Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts game preview
Mired in one of the worst three-game stretches of his career, Andrew Luck is now having to deal with a sore right shoulder that has limited his practice time.
It remains uncertain whether the star quarterback will even take the field for a matchup with a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that’s reeling after an embarrassing performance last week.
Coach Chuck Pagano remains optimistic Luck will play even though it appears he will be a game-time decision Sunday when the host Indianapolis Colts seek a sixth straight win over the Jaguars and 15th in a row against the AFC South.
Pagano previously said he was "supremely confident" that Luck would play, and when asked Friday if he still felt that way, the coach replied "absolutely."
Seemingly under constant pressure from opposing fronts, Luck has thrown a league-high seven interceptions over a three-game stretch for the first time since his 2012 rookie season.
Luck also has the NFL’s worst passer rating at 65.1 after getting sacked three times and hit on four other occasions in last Sunday’s 35-33 win at Tennessee. He stepped up in the final 12:20, going 11 of 13 for 144 yards and two scores to lead the Colts (1-2) back from a 13-point hole.
"It just seems like at times some teams have got some pressure on him," Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley said. "I see him making some of the same throws that he made last year, just some overthrows and some tip-balls that were interceptions."
After he was hit more than any quarterback in the league from 2013-14, Luck has been sacked five times and taken 21 hits this season. Only San Diego’s Philip Rivers (22) has been hit more.
Now that punishment may finally be catching up with him.
Luck hasn’t missed a game in his four seasons but was given Wednesday off so he could rest his throwing shoulder. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report after being limited in practice for the second consecutive day. Also Friday in another indication that the Colts aren’t sure about Luck’s status, the team signed quarterback Josh Johnson. Backup Matt Hasselbeck, though, would start if Luck can’t go.
"There’s always bumps and bruises that show up in high school, college and the NFL. You deal with stuff, you manage it," Luck said. "It’s nothing more than that in my mind."
Luck has been outstanding against Jacksonville, completing 72.2 percent of his passes for 905 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three meetings.
But it would likely serve Indianapolis well to get the running game going after totaling 133 yards on 5.8 per carry against the Titans. Frank Gore finished with 86 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries after totaling 88 yards and no scores on 23 attempts in the first two games.
Jacksonville (1-2) allowed the most points in franchise history in a humbling 51-17 loss at New England last Sunday. The squad also surrendered its most yards (471) since giving up 529 in a 44-17 home loss to Indianapolis on Sept. 21, 2014.
The Jaguars, though, rank second in the NFL with 3.3 yards allowed per carry.
"It’s tough to run against them because they slant a lot, have a lot of movement," guard Hugh Thornton told the Colts’ official website.
Bradley didn’t want to use injuries as an excuse against the Patriots, but Jacksonville was missing several key players on both sides of the ball. Left tackle Luke Joeckel (ankle), defensive end Andre Branch (knee), safety Johnathan Cyprien (calf) and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle) are expected to return this weekend, but receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring), tight end Julius Thomas (hand) and starting right guard Brandon Linder (shoulder) have been ruled out. Safety Sergio Brown (lower leg) is doubtful, but cornerback Davon House (calf) could play.
Still, the Jaguars have a chance to stay atop the division if they can snap a five-game losing streak to the Colts in which they’ve been outscored 161-43.
"It’s an opportunity to stay where we’re at in the division, to excel in the division, set a tone in the division," defensive end Jared Odrick said. "You have to be able to put your energy into this so you don’t miss out on this."
Blake Bortles is still searching for consistency in his second season as he’s completed 53.8 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He went 15 of 27 for 146 yards with a pick in a 23-3 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium last November.
The Jaguars could try to get T.J. Yeldon on track against an Indianapolis defense that ranks 20th in the NFL with 336 rushing yards allowed. The rookie had 33 yards on 11 carries last Sunday before the team abandoned the run facing a huge deficit.
Indianapolis cornerbacks Darius Butler (hip) and Greg Toler (neck), running backs Tyler Varga (concussion) and Josh Robinson (back) and linebacker Trent Cole (knee) are uncertain to play. Tight end Dwayne Allen expects to return from an ankle injury.