Throughout this weekly series I’ll be taking a look at the matchups that have the most potential to define the result of the game, and will then revisit them on Tuesdays.
Nyheim Hines vs. Jags’ Linebackers
Philip Rivers absolutely loves to feed his running backs in the passing game. Hines looks like the team’s #1 receiving option out of the backfield, as Mack was never truly a receiving back and rookie Jonathan Taylor struggled with some drops in camp. Hines was solid as a receiver last season and will now get the chance to take his game to the next level with a massive upgrade at quarterback. Sunday’s game will not be easy though, as the Jaguars’ defense still has coverage linebacker Myles Jack and added Joe Schobert in free-agency.
Colts’ IOL vs. Jags’ IDL
The interior of the Jaguars defensive line went through plenty of turmoil in the off-season. As of now, the starters for the debut are set to be Taven Bryan, a disappointing former first round pick who is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee, and Abry Jones, who is a below-average nose tackle that is not good at getting into the backfield. In front of them will be the best left guard in the NFL, a top 3 center and a solid right guard, as the Colts kept their offensive line intact. Familiarity will also be a huge advantage for Indy here considering the limited training camp and lack of pre-season.
Anthony Castonzo/Braden Smith vs. Josh Allen
Let me start off by saying Josh Allen is really, really good at rushing the passer. Had it not been for Bosa’s spectacular rookie season, he would have most likely been awarded DROY. He will be lining up against Anthony Castonzo or Braden Smith depending on where Todd Wash decides to position him. If Castonzo is banged up, as it seems, then Allen could wreak havoc on the Colts passing game, as Smith also struggled versus athletic pass-rushers last season.
T.Y. Hilton vs. C.J. Henderson
The Jaguars drafted Henderson in the top 10 hoping he can replace the All-Pro caliber play of Jalen Ramsey. If history repeats itself, rookie corners tend to struggle, at least during the first half of the season. T.Y. is a veteran receiver and he will look to abuse Henderson’s lack of experience in the NFL. If Hilton can take the top of the defense in a few plays, then bigger holes will open up for the running game and the Colts offensive machine will work as fluidly as ever. If Henderson puts together a solid debut performance and the Colts passing game is shut down, the Jaguars will be able to stack the box and make things much more difficult for Rivers & Co.
Rodrigo Blankenship vs. The Yips
Blankenship surprisingly got the kicker job beating out Chase McLaughlin who was solid last season. Hot Rod is an UDFA out of Georgia that was amazing in college, but as is always the case with kickers, you just never know. Hopefully Blankenship is as good as he seems and the Colts have themselves a reliable kicker for the foreseeable future.