INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts and Jaguars enter an 11th season as division mates in the AFC South. There have been some dramatic battles in the past as Indianapolis has earned a 13-7 series record since the teams were paired in the division.
There have been some very prominent names in the series' history, but the 2012 season marks a time of change for both clubs.
Chuck Pagano now patrols the sidelines for Indianapolis. Mike Mularkey was tabbed in that role for Jacksonville on January 11, inheriting the job two weeks before Pagano was named by the Colts.
It has been a radical reconstruction for the Colts to this point. Pagano has 16 new assistant coaches on his 19-man staff. All three coordinators – Bruce Arians (offense), Greg Manusky (defense) and Marwan Maalouf (special teams) are new.
Mularkey's staff reflects 22 members, with 15 of those coaches being in their first year in Jacksonville. Mel Tucker returns as the defensive coordinator, but the offense is directed by Bob Bratkowski and special teams are headed by John Bonamego.
Occasionally, there is a familiarity on the staffs between division foes, but only one assistant coach reflects it.
Jacksonville offensive line assistant Ron Prince was with the Colts last year. Other Jaguar assistants with previous Colts ties are well in the past – Sylvester Croom (1991) and Tom Myslinski (played in 1998). For the Colts, only Brant Boyer has Jacksonville ties, having been a special teams ace with the club from 1995-2000.
The Colts are playing the second of three straight home games in meeting Jacksonville. Indianapolis opened with a 41-21 loss at Chicago on September 9, then won, 23-20, last week in Lucas Oil Stadium against Minnesota.
Jacksonville dropped a tough 26-23 overtime decision at Minnesota in the opener, then fell, 27-7, last Sunday at home to Houston.
Jacksonville swept Indianapolis in 2011, winning on November 13 in Lucas Oil Stadium, 17-3, then by a 19-13 home count to end the season. It was Jacksonville's first sweep of the Colts, and it marked only the second time ever Indianapolis was bested twice in one year by an AFC South team. Tennessee was able to do it to the Colts in 2002, the division's first year.
The Colts-Jacksonville rivalry historically has been contested tightly. Fifteen of the 20 games since 2002 have been decided by a touchdown or less. Seven times the games have been decided by three points or less.
Pagano joined Indianapolis from Baltimore, where he served for the past four years. With the Ravens from 2008-11, Pagano was part of process that saw Baltimore earn the NFL's second-best home winning percentage (.844), a tradition he wants to build in Indianapolis.
"This our home turf. We're going to play great football here. This is our house, and that's how we plan to go," said Pagano. "The 12th Man (is critical). I've been in a lot of stadiums and particularly from a defensive standpoint, the fans make a huge difference."
Pagano also knows the importance of competing well in the division, something he wants to start today in the AFC South.
"Along with defending your home field, winning division games is something that every team targets. Division games carry an added importance for a number of reasons, and it is key to set a strong tone in those six games. With Baltimore, I was involved in many AFC North battles that carried consequences later in the year. You always want to be in firm standing in your division, and that is something we preach to the players. I think fans also notice the nature of those games, too. I am looking forward to my first action in the AFC South. I have seen it be a tough division for a long time, and we feel the need to play as well as possible," said Pagano.
In addition to the teams having new head coaches, the quarterbacks involved in Sunday's game reflect a passage of time in the division, too. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will be starting his third game with the club. In his first two outings, Luck has hit 43-of-76 passes for 533 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Last year, two different Colts signal-callers played against Jacksonville, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky.
In 2011, Jacksonville used a first-round pick to take quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert set a franchise record with 14 rookie starts. In earning a 4-10 starting record, he was the youngest quarterback in NFL history to open at least 13 games.
In his first two games this year, Gabbert has completed 30-of-58 passes for 313 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Last year at Lucas Oil Stadium, Gabbert was 14-of-21 for 118 yards, with one touchdown and interception.
Among the great players who have exited the series through the years, one for Indianapolis will be in attendance on Sunday. Running back Edgerrin James is being inducted into the Colts' Ring of Honor at halftime. James played from 1999-2005 with Indianapolis, appearing in 10 outings against Jacksonville.
Indianapolis will have to contend with the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew, the third straight week the team has faced a prominent back.
In the opener, the Colts had to defend Chicago's Matt Forte. Last week the assignment was Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Jones-Drew has been one of the most prominent performers against the Colts ever. He has 230 rushing attempts for 1,212 yards and nine touchdowns. The yardage total is fourth-most ever by an opposing back, and he could pass two performers closest to him on that list on Sunday (1,251, Fred Taylor; 1,230 Thurman Thomas). Curtis Martin is the all-time leading rusher against the Colts with 1,645 yards. Jones-Drew's rushing scores rank fourth-most ever against the Colts, while his seven 100 outings tie for second-most.
The Colts enter the Jacksonville game with more new players than returnees from previous seasons. It is a new time in Indianapolis, and staking out the home turf in Lucas Oil Stadium is a priority.
"Winning is very important," said defensive end Cory Redding. "You don't want nobody to come to your house, kick their shoes off and put their feet on your coffee table, read your newspaper, sleep in your own bed, you know what I mean? You don't want that stuff to come to your house and do these things that you normally do. That's what this place needs to be for us. It's our sanctuary. That's our home turf. We have to protect home.
"We have to win at home. We have to have a sense of presence. Nobody comes into our house and do what they want to do. That's what we're establishing here. We were very successful in the preseason, and we have to carry those things over. The crowd was into it. We have to go out there and feed off that energy and make plays."
Redding and many teammates are adjusting to Lucas Oil Stadium. He has noise instructions for fans.
"Any time the offense is out there working, let them make their checks and be quiet. Cheer when the big plays are happening," said Redding. "When the defense is on the field, before we even cross the hashmarks to get on the field, the crowd needs to be up on their feet. It needs to be crazy. It needs to be loud. That's the atmosphere defensive players want to play in. It can't be too noisy. It can't be too noisy. If we have to scream to get out checks, that means they are over there having a way tough time getting their audibles.
"That's the energy you want to see and have. That's what we're going to bring. We're going to be waving for the crowd to get up and be loud. Let's go out and have fun. Let's get this win at home."
COLTS-JAGUARS SERIES HISTORY (*Played in Indianapolis; Season Opener; #Primetime)
September 8, 2002 28-25 Win
December 29, 2002* 20-13 Win
September 21, 2003* 23-13 Win
November 9, 2003 23-28 Loss
October 3, 2004 24-17 Win
October 24, 2004* 24-27 Loss
September 18, 2005* 10- 3 Win
December 11, 2005 26-18 Win
September 24, 2006* 21-14 Win
December 10, 2006 17-44 Loss
October 22, 2007# 29- 7 Win
December 2, 2007* 28-25 Win
September 21, 2008* 21-23 Loss
December 18, 2008# 31-24 Win
September 13, 2009* 14-12 Win
December 17, 2009# 35-31 Win
October 3, 2010 28-31 Loss
December 19, 2010* 34-24 Win
November 13, 2011* 3-17 Loss
January 1, 2012 13-19 Loss