1. The Colts won't take the Jaguars lightly.
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton summed it up best in the aftermath of the Colts' Week 17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
"We don't play good down there," Hilton said. "So we better find a way, or we're going to be out."
Hilton has played in each of the Colts' last six road games against the Jacksonville Jaguars – all of which his team has lost. It hasn't mattered how good the Jaguars are or aren't, or how good the Colts are or aren't. The Jaguars haven't lost to the Colts in Jacksonville since 2014.
You can debate exactly how relevant that streak is to Sunday's game, but the Colts are treating it like it matters. The Jaguars have given their best effort when hosting the Colts over the last six years, and the Colts are expecting more of the same in Week 18.
Even if the 2-14 Jaguars are one loss away from clinching the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
"We're gonna be hearing it all week, you know, they're 2-14, and this and that," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "But when the Colts go down in Jacksonville, (the Jaguars are) 6-0. They get up for the Colts."
If the Colts' practice this week is any indication, they're on track to be ready for the Jaguars' best effort.
"I just feel like yesterday's practice was way better than last week's practice," linebacker Darius Leonard said Thursday. "I feel like last week was lackadaisical, wasn't focused and I think this week right here, we're locked in. I felt like defensively, we played with a lot of energy yesterday, we had a lot of turnovers. So, hopefully if we can do it in practice, we can translate it to the game and come out of this thing with a W and let us make a run in the playoffs."
2. Jonathan Taylor can set some more records – and make his final case for MVP.
Taylor is a legitimate MVP candidate – an incredible achievement for a running back in the 2020s – who already set new Colts records for rushing yards (1,734 and counting) and rushing touchdowns (18 and counting) in a single season.
But Taylor can set a few more franchise records as he closes out the regular season:
- Total touchdowns: Taylor's 20 touchdowns are tied with Hall of Famer Lenny Moore for the most in Colts history; one more would set a new record.
- Yards per carry: Taylor is averaging 5.5 yards per carry, which would break the Colts record he set last year of 5.0 yards per carry (min. 200 attempts)
- Yards from scrimmage: Taylor is 228 yards from scrimmage shy of breaking Edgerrin James' record (2,303) set in 2000. Taylor's season high yards from scrimmage total is 200 (Week 9 vs. New York Jets).
3. The Maniac, as always.
Putting Leonard's 2021 season (115 tackles, 8 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries) into some perspective...
- Leonard is the only player in NFL history to force 8+ fumbles and intercept 4+ passes in a single season
- Leonard is the only player in NFL history with 10+ interceptions, 15+ sacks and 15+ forced fumbles in the first five years of a career (Leonard will finish his Year 4 regular season on Sunday)
- Leonard is the only player since at least 1999 to have 100+ tackles and 2+ forced fumbles in each of the first four years of his career
- With at least nine tackles vs. Jacksonville, Leonard would move into 7th on the Colts' all-time tackle leaderboard
- Leonard is one of 11 players in franchise history to be named to three Pro Bowls in his first four seasons
What we've seen Leonard do not only this year, but since he came into the league in 2018, has been special. And with a spot in the playoffs on the line, look for Leonard to lead the charge for the Colts on defense this weekend not just from an on-field perspective, but from a leadership one, too.
"I tell them all the time, don't get satisfied with what you did. We haven't done anything," Leonard said. "We don't have a playoff spot. For the four years we've been here, we haven't been past round two. So, I just don't want guys to fall into the trap of when we were 1-4, everyone talked down on us. Then, once we went on that run, everybody started praising us. I feel like people felt like, they were accomplished and we did something. It's not even that.
"So I just let them know you get one opportunity. It's hard to get into the playoffs and it's hard to win in this league. So, we got to make sure we can control what we can control. That's just playing good, sound football in all three phases and just dominate and be the best team that's out there on the field."
4. A fun fact about Carson Wentz.
The Colts are 5-2 on the road this season, and Wentz's ability to take care of the football and make plays when he needs to is an important reason why. Wentz enters Week 18 completing 65 percent of his passes on the road with 7.3 yards per attempt, 10 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 103.4.
Reich on Wednesday reflected on Wentz's first season with the Colts – not just what he's done on the road.
"I think he's done well," Reich said. "I think we've made great progress. I think he's handled the offense extremely well. When you consider where we were starting from again, going back with very limited training camp and that whole story, which we all know, I think he's done very well.
"I think he's gotten an offense where JT (Jonathan Taylor) got hot and it's been very run-centric. He hasn't been asked to throw it 35, 40 times a game and win a game like that, but I think he's done a good job. I think in general we can all do better in the pass game, as an offense continue to grow in the pass game. But this year has been a little bit different in how heavy run we've been."
5. A scoreboard watching guide.
The Colts, again, have a simple goal for Sunday: A win guarantees them a spot in the playoffs. By about 4ish on Sunday afternoon, we should know if the Colts are in the dance or need some help in the door – or if that help won't materialize at all.
If you're feeling nervous on Sunday afternoon, keep an eye on the Ravens-Steelers game that also kicks off at 1 p.m. If the Steelers win, the Colts cannot make the playoffs if they lose. If the Ravens win and the Colts lose, then dig into your closet and see if you have any Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders gear – a Colts loss, coupled with losses by the Steelers, Patriots and Chargers would sneak the Colts into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed with a 9-8 record.
If the Colts win, then we'll know they're in – but we won't know what seed they'll be until late Sunday night. The outcomes of the Jets-Bills, Patriots-Dolphins and Chargers-Raiders games will determine if the Colts are the No. 5, 6 or 7 seed:
- Patriots, Bills, Raiders win: Colts are No. 7 seed
- Patriots, Jets, Raiders win: Colts are No. 6 seed
- Patriots, Jets, Chargers win: Colts are No. 5 seed
- Patriots, Bills, Chargers win: Colts are No. 6 seed
- Dolphins, Bills, Raiders win: Colts are No. 6 seed
- Dolphins, Jets, Raiders win: Colts are No. 6 seed
- Dolphins, Jets, Chargers win: Colts are No. 5 seed
- Dolphins, Bills, Chargers win: Colts are No. 5 seed
And then, of course, there's the question of who the Colts might play in the wild card round. It could be the Titans, Chiefs, Bengals, Bills or Patriots depending on how those teams' games go on Saturday and Sunday.