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5 Things To Watch: Colts vs. Jaguars, Week 10

Get inside Sunday's AFC South matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Jaguars with a look at Jonathan Taylor, Kwity Paye and a Jacksonville defense that held the Buffalo Bills to just six points last weekend. 

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1. Jonathan Taylor will face a good run defense.

Jonathan Taylor set a franchise record with 253 rushing yards in Week 17 of the 2020 season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, with his 45-yard fourth quarter touchdown punching the Colts' ticket to the playoffs.

But the Jaguars roll into Indianapolis this weekend allowing the third-lowest rushing yards per play average (3.8) in the NFL; they're eighth in Football Outsiders' rushing defense DVOA, an efficiency-based advanced metric that backs up the raw numbers here.

A big reason behind those numbers is the Jaguars' stinginess in allowing explosive running plays – only the Cleveland Browns have allowed a lower percentage of opponents' runs to go for 10-plus yards than the Jaguars.

Meanwhile, Taylor enters Week 10 tied with the Browns' Nick Chubb for the league lead in runs of 10 or more yards with 22.

"(The Jaguars are) very active," Taylor said. "They're going to play through the whistle, so it's not like they may lose the rep initially that they're going to give up. They're going to continue through the echo of the whistle. So, we're going to have to make sure we all have active hands, active feet throughout the entire play."

This is the second straight week the Colts will face a top-10 rushing defense – the New York Jets entered Week 9 sixth average yards per carry allowed (3.99). They're now 27th after the Colts averaged 8.67 yards per carry against them.

2. Carson Wentz continuing to play well as the second half of the season gets underway.

Entering Week 10, Wentz ranks:

  • 10th in passing yards (2,198)
  • 7th in passing touchdowns (17)
  • 3rd in interceptions (3)
  • 11th in passer rating (100.1)

Pretty good, right? Now check out Wentz's ranks starting from Week 4:

  • 6th in passing yards (1,506)
  • 2nd in passing touchdowns (14)
  • 4th in interceptions (2)
  • 2nd in passer rating (108.3)

And Wentz is one-tenth of a point behind Kyler Murray for the highest passer rating since Week 4. He's also ninth in yards per attempt (7.76) in that same span.

Between his ankles healing, the Colts' offensive line getting healthier and the quarterback getting more experience with his teammates, Wentz has played like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL since the start of October.

"We're encouraged," general manager Chris Ballard said in an interview with Matt Taylor on Monday. "Coming in to — no matter what, even with Carson and Frank (Reich's) relationship and past history, we knew there was going to be an acclimation period where he needed to get comfortable with what we were doing offensively even though he had run a lot of it, there still were some new things that we do here that I know he didn't do in Philadelphia. And also watching him each and every week, watching his confidence grow and watching the entire offense's confidence grow has been good to see, especially starting to get some more continuity along the O-line, being able to protect him better, all those things have led to him being able to play good football." 

Reich, too, sees things trending in the right direction for Wentz.

"You can definitely feel the confidence growing and the comfort growing in the offense and him taking control of what aspects he should as the quarterback and as the leader out there," Reich said. "Confidence in his teammates, confidence in the scheme, confidence in his defense – the whole deal."

3. T.Y. Hilton will be back, and Braden Smith is in line to play, too.

Hilton cleared the Colts' concussion protocol and will play on his 32nd birthday Sunday against the Jaguars. Hilton has six catches for 96 yards in two games this season

In his career, Hilton has 78 catches for 1,235 yards over 17 games against the Jaguars.

The Colts are also on track to have right tackle Braden Smith (elbow) available. He was not listed with a game status designation on the Colts' final injury report.

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (back) is questionable, while cornerback Xavier Rhodes (calf) is out.

4. A chance to highlight Kenny Moore II.

Kenny Moore II enters Week 10 leading all cornerbacks with 13 run stops (defined by PFF as a play that constitutes a loss for the offense). And he hasn't been just making plays on the perimeter in the run game – he's sticking his nose into things close to the line of scrimmage and making play after play. His average tackle against the run is coming just under two yards beyond the line of scrimmage, highlighting his good technique, physicality and football IQ.

"He's the most physical guy on the field," linebacker Zaire Franklin said.

Moore's impact against the run will be important on Sunday against a Jaguars team that could get running back James Robinson back (he's questionable to play with a heel injury) and has totaled over 130 rushing yards in three games this season. The Jaguars as a team rank sixth in rushing yards per attempt and have generated explosive plays on the ground at the ninth-highest rate in the NFL in 2021.

So stopping the run will be critical for the Colts' defense. And Moore, as he has been all year, will be a big part of those efforts.

5. Is this the Kwity Paye breakout game?

Paye registered a season-high nine pressures in Week 9 against the New York Jets and earned a 90.1 PFF grade – similarly a season high. While the rookie does not have a sack yet, the Colts feel his arrow is pointing up as he continues to be a disruptive member of the defensive line.

"Early in the season I was kind of struggling with the pass rush, and as the season went on, the notes kept saying hey, improving here, just keep going, just keep trying to work it in practice and just keep improving," Paye said. "Just reading those notes and when you see those notes, it's my job as a professional to start working on it and take that seriously."

Paye felt he was close to turning some of those pressures against the Jets into sacks, and after the game quickly went to work to do what he can to hit home in those situations. But he also recognizes that his pressures, even if he doesn't get the sack stat in the box score, are helping the rest of his teammates to make an impact.

"The pressures I'm getting are opening opportunities for other guys to come in and make plays," Paye said. "I think my time will come and that's just me being patient, me just continuing to work but I can't get too caught up in that. I'm past the point of saying I'm saying I'm a rookie, I'm still learning. I'm a pro now and I'm trying to produce for this team. For me, I just have to keep focusing on trying to improve every single week and I think I've been doing that."

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