Six Points: Colts vs. Jaguars
After a blowout loss last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Indianapolis Colts head back to their comfort zone with a Week 14 matchup with AFC South rival Jacksonville.
The Colts (6-6), remain tied for first with the Houston Texans in the AFC South despite last week’s 45-10 loss to the Steelers. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had no issues solving the Indianapolis defense, throwing for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Colts starter Matt Hasselbeck, who filled in once again for the injured quarterback Andrew Luck, was forced to leave in the fourth quarter with neck and rib injuries. The 17-year veteran is expected to play Sunday as the Colts look for their 16th straight victory against an AFC South opponent.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Colts and the Jaguars.
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1. Keep Hasselbeck upright
The 40-year-quarterback enters the game less than 100 percent, but luckily for Indianapolis, the Jaguars pass rush has been almost as ineffective as the Colts’ with just 29 sacks on the season. Defensive pressure may not be an issue. Regardless, the Colts have to save Hasselbeck from absorbing another beating in this one. Indianapolis has a prime opportunity to take control of the AFC South with a victory, but having to rely on Charlie Whitehurst to win on the road is less than ideal. If Jacksonville shows any signs of the being able to get to Hasselbeck, the Colts may need to max protect using tight ends as extra blockers in the passing game.
2. Exploit the middle of the Jacksonville defense
Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny broke his hand against the Titans and had surgery on Tuesday. With Posluszny out, second-year player Jordan Tripp will make his first NFL start and this is a matchup that favors the Colts. Jacksonville’s run defense, which gave up 210 yards last week, should suffer again. This may be a game where Frank Gore can make a difference with a big afternoon rushing the football.
3. Offer help on A-Rob in the secondary
Allen Robinson has already surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and has emerged as Blake Bortles’ favorite target. Colts cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Greg Toler were unable to slow down Pittsburgh receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant last week. If the coverage doesn’t improve, Robinson is capable of producing more big plays, so the Colts need to offer safety help over the top on Robinson. Jacksonville has pair of other talented pass-catching options in receiver Allen Hurns and tight end Julius Thomas, but if Indianapolis can limit Robinson, they’ll greatly improve their chances against the Jaguars’ offense.
1. Keep throwing
After throwing for five touchdowns in a losing effort against the Titans, Bortles and the Jaguars face another porous secondary this week. Jacksonville is averaging 39 passing attempts per game and this isn’t the week to change their pass-first approach. With Hasselbeck and the Colts offense limited, the Jaguars need to make this a high-scoring affair. If they’re successful, the Colts are unlikely to keep pace.
2. Keep up the good work in the redzone
After scoring just one touchdown in four trips to the red zone the week before, Jacksonville was successful on all six trips inside the 20 against the Titans. Feeding the ball to T.J. Yeldon paid dividends and should once again this week. With the Jaguars defense coming off a poor performance, this team needs as many points as possible and can’t afford to settle for field goals.
3. Finish the game
Once again, the Jaguars came close against the Titans before failing to close things out in the fourth quarter. Whether it was the high snap from center Stefen Wisniewski that Tennessee recovered for a touchdown or Jason Myers missing his second extra point of the game, the execution late in games is often times the difference between winning and losing. Jacksonville has to improve in that area if they to beat the Colts for the first time since 2012.