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Colts vs. Jaguars preview

NFL: International Series-Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts (7-8) will host the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) this Sunday in the regular season finale, and for both teams it will be their last game until next August.

The Colts and Jaguars are both out of the playoff race, meaning that this Sunday’s game will be good for nothing more than pride and draft positioning. In that regard, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for either team to lose this game, but the players and coaches cannot and will not think that way. They’re playing to win, even though it’s an otherwise meaningless game.

The Colts will have some extra motivation to win, however, as Robert Mathis has announced that this will be his last game in the NFL before he retires. That will give Colts fans the chance to send him off the proper way, and the Colts would surely love nothing more than to send him out with a victory. This season hasn’t gone the way they wanted it to, but they’d love to get Mathis one more win in his final game as a Colt.

It also could be the final game for some other members of the team, too, such as general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano. The talk about their job status is the talk of the town, and it’s possible that owner Jim Irsay will make the decision to fire them on Monday - though at this point, nobody really knows what Irsay is going to do.

The Jaguars will have the motivation to sweep the Colts this year in what has been an incredibly disappointing campaign, one that already saw their head coach get fired in Gus Bradley. The Jaguars have only swept the Colts in a season series once, and that was in 2011 when Indy’s quarterbacks were Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. So for them to do it when Andrew Luck starts both games would be more significant, for sure. The Colts have also only had one other losing streak to the Jaguars before the one they’re currently on, and that was a three game streak in 2011-2012 - which incidentally included a loss to the Jaguars on New Year’s Day.

The Colts will once again be playing on New Year’s Day against the Jaguars this year, and it’s hard not to ponder whether there will be parallels with the last one. The last time they played on New Year’s Day, they lost to the Jaguars in the regular season finale after what was a disappointing season, and that game proved to be the last game of an era, as Bill Polian was fired the next day and Jim Caldwell and Peyton Manning were let go later on. This year, the Colts play the Jaguars on New Year’s Day in the regular season finale after what was a disappointing season, so could it prove to be the last game of an era as well? We can’t know the answer yet, but it’s possible. It’s also ironic that on this Sunday, the Colts will induct Bill Polian into their Ring of Honor (which is very much deserved).

On the field, there will be several Colts looking for significant milestones. Frank Gore is just 37 rushing yards away from becoming the first Colts’ back since 2007 to rush for 1,000 yards in the season and the oldest back in the NFL to rush for 1,000 since 1984. Andrew Luck is just 81 yards and one touchdown away from 4,000 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns this year, which would be nice statistical achievements in a great season for him. T.Y. Hilton currently leads the NFL in receiving yards, and he’d love to be able to hang on to that. If Adam Vinatieri hits one field goal without missing any on Sunday, he’ll earn an extra $500,000 (thanks to a clause in his contract that gives him a bonus for converting 90% or more of his field goals). And then there’s Robert Mathis, who’s just 0.5 sacks away from tying his former teammate Dwight Freeney for 17th on the NFL’s all-time list. Wouldn’t it be great for Mathis to go out with a sack or two in his final game?

While the Colts haven’t been good this year, the Jaguars have been even worse. They rank just 24th in points per game and 26th in yards per game, while their defense is 26th in points per game allowed but fourth in yards per game allowed. The Colts, meanwhile, have a good offense - one that ranks eighth in the NFL in points per game and eleventh in yards per game - but have a bad defense - one that ranks 24th in points per game allowed and 28th in yards per game allowed. Last Saturday’s loss to the Raiders was as bad as this defense has ever looked, and it will be interesting to see whether the Colts are able to rebound from that against a suspect Jaguars offense.

The Colts should take care of business at home against the Jaguars, but as we’ve seen from this Colts team, you can never know what you’re going to get. The Colts have been consistently inconsistent, but the Jaguars have just been consistently bad. You never know what you’re going to get from these two teams, but with Andrew Luck playing and the Colts likely having added motivation with Robert Mathis participating in his final game, I think they’ll pull out the win at home.

Predicted Score: Colts 27, Jaguars 23