INDIANAPOLIS —With revenge on their mind once again, the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday travel to take on the AFC South Division co-leading Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Colts (3-8) on Sunday are looking to avenge their 27-0 Week 7 loss to the Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in a game in which Indianapolis was dominated from start to finish. It was one of just two games all season in which the Colts did not lead — or, at the very least, have a share of the lead — going into halftime.
The Colts are coming off a close divisional matchup last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, a 20-16 victory by the visitors in Indy. For a second time in their 2017 series against the Titans, the Colts held a 10-point second-half lead, but would see it vanish as the Titans began to catch on with a couple big plays down the stretch.
The Jaguars (7-4), meanwhile, had their four-game win streak — which started Week 7 against the Colts — snapped last Sunday with their 27-24 road loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
So what should fans be looking for in this Colts/Jaguars Week 13 matchup on Sunday at EverBank Field?
1. Bag The Sacks
The major storyline coming out of the Colts' first matchup against the Jaguars in Week 7 was Jacksonville's relentless pass rush throughout the ballgame. The Jaguars tied a franchise record (one they had set earlier in the season) with 10 sacks, each of which came after the team had jumped out to a quick 20-0 lead. The Colts, who allowed eight sacks last week in their loss to the Titans, are well-aware of the importance of not falling too far behind in Sunday's game; if they do, that's when the Jaguars' defenders, who are No. 1 in the league with 41 sacks, can pin their ears back against the Colts, who have allowed the most sacks in the league this season (47). "They're outstanding – their group up front," Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. "They're tough to block, they've got all of the guys that they put up there can hurt you. Sometimes you may face a team what have you where there's one guy really that can hurt you and you have to account for that guy and that's a guy that you have to worry about. You can design things, you can work things and just try to do that. It gets tougher when they have two, or when they have three and in this case, these guys have more than four so they roll them from off the bench."2. First Look At Fournette
While it hasn't been as potent in recent weeks, the Jaguars feature the league's top-ranked rushing offense, led by their dynamic rookie running back, Leonard Fournette. Fournette, who had an ankle injury and couldn't play in that Week 7 game against the Colts, is currently ranked seventh in the NFL with 765 rushing yards, and has that rare mixture of size and speed that make him a home run threat on any down and in any situation. "He's a complete back," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said. "He's big, he's strong, he's fast. He can run between the tackles, run outside, a viable option in the pass game. He gets a crease, he can take it the distance. (He can) block, tough as nails, great on short yardage. He's everything you'd want in a back." The Colts' defense hopes to continue a recent trend of success defending Fournette, however; the LSU product has a combined 57 carries for 169 yards (2.97 yards per carry) and zero touchdowns in his last three games.3. Groundhog's Day?
Last Sunday's game against the Titans represented the ninth time in 11 games this season the Colts have held a lead, or at least a share of the lead, at halftime, only to see that advantage slip away in the second half; Indianapolis is now 3-6 in those matchups. Even worse, it was the fifth time this season the Colts have held a lead in the fourth quarter and couldn't hang on for a victory. It's a storyline that grew old for the Indy players and coaches long ago, but it's obviously up to them to reverse the narrative — can they accomplish that feat Sunday against the Jaguars? "I'm sick for these players and the coaches and our fans. Sick," Pagano said. "It's all about responding and how you respond in critical situations … We're getting in these tight situations, and we're finding some really unique ways to screw it up over and over and over again. So we watched it and pointed it out, and everybody knows what it is. Again, most teams, and we're not in the category of most, but most teams aren't even in these games right now considering records and circumstances. They ain't. You guys know it, and I know it. Our guys know it, but we've got great character in that locker room."4. Melvin's Makeshift
Rashaan Melvin has put in a career year now in his fifth season in the NFL, as he has risen up the depth chart for the Colts and become the team's No. 1 cornerback, demanding the matchup against the opposing team's top receiving threat week in and week out. But last Sunday, on a play in which he picked off Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota for the corner's third interception of the season, he would suffer a broken bone in his hand, and he wouldn't return. Melvin, we know now, will miss Sunday's game against the Jaguars, too, leaving a massive void at cornerback for the Indy defense. Pagano said Friday they'll utilize a "by-committee" approach with that opening, as 2017 second-round pick Quincy Wilson — who has not played since Week 2 — undrafted rookie Kenny Moore II and second-year players Chris Milton and D.J. White have all been battling it out this week in practice to earn the start. "A bunch of guys have had a good week of practice," Pagano said. "We've got different packages. So rather than just spell it all out, they're all going to have an opportunity to play." Look for Pierre Desir to remain the starter at the other cornerback spot, while rookie Nate Hairston remains firm as the nickel cornerback.5. Mike Check
Another key replacement to watch on Sunday for the Colts is at center, where the team's starter, 2016 first-round pick Ryan Kelly, will be unable to play due to a concussion suffered in the first half of last week's game against Tennessee. While Kelly missed practice all this week, and continued to experience concussion symptoms at least through Wednesday, according to Pagano, the team will turn to seventh-year veteran Mike Person to fill in as the anchor of the team's offensive line. Person has plenty of experience — he's started 14 games and played in 38 total contests since entering the league in 2011 — but Sunday's game will be his first start since the 2015 season, and he'll be facing the league's No. 1-ranked defense and its aforementioned ability to get to the quarterback. "It's time for him to step up," Chudzinski said of Person on Thursday. "He's been here, joined us during the season and again, he's one of the guys like I'm talking about. It means a lot to him. I know he's going to give everything he has in this game. The challenge is there, regardless."6. #MyCauseMyCleats
Sunday's game will be the Colts' opportunity to take part in the NFL's "My Cause My Cleats" initiative, in which players are given the opportunity to showcase the causes that are important to them with the cleats on their feet. From awareness for brain, lung and breast cancer, to adoption and orphan care, to many other causes in-between, the Colts are certainly doing it right on Sunday. Here's a look at many of the Colts-related footwear you'll see on Sunday:
"My Cause My Cleats!" A first look at the custom cleats that the Colts will wear this weekend in Jacksonville.
7. Milestone Watch
Here are a few milestones to keep an eye on Sunday, courtesy of Colts PR:
• Quarterback Jacoby Brissett needs one touchdown pass of 60-plus yards to tie John Unitas (five in 1960) for the most such games in a single season in franchise history.
• Tight end Jack Doyle needs one reception to set a new single-season career high in receptions (60), which would rank as the fourth-most among a tight end in Colts history. He needs eight receptions to tie Jacob Tamme (67) for the third-most receptions by a tight end in a single season in Colts history.
• Running back Frank Gore needs one 100-yard rushing performance to tie O.J. Simpson (42) for the 16th-most in NFL history; he needs one rushing touchdown to tie Ricky Watters (78) for 21st on the NFL's all-time list; he needs 27 rushing yards to pass Jerome Bettis (13,662) for sixth on the NFL's all-time rushing list; and needs 49 rushing yards to pass LaDainian Tomlinson (13,684) for fifth on the all-time list.
• Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton needs one reception to tie Raymond Berry (44) for the ninth-most games with a reception in franchise history; he needs two receiving touchdowns to tie Marcus Pollard (35) for the ninth-most in Colts history; and with one 150-plus-yard receiving game he will tie Marvin Harrison (11) for the most such games in franchise history.
• Kicker Adam Vinatieri, with one field goal from 30-39 yards, would tie John Carney (165) for the fourth-most made field goals from that distance in NFL history; if Vinatieri connects on one field goal from 50-plus yards, he'll tie Jason Elam and Phil Dawson (39) for the sixth-most made field goals from that distance.