Earlier in the season, the Indianapolis Colts were shutout at home against an improving Jacksonville Jaguars team. While there have been some embarrassing blowout performances, a home divisional shutout might be the most difficult thing to watch.
Some important things have changed for the two teams prior to this week’s performance. First, the Jaguars were missing their offensive linchpin in rookie running back Leonard Fournette in their first meeting. This week they likely plan to test just how improved the Colts front seven is in 2017. They also added a key interior defensive lineman in Marcell Dareus.
Second, there are numerous players who are no longer active with the Colts who were earlier in the year. On defense, Malik Hooker, Vontae Davis, Rashaan Melvin, Henry Anderson, and Hassan Ridgeway are all either inactive, on injured reserve, or no longer on the team. On offense, Ryan Kelly is is inactive with a concussion.
For those keeping track, that means the Jaguars have added their best offensive weapon and have also added Marcell Dareus to an already loaded defensive unit. The Colts have lost one of their best offensive linemen, lost at least two of their best pieces in the secondary, and lost a starting defensive lineman and his primary backup.
Leading into the previous meeting between the Colts and Jaguars, the Jacksonville defense was one of the best units against the pass in the league. Since adding Dareus, their formerly weak run defense has also been among the best.
Suffice to say that all of the variables are in favor of the Jaguars. Their roster has gotten stronger and healthier at key positions. They are now playing at home in a friendly environment. They are playing for a division championship and the Colts are fighting to simply not be officially eliminated. Last time the Jaguars won 27-0. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see a similar score today.
5 Keys for the Colts to win
- Jacoby Brissett must get rid of the football. This Jacksonville defense will generate pressure on Brissett early and often. The group will overwhelm an uninspiring Colts offensive line. The only chance Brissett has today is to get rid of the ball in a hurry.
- Marlon Mack must make an impact. While Frank Gore is just the type of running back to get tough yards in between the tackles and keep the offense balanced, Mack is a game breaker. It has been too many weeks since Rob Chudzinski has schemed him into the game plan in a meaningful way. If he can get around the edges and force the secondary to be honest, it could help Brissett hit on a big throw or two over the top.
- The defense must stuff Fournette and stifle Yeldon. No team has had Indy’s number running the football quite like the Jacksonville Jaguars. It doesn’t matter who is touching the ball, someone is likely to have a big day. In previous seasons, soft interior defensive fronts have allowed power rushers like Maurice Jones Drew to have career days right up the gut. This defensive group is much more stout inside and will need to keep Fournette from getting things going. Of course, like Mack for the Colts, they will also need to keep Yeldon from bouncing plays out into space.
- Ted Monachino must find a way to manufacture pressure. While sacks are the ultimate goal for any pass rush, it is extremely important that pressure stays in Blake Bortles face throughout the day. He is prone to making mistakes when he is under pressure and feels like he has to turn nothing into something. If he can stand in the pocket and wait for the Jaguars receivers to get well into their routes, it will be too easy.
- The Colts must generate turnovers. Whether they are able to take advantage of mistakes made by Bortles or can use big hits to dislodge the ball from running backs, this will be a huge part of the game. Winning the turnover battle, which includes not turning the ball over in ridiculous fashion late in the game, will be key. If the Colts offense can steal some possessions, they could stay in the game. Even with Fournette the Jacksonville offense isn’t entirely scary.
1:00 PM ET on Sunday, December 3, 2017
Everbank Field — Jacksonville, FL
CBS — Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
WFNI (107.5FM/1070 The Fan) and WLHK (Country 97.1 Hank FM) — Bob Lamey, Jim Sorgi, Matt Taylor (sideline)
TV National Broadcast Map
See which games will be shown in your area, from 506Sports.com.
Bill Vinovich. He is in his 13th year of NFL officiating.
Over/Under: 41.0 | Spread: Jaguars (-10.0) (topbet)