The Indianapolis Colts welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars into Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday for the Colts’ second divisional game in as many weeks. Last week the Colts had to come back against division rival the Tennessee Titans and eeked out their first win of the season. The Jags, on paper, seemed to be a much weaker opponent and the Colts should not have any issues dispatching them. The Jaguars rank near the bottom of the league defensively. They rank 30th in points allow, 22nd in yards allowed and 26th in passing yards allowed (in part to the routing the New England Patriots gave them). The only good defensive ranking is against the rush in which they rank 10th by allowing just 90 yards rushing per game through three games. That could be worrisome for Colts fans.
WATCH TO WATCH FOR:
1. Colts Offensive Line
I’m sure everyone is tired of hearing about how bad the offensive line has played this season. They are partially to blame for Andrew Luck‘s current situation, but they aren’t completely to blame. Luck does have the tendency to take hits instead of throwing the ball away and he does hold onto the ball longer than he should a lot of times. With that said, the offensive line must hold their blocks as long as he has the ball. That is something you learn in high school football. You do not stop blocking until the whistle blows. They have done a decent job of opening holes for the Colts running backs, but if the Colts plan to keep Frank Gore on his “pitch count” then this offensive line better put on their big boy pants and start doing what they are paid to do.
2. Robert Mathis
Mathis should be getting back into a full swing by this point and collected his first sack of the season last week. The Jaguars have given up seven sacks through the first three games. That isn’t a lot, but they haven’t faced many great pass rushers thus far. Mathis has a history of tearing the Jags apart with his pass rushing abilities and I don’t see this week being any different. Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has yet to meet Mathis on the field and I’m sure that there will be a little bit of fear in the pit of his stomach when he looks across the line and sees #98 staring him in the face. Mathis has to revive a terrible pass rush and this is the best week to put in some work.
3. Frank Gore
Gore showed everyone last week that he can still get the job done. He had that terrible fumble two weeks ago, but that was uncharacteristic of Gore and most people know that. The Jags have a top ten defense against the run though this will be their first true test of a top tier running back. I’m not saying Gore is going to gash them for 200 yards or anything, but with Gore (and toss in Josh Robinson) they should be able to wear this defense down and gain plenty of yards. Gore has to continue to grow off of each performance and help this sputtering offense get its engine going.
4. Andre Johnson
Johnson has essentially been benched by the team in order for Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett to see the field more. Johnson said publically he doesn’t care about that and he only cares about winning. Well then why in the hell did Ryan Grigson give him so much money to come here and ride the pine while others put in the work? Johnson gave the politically correct answer for the papers, but you know there is a fire burning inside of him that he is being outperformed by three much younger teammates. He said in the offseason he has plenty left in the tank? Where did it go? Did he have a gas leak? This week is one where Johnson could possibly find his footing again. If he continues to struggle then why would the team keep him around?
5. Tight End Use
Another hot topic for many in the media is the lack of use of the young tight ends the Colts have. Dwayne Allen has been banged up, but Coby Fleener has not been and the team still continues not to use them in the passing attack. Sure, Allen caught a touchdown, but what else can be said about them? It’s like the team is purposefully not using them appropriately so that their asking price during the offseason won’t be as high or something. CONSPRIACY THEORY!!! The team needs to be using these guys all the time. There have been times that the tight ends have been wide open and Luck hasn’t thrown to them. I know he is playing for his life at this point, but he must use his vision to find these guys. How are the Patriots so successful? The underneath game opening up the long game. I would like to see each tight end be targeted at least six times each in the games. I think having those two across the middle and not using them is a crime in itself.
6. Quarterback Play
Luck has been limited in practice this week and there is a chance that Luck could sit this game out with a shoulder injury. The reports are that Luck is playing this weekend, but the team signed QB Josh Johnson today which looks like the team is preparing for Luck to sit this one out. That would put back-up quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in as the starter and we all saw what has happened to his arm strength during the preseason. If Luck doesn’t play they would more than likely rely on the legs of Frank Gore and Josh Robinson. That is where the worry could come in. With the Jaguars being able plug up the running game with a beastly man like Sen’Derrick Marks and they could force Hasselbeck to throw more than anyone wants him to throw the ball.
The Colts should end the game on Sunday sitting at 2-2. We all wished it was 4-0 or 3-1, but we can take 2-2. We did last year. My biggest fear though is that the team knows the Jags can be a laughing stock and they won’t take them seriously. The Colts have to play this game from beginning to end. They must step on the throats of the Jags and not let up until the final whistle. This team needs to find its swagger that they lost and really show the league that they stumbled out of the gates, but are ready to live up to expectations.