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Seven Things To Watch For: Colts/Jaguars Edition (Week 7)

Posted Oct 21, 2017

Intro: The Colts (2-4) play host to the Jaguars (3-3) on Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium. Here are seven things to look for in this AFC South Division matchup.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts continue AFC South Division play on Sunday, when they play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Colts (2-4) are coming off their 36-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans Monday night at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. The Jaguars (3-3), meanwhile, fell to the Los Angeles Rams, 27-17, last Sunday in Jacksonville.

So what should fans be looking for in this Colts/Jaguars matchup on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium?

1. Freeze Fournette
The Jaguars this season feature the No. 1 rushing attack in the league, which can largely be attributed to No. 4-overall pick Leonard Fournette, who has been sensational out of LSU. The league’s second-leading rusher, Fournette has 596 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Bringing a rare combination of bruiser and breakaway speedster, Fournette comes into Sunday’s game with a few questions about his ankle, which he injured last week against the Los Angeles Rams and kept him out of practice all week, but make no mistake about it, the Colts’ defense’s No. 1 priority on Sunday is making sure Fournette doesn’t run wild.

2. Replacing Turbo

With the Colts, Robert Turbin has been one of those types of players whose impact is felt way beyond the boxscore. As the backup/third-down running back, Turbin has been counted on to be a solid pass protector, a solid pass catcher as well as, of course, a strong runner — especially in short-yardage situations. And he’s delivered, going 12-for-12 on third-and-1 scenarios the past two seasons. Turbin was also a stud on Indy’s various special teams units. But he suffered a dislocated elbow in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against the Tennessee Titans, and on Friday was placed on Injured Reserve. The question now is: who fills in those roles? One can imagine the responsibilities won’t fall on one single player — perhaps starter Frank Gore and rookie Marlon Mack pick up a few more carries per game? Maybe Matt Jones and Josh Ferguson, who spent his rookie season with the Colts last year and was just re-signed to the active roster on Friday, see more time on special teams? This will definitely be an interesting theme to take note of on Sunday.

3. Engaging The Ghost

Staying with the Colts’ offense, another theme to keep an eye on Sunday will be Colts’ No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton’s opportunities throughout the game. Last week against the Titans, Hilton — the league’s reigning receiving champion — was targeted four times and came away with just one catch for 19 yards. It’s no secret that the Colts, as a team, typically go as Hilton goes, and because of that, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski knows that feeding him passes throughout the game remains of the utmost importance, even against Jacksonville, which has one of the better secondaries in the league. “I felt good about the things we had up and opportunities to get him the ball and it just didn’t come together,” Chudzinski said of the Titans game. “We had some breakdowns protection-wise. He was wide open for a touchdown and it just didn’t happen. He’s always in the forefront of our thought process in getting him the ball. We’ll continue to try to find ways to do that and do a better job of doing that.”

4. Special Opportunities

Solid special teams play often means the difference between a win and a loss in the NFL, which is certainly a lesson the Jaguars learned last week against the Rams, as Los Angeles reached the end zone twice on special teams plays in its 27-17 victory in Jacksonville. The Rams not only returned the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown, but they also blocked a punt that was returned eight yards for a score. Then, a 29-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein with 2:32 remaining sealed the win for Los Angeles. You can bet Colts special teams coordinator Tom McMahon will have his units more-than ready to go to try to pile on their division rivals’ woes on special teams, which also led to the Jaguars replacing their kicker, Jason Myers, with former Charger Josh Lambo this past week.

5. Don’t Drown

The Jacksonville defense is for real this season, and one thing’s been proven to this point of the year: if you fall behind, the Jaguars will bury you. Just look at the scores of their three wins this season against the Houston Texans (29-7), the Baltimore Ravens (44-7) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (30-9). Jacksonville is able to drown opponents with a solid running game on offense, and then a dominating defense, which has produced 23 sacks so far — the most through the first six games of a season in franchise history — as well as by taking advantage of takeaways, as their 77 points scored from turnovers are the most in the league in 2017 and the second-most in the NFL through six games since 2000. The stars so far have been new addition defensive end Calais Campbell, who already has eight sacks so far, as well as Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in the secondary, each of whom have two interceptions and are yet to allow a passing touchdown on the year.

6. 60 60 60 60 60 60

The “play all 60 minutes” theme has been featured here each of the past few weeks, but it continues to be an issue for the Colts. Last week, for a fifth straight game, Indianapolis had a second-half lead, only to see the opposing team work its way back into the game, and, in this case, the Titans ran away with a 36-22 victory. On Sunday against the Jaguars, the Colts will need to figure out how to make the proper adjustments to avoid any stalls on offense — and any late-game blunders on defense — as well as counter any adjustments the opposition makes to them. “We’re working on those things day in and day out,” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “Technique, fundamentals, block better, tackle better, catch better. Focus, focus, focus. Details. Don’t turn the ball over. Eliminate penalties. You’ve got to do it for 60 minutes. Pretty simple. Hard, but simple. Really no explanation needed.”

7. Milestone Watch

Here are several milestones to look for on Sunday, courtesy of Colts PR:

• Cornerback Vontae Davis needs four passes defensed to reach 100 for his career.

• Running back Frank Gore, with a 100-yard rushing performance, would tie O.J. Simpson (42) for the 16th most in NFL history; he needs 13 carries to pass Barry Sanders (3,062) for sixth on the NFL’s all-time list; he needs one rushing touchdown to tie Tony Dorsett (77) for 21st on the NFL’s all-time list; and he needs two rushing touchdowns to tie Ricky Watters (78) for 20th on the NFL’s all-time list.

• Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton needs one reception to reach 400 for his career, becoming only the sixth player in franchise history to accomplish that feat; he with one reception on Sunday, he will have caught at least one pass in 39 consecutive games, which would tie Bill Brooks for the 10th longest streak in franchise history.

• Kicker Adam Vinatieri needs 11 points to tie Gary Anderson (2,434) for the second most points in NFL history.

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