2020 Colts Preview: Colts/Jaguars, Week 1

After one of the more unique offseasons in recent memory, the Indianapolis Colts are opening up the 2020 regular season Sunday when they travel to TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., to take on their AFC South Division rival Jaguars. Check out the official game preview.

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INDIANAPOLIS — It's here — it's finally here.

After one of the more unique offseasons in recent memory, the Indianapolis Colts are opening up the 2020 regular season Sunday when they travel to TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., to take on their AFC South Division rival Jaguars.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way of life across the country, and that certainly has been the case within the NFL, which canceled the on-field portions of every team's offseason workout program, as well as the entire preseason slate of games, as a precaution, and instituted a wide range of new safety protocols.

What was left was an all-virtual offseason program, followed by a shortened training camp. But quality work was done all around for the Colts, who enter Sunday's content with a mixture of returning talent, as well as some key newcomers.

On offense, there's a new quarterback in eight-time Pro Bowler Philip Rivers. On defense, the team traded its 2020 first-round (13th-overall) pick to the San Francisco 49ers to select All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. The kicking game will also feature a newcomer: rookie Rodrigo Blankenship. All three will be making their 2020 Colts debuts on Sunday.

So what all should we be looking for when this thing kicks off? Here is the official game preview.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday, Sept. 13, at 1 p.m. ET
  • Jacksonville, Fla.; TIAA Bank Field
  • TV: CBS — Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Adam Archuleta (color)
  • Colts Official App (*Geographic and device restrictions apply. Local & primetime games only. Data charges may apply.)
  • Colts.com mobile website (Safari browser ONLY)
  • Yahoo! Sports mobile browser or app
  • Click here for MORE WAYS TO WATCH.
  • To find out what games will be on in your area, click here.
  • Local radio: Colts games can be heard in Indianapolis on 93.5, 107.5 and 1070 The Fan and 97.1 HANK FM, plus the desktop version of Colts.com with Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Rick Venturi (color), Larra Overton (sideline) and Bill Brooks (pregame/postgame analyst) on the call.
  • National radio: Fans can listen to the live local call on NFL Game Pass. Get your free seven-day trial by clicking here.

*Please check your local TV listing to confirm availability. iOS mobile web and app users should "Allow Location Access" (via Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Safari).

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Colts lead, 24-14. The Colts are looking to win their first game in Jacksonville since 2014.
  • Last game — Week 17 of 2019; Jaguars won, 38-20, in Jacksonville.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Jaguars:

  • HC Doug Marrone
  • OC Jay Gruden
  • DC Todd Wash
  • STC Joe DeCamillis

LAST SEASON

Colts:

  • Finished 7-9 overall; third place in the AFC South

Jaguars:

  • Finished 6-10 overall; fourth place in the AFC South

INJURY UPDATE

Colts:

  • OUT — S Julian Blackmon
  • DOUBTFUL — N/A
  • QUESTIONABLE — LB Matthew Adams

Click here to read more on the injury report for Sunday's game.

Jaguars:

  • OUT — TE Tyler Davis
  • DOUBTFUL — N/A
  • QUESTIONABLE — N/A

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Philip Rivers makes his Colts debut — The Colts wanted more big plays out of their offense heading into 2020, and they believe they'll do just that with Rivers now running the show. Rivers' familiarity with head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who worked with the veteran QB during their time with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, could very well pay immediate dividends. But at 38 years old, which Rivers will show up? In 2018, Rivers was an MVP candidate; but last season, he had 20 interceptions, many of which coming as he tried to will his struggling Chargers team to wins late in ballgames. Rivers will have plenty of help in his new setting, however, including one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, one of the best rushing attacks in the league and plenty of weapons in the passing game, including a fully-healthy T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell. All the pieces are in place for the Colts to make drastic improvements on the offensive side of the football, starting Sunday in Jacksonville.
  • What's the DeForest Buckner effect on the Indy defense? — On the defensive side of the football, Colts general manager Chris Ballard went into this past offseason knowing the team needed a dominant presence in the interior up front — so he went out and forced the issue, trading the team's 2020 first-round (13th-overall) pick to the San Francisco 49ers for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who at just 26 years old is one of the better players at his position across the league. At 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds, Buckner does it all from the all-important three-technique position: he is a game wrecker against the pass, and he also blows up opposing team's run games. But perhaps his biggest effect will be on the teammates around him; Buckner oftentimes takes on double or even triple teams, which should open things up considerably for guys like defensive ends Justin Houston and Denico Autry, as well as linebacker Darius Leonard. The more destruction those guys can cause in the backfield, the more opportunistic this defense can be. Buckner looks to make a strong first impression with his new team on Sunday.
  • Can the Colts snap a couple notable streaks? — The Colts are hoping to break a couple streaks in this season-opening matchup against the Jaguars. First, Indy hasn't won a season opener in its previous six seasons; its last season-opening victory was in 2013, a 21-17 defeat over the then-Oakland Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts haven't won a season opener on the road since 2006, a 26-21 victory over the New York Giants. Indy is also looking to snap a five-game road losing streak to its division rival Jacksonville. Another note: this is also the earliest the Colts have opened up AFC South Division play since the 2011 season, when they fell to the Houston Texans, 34-7, in their Week 1 matchup at Reliant Stadium.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts WR Parris Campbell vs. Jaguars CB D.J. Hayden — Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni has said the offense will flow through top receiver T.Y. Hilton, so we've got to imagine the Jaguars will be giving him plenty of attention on Sunday. We instead focus on the second-year receiver Campbell, who is finally fully healthy after an injury-plagued rookie season. Campbell is likely to be matched up often with Hayden in the slot, where the veteran cornerback last season allowed zero touchdowns and a passer rating of 76.1 in 335 slot coverage snaps. Campbell's mix of size and speed could be an issue for any defender trying to slow him down, but keep an eye on this one.
  • Colts RB Jonathan Taylor vs. Jaguars LB Joe Schobert — The Jaguars, who finished 31st in the league in yards-per-carry and rushing touchdowns allowed last season, shelled out a reported five-year, $53.7 million free agent contract this offseason for Schobert, who has averaged more than 100 tackles per year since 2016, including 133 with the Cleveland Browns last season. The Colts will try to ruin Schobert's Jacksonville debut with one of the best rushing attacks in the league. While the veteran Marlon Mack, who is coming off his first-career 1,000-yard rushing season, is the starter, perhaps the intriguing matchup will be the way head coach Frank Reich utilizes the rookie Taylor, one of the team's two second-round picks in this year's NFL Draft. The Mack-Taylor duo has been deemed a "1-1" punch by Reich and Sirianni — we'll get our first chance to see what that looks like on Sunday.
  • Colts DT DeForest Buckner vs. Jaguars LG Andrew Norwell — "I think Andrew gets beat up pretty good, and there are times when he misses the pass block — his bad plays are bad — and he gets upset with that." That was Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, talking about Norwell, his starting left guard, before the draft this year. One has to imagine Buckner is hoping to make Norwell pretty upset on Sunday. The All-Pro defensive tackle is making his Colts debut, and looks to finally beat up on another opponent after going against another All-Pro in Colts left guard Quenton Nelson all of training camp. Norwell, of course, is a solid player overall, but Buckner is going to look to get in his grill, and often, on Sunday.
  • Colts CB Rock Ya-Sin vs. Jaguars WR D.J. Chark Jr. — Chark Jr., who earned his first-career Pro Bowl selection last year, had a combined 12 receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns in his two meetings against Indy last year. At 6-foot-4, 198 pounds, he's a huge target for second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II. Ya-Sin, meanwhile, is looking to keep the momentum going after a solid second half to his rookie season in 2019, followed by an outstanding performance throughout training camp this year. If Ya-Sin can keep learning to trust his feet while also maintaining his trademark physicality, this could be a fun matchup to keep an eye on in the opener.

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

RETURNING 2019 LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Philip Rivers (4,615 yards with Chargers)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (1,091 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (501 yards)
  • Touchdowns — RB Marlon Mack (8)
  • Tackles — LB Anthony Walker (124)
  • Sacks — DE Justin Houston (11.0)
  • Interceptions — LB Darius Leonard (5)

Jaguars:

  • Passing — QB Gardner Minshew II (3,271 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Chris Thompson (138 yards with Washington)
  • Receiving — WR D.J. Chark (1,008 yards)
  • Touchdowns — WR D.J. Chark (8)
  • Tackles — S Jarrod Wilson (79)
  • Sacks — LB Josh Allen (10.5)
  • Interceptions — CB Tre Herndon (3)

COMPARING 2019 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 25th (327.4 YPG)
  • Scoring — 17th (22.6 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 30th (194.3 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — Tied-9th (32)
  • Rushing offense — 7th (133.1 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 12th (41.55 percent)
  • Red zone offense — 6th (64.29 percent)
  • Total defense — 16th (346.8 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 18th (23.3 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 23rd (248.9 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-15th (41)
  • Rushing defense — 7th (97.9 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 27th (42.71 percent)
  • Red zone defense — 11th (52 percent)
  • Time of possession — Tied-14th (30:02)
  • Turnover differential — 12th (+2)

Jaguars:

  • Total offense — 20th (341.8 YPG)
  • Scoring — 26th (18.8 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 16th (235.0 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 15th (42)
  • Rushing offense — 17th (106.8 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 26th (34.55 percent)
  • Red zone offense — 31st (40.43 percent)
  • Total defense — 24th (375.4 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 21st (24.8 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 16th (236.1 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-7th (47)
  • Rushing defense — 28th (139.3 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 23rd (41.58 percent)
  • Red zone defense — 16th (57.14 percent)
  • Time of possession — 12th (30:29)
  • Turnover differential — Tied-18th (-1)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • With 1.5 sacks, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner will reach 30.0 career sacks.
  • With one touchdown, tight end Jack Doyle will pass Ken Dilger (18) and tie Tom Mitchell (19) and Dwayne Allen (19) for the fourth-most total touchdowns by a tight end in team history.
  • With one receiving touchdown, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton will tie Dallas Clark (46) for the sixth-most receiving touchdowns in team history.
  • With 13 tackles, linebacker Darius Leonard will tie Quentin Coryatt (297) for the fifth-most tackles in a player's first three seasons in Colts history.
  • With one 100-yard rushing performance, running back Marlon Mack will tie Joseph Addai (eight) for the fifth-most such games in Colts history.
  • With two passes defensed, cornerback Xavier Rhodes will reach 75 career passes defensed.
  • With one game with 400+ passing yards, quarterback Philip Rivers will tie Ben Roethlisberger (12) for the fourth-most games with 400+ passing yards in NFL history.
  • If he starts and wins one game, Rivers will tie Fran Tarkenton (124) for the eighth-most wins as a starting quarterback in NFL history.
  • With one game started, Rivers will reach 225 career games started.
  • With three touchdown passes, Rivers will reach 400 career touchdown passes. He would become just the sixth player in NFL history to reach that plateau, joining Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Dan Marino.
  • "I just want Philip to be himself. I know he will. (He's) a great leader, very comfortable in his own skin – just to be him and know that he has a good football team around him. Just play good winning football, execute what's called, use your experience and your intelligence to make the checks, do it with confidence. Don't feel like you have to win the game for us every week. We've got a good team. We've got a good roster. But he is a big part of any success that we're going to have." — Head coach Frank Reich, on his expectations for new quarterback Philip Rivers this season.
  • "I was driving in this morning and I almost had butterflies in my stomach like, 'It's game week. Let's go!' I was listening to something, then I changed the radio station like I was going into Sunday to listen – I had my pregame cutup or whatever you call it, mixtape, not mixtape. I'm old. I'm showing my age right there, whatever. I was super excited this morning. You can feel the energy in the building. I think that 100 percent, a lot of excitement." — Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, asked Tuesday if there's even more excitement for this season opener after a long, unusual offseason.
  • "Yeah, I think you're always concerned about that. ... We did tackle live in our scrimmages. At times, we had live-tackling drills in individuals at times. We feel like we're prepared for it, but again, when the game is snapped we have to do a great job of sticking to our fundamentals, details and good angles, and being on top of that as we go. Definitely a concern, and we are going to work on it again this week." — Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, on how concerned he is with his unit's ability to tackle effectively early in the season with no preseason reps.
  • "I'll have it. I had that nervous energy last night. I think it will be a little bit of that all week long. It's game week, it's real. We're about to kick off in the first game. You didn't have the preseason games to even play a series with no consequence. It's here. My dad would always tell me, 'If you don't have butterflies, something is wrong with you.' It won't be the nervousness like – there is a level of I guess comfort that comes with playing for a lot of years. So it will be the good kind of butterflies, the good kind of nervous that you have because you really care. You care about it. You love it. You look forward to it. You want to go out and perform and help at a high level. They're good. They're already starting. It will be good. I'm sure they'll be around all week." — Colts quarterback Philip Rivers, on if he still thinks he'll get butterflies as he begins his 17th NFL season, but his first in Indy.
  • "I'm not trying to be anybody's replacement. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Adam and everything that he's done. I think it's safe to say that he's the best to ever do it so far, but I don't want to have a mindset of trying to replace him. I just want to do the best that I can be to be the best version of myself. I'm not trying to focus on that, I'm just trying to focus on being the best Rodrigo that I can be and hopefully that will get the job done." — Colts rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, asked if he feels any pressure to be future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri's first full-time replacement in Indy.

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