The Jacksonville Jaguars are among the worst teams in the NFL once again this year, and that isn’t a new development either. They’ve had a top ten draft pick in each of the last nine years, and in each of the last five they’ve had a top ten pick. That streak will continue next year, as the Jaguars are just 3-12 this season.
Yet it’s this Jaguars team that has given the Colts quite a bit of trouble recently. The Colts had won six in a row against them before, last December, losing 51-16 on the road in Jacksonville. Then this year, they lost 30-27 to the Jaguars in London. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano pointed it out today: in their last 21 games, the Jaguars are 2-0 against the Colts and 2-17 against everyone else. “They’ve had our number,” Pagano concluded.
But what is it about this Jaguars team that gives the Colts so much trouble? Sure, division games are never easy, but Jacksonville isn’t a very good team. What’s given the Colts so much trouble in their last two meetings?
“They just out-executed us and made plays, and we didn’t play well,” Pagano said. “They made big plays, and they’ve got big play capability, got a quarterback [Blake Bortles] that can make big plays, got wideouts that can make big plays, got a Pro Bowl wideout in 15 [Allen Robinson] and [Marqise] Lee’s coming on, [Allen] Hurns [has] been out. They’ve got a bunch of skill guys. I know they’re beat up at running back but everyone’s beat up this time of year, so that thing turned around in a hurry last december, we all know that, and we know what happened this year, so has no relevance on this game. The only thing that we can do is prepare and out-work them up until gametime, and then we’ve got to out-run them, we’ve got to out-hit them, we’ve got to out-execute them, we’ve got to out-compete them.”
Last year, the Colts were playing with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback as Andrew Luck was out with a lacerated kidney, and it was a competitive game early on. But then the Jaguars notched a strip-sack, and the game turned around. This year, the Jaguars jumped out to a big lead early, getting a lead just big enough that Andrew Luck and the offense couldn’t quite come back from. Pagano remembers both games, but he said that they don’t have an impact on this Sunday’s game
“You know, I look at December 2015 and we’re up I think 13, got the ball first and ten at their 30 yard line, guy comes through and knocks the ball out of Matt [Hasselbeck]’s hand and runs back for a touchdown, the rest is history,” Pagano said today. “Whole momentum got shifted in a hurry, and the bleeding started and we couldn’t get it stopped. And the last one, again, they played well, we didn’t play well. We’re a whole different ballclub right now. So, again, it doesn’t matter. If we don’t take care of what we need to take care of, and we don’t prepare, and we don’t practice, and we don’t study, and we don’t get our assignments down and then we don’t go play our asses off then it doesn’t matter, but we will.”
For both the Colts and the Jaguars, this game is pretty meaningless in the sense that neither of them will be making the playoffs. But there’s surely an added level of significance that the players and coaches place on this division game. For the Colts, they’ll be looking to break their losing streak to Jacksonville and get back on the winning track to close out the year, avoiding the sweep. For the Jaguars, they’ll be looking to sweep the Colts for just the second time (and the first time when the Colts actually had their starting quarterback). So while this game is meaningless in terms of the playoff picture, there’s a lot of pride on the line in this one for the players and coaches.