they've been on 3rd/4th down despite all their other struggles on Offense.
- Field Position, on both sides of the ball for both teams, has been really bad all season. It's been a much bigger factor in winning games over the past season-plus, so whoever is winning the field position game should have a pretty good advantage Sunday. This kind-of goes with the Turnover stats, as that's what really swings field position.
- The Jaguars Run Defense looks to be the best thing they do, so even though we've seen the Colts run the ball with really good success this season, they can't depend completely on it relieving some pressure from Luck. As of now, the only healthy RB on the Colts roster is Frank Gore, so I'm guessing he'll be in there quite a bit Sunday. That's makes me happy.
- There wasn't much expected of Jaguars QB Blake Bortles this season, but he's actually been pretty average this season, and that's definitely a compliment. He was bad last season. I still have no confidence we'll see Colts CB Greg Toler this week, so we'll see a handful of 4th and 5th stringers playing with Vontae Davis in the Colts secondary trying to stop the Jaguars passing game, which is right around league average, and the best thing they do.
- Everything else the Jaguars Offense ranks in the 20s, so there's nothing that scares me, even against this Colts Defense. The Colts have continued their strong performances on 3rd/4th Downs from a year ago, so that should be a key down to get them off the field.
Even though the last five meetings have not been competitive, I have a feeling this time around the Jaguars will just hang around for most of the game, even though the Colts will be in control throughout. I'm also hesitant to give this Colts team the benefit of the doubt until they show, on the field, they can bury a team. So the Colts win, but "closer than the experts think".
Colts 28, Jaguars 22