INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have been waiting on this one for a year.
The last time the Colts (3-5) hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) — Week 7 of last season — the division rival sacked quarterback Jacoby Brissett 10 times and shut the Colts out, 27-0. At Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Jaguars have been unable to build momentum onto the at-times dominating season they had in 2017, when they made a trip to the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots and nearly won.
However, the Colts remember 2017. They will not be taking Jacksonville lightly.
Like the Colts, the Jaguars spent last week on their bye after playing in London against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The defending Super-Bowl champion Eagles would send the Jaguars to their fourth consecutive loss — 24-18 — putting them two games under .500 after starting the season 3-1.
The Jaguars, built around their run game on offense, have been without former first-round running back Leonard Fournette since Week 4. That, along with a banged-up, underperforming offensive line has hurt that running game.
Jacksonville running backs mustered just 18 yards on eight attempts against Philadelphia while quarterback Blake Bortles threw 41 times and led their run game with 43 yards on eight carries.
With this not being Michael Vick’s Atlanta Falcons, it’s not the winning formula that the Jaguars are looking for.
The Jaguars' defense was able to make some plays, as would be expected from a unit with their talent, sacking Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz four times and forcing him into two turnovers. However, the Eagles were able to cash in where it counted, converting 58 percent of their third downs, which helped lead to an advantage of 5:16 in time of possession, and scoring a touchdown in one of their two trips into the red zone.
This Colts team may be built to beat this Jaguars team in its current state.
Without the run game, Jacksonville’s offense opens up Bortles to frequent passes and the Colts’ pass rush, which was a top-10 team in sacks (21) following their last game in Week 8. Pass rush leads to rushed decisions and mistakes, which means the Colts (fifth-most takeaways, 16) could capitalize against Jacksonville (fourth-most giveaways, 18) and their 30th-ranked turnover differential.
The Colts’ offensive line has also played at another level over the last few weeks, going nearly four entire games without a sack allowed and rushing for more than 200 yards in each of the last two weeks.
The improved offensive line and run game, as well as their fast-paced, high-percentage passing attack could very well neutralize a Jaguars pass rush that terrorized the Colts for 14 sacks in two games last year.
There were also some things Jacksonville didn’t have to deal with regarding the Colts last year that they will this time around.
For starters, a healthy Andrew Luck, who is 6-2 against the Jaguars in his career with a 95.8 passer rating. The Colts also have a couple of new starters at linebacker in Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker, who help channel a whole new brand of team speed on the defensive side of the ball.
The Jaguars did see some damage from running back Marlon Mack last year as a rookie, as he had 16 touches for 120 yards against them, but he has taken his game to new heights in the last three weeks behind this offensive line. Just since Week 6, Mack is averaging 20.3 touches per game for 133.7 yards of offense and has scored four touchdowns.
2018 KEY STATS
- 9th on third downs (44%)
- 27th in rushing attempts per game (22.4)
- 27th in passer rating (81.2)
- Tied for 28th in giveaways (18)
- 29th in scoring offense (16.8 PPG)
- 29th in time of possession (28:55)
- 30th in red zone offense (41.18%) and 32nd on the road (30.0%)
- 30th in turnover differential (-11)
- 1st in pass defense (190.0 YPG)
- 2nd in overall defense (313.2 YPG)
- 6th in opponent passer rating (86.0)
- 7th in red zone defense (50.0%)
- 8th in scoring defense (21.2 PPG)
- 23rd in sacks (19)
- 24th in run defense (123.2)
- Tied for 24th in takeaways (7)