INDIANAPOLIS – In a season of firsts for many Colts, they are facing another one in the final week of the year.
For guys like Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton, they've never suited up in an NFL game like the one they will this Sunday.
When Luck and Hilton run out of the southwest tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon they will be playing for themselves.
Personal pride. Team pride. The joy to win.
Not the playoffs. Not the ultimate goal. Not the chance to play meaningful football in January.
Those aspirations are gone for the 7-8 Colts.
Let rookie center Ryan Kelly, another player unknown to playing games with little at stake in January, explain the motivation for Sunday.
"If you take pride in your work, if you take pride in your name, you know when people turn on that film, this is the NFL and everybody can watch that film, are you going to be proud of what you showed even when the times were tough and there wasn't much to play for?" Kelly says, speaking like a 10-year vet.
"That's the moral check every guy has do for himself."
If the Colts need any extra get up for their season finale, they don't need to look back too far.
The Jaguars have beaten the Colts the last two times these teams have met. Those losses (one this past October and the other last December) were pivotal in the Colts missing the playoffs the past two years.
Chuck Pagano knows the success the Jaguars have had over his football team.
"You look at their last 21 games and they are 2-0 against us and 2-17 against the rest of the league," Pagano says.
"So they have had our number."
Whether it's revenge or pride, Pagano has kept it rather simple for his team in the final week of the season.
"Finish," Pagano says of the message to his team this week.
"Finish the right way. We are all professionals. We have a game to go win. Finish."**
INTERESTING MATCHUPSColts running back Frank Gore versus the Jaguars run defense: **Don't forget that the Jaguars have the 4th ranked defense. It's a group that will try and keep Frank Gore short of reaching 1,000 yards for the season this weekend. Gore needs just 37 yards, a number he's gotten in every single game Andrew Luck has started this season.
Jaguars wide receivers versus the Colts secondary: There have been more lows than highs for the Jaguars offense in 2016. The passing game came to life though in last week's 38-17 win over the Titans. The Colts have had to patchwork their secondary together a lot this season. That's going to be the case again this weekend with starting cornerback Rashaan Melvin and starting safety Darius Butler missing practice time in Week 17.
- T.Y. Hilton is the NFL's leading receiver at 1,353 yards through 16 weeks.
- For the first time in Andrew Luck's career, he has not been sacked in two straight games.
- Frank Gore is 37 yards away from becoming the Colts' first 1,000-yard rusher since 2007 (Joseph Addai).
- The Jaguars are 2-0 over the Colts in their last 21 games. They are 2-17 against the rest of the NFL.
- If the Jaguars win on Sunday, they will sweep the Colts for just the second time in franchise history (2011 was the other year).
- Jaguars rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey has nine pass deflections in his past two games.
NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on what it would mean to get a win on Sunday and finish 8-8):
"It would mean everything. You can say it doesn't mean anything, but it means everything for our fans, for this organization, pride, respect. It means a ton. We need to go play well and we need to find a way to win a game and get to 8-8 and end on a winning note and go into the offseason on a high note. Guarantee it's much better than the alternative."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the career of Robert Mathis):
"He is a selfless guy and a heck of an athlete and all that stuff. He has been instrumental obviously. I am forever grateful for Robert (Mathis) taking a leap of faith back in 2012 when we came in here and talked about the position change and what he had been doing for a long, long time in a 4-3 defense and then moving to an outside linebacker. He could've went another direction and because of the man that he is and the love that he has for this organization and the love that he has for this city and his team, he decided to ride that thing out and took a leap of faith and we wouldn't be sitting where we are today and had the success that we have had over the last five years without that guy. It's a debt I cannot repay and I have the utmost respect for him, not only as a football player, but as a man, father, husband and a human being. All that he does inside this building and all that he does outside this building for the community, he is a warrior, they don't make them like that. I wish they all had his drive and his passion, his love for the game and his toughness and durability, coachability, tenacity, resolve and everything. He is a guy that nothing was given to him, he earned his way into this league and he has never taken it for granted, not one day. He never let any of the success or fame or money or this, that and the other ever get to him. He has been the same guy for 14 seasons. He looks at it as a privilege and not a right. So many times you find it the other way. I wish they all got it and figured it out like he figured it out and came with that gratitude every single day. I guarantee he has walked in this building every single day for 14 years and walked into that locker room and looked up and saw his nameplate still up there and a jersey number still up there and said, 'I'm going to die before I let somebody take this from me.'"
Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck
(on the weird feeling of playing a game without any playoff implications):
"Yeah, it is weird and it doesn't feel good. At the same time, I thought about it earlier this week. What's the motivation to play? For me, it's I love football. Another chance to get to do what you love with your buddies, with your teammates, with your friends. That's still special so still go out and play."
Jaguars Interim Head Coach Doug Marrone
(on the differences in the Colts since they last met in Week Four):
"I think they're doing it in all three phases. I think it's hard to find a phase where I haven't seen improvement from at least what we're preparing to go against. I think that some of the key players have really stepped up. Any time you lose a good player like D'Qwell Jackson, who's an excellent football player. Antonio Morrison has come on. I really think he's a really good, young football player along with obviously a lot of the guys on that defense and I think the offensive line is coming together. They're doing a better job in protection. So we have a great challenge ahead of us on Sunday.
Jaguars Interim Head Coach Doug Marrone(on the meaning of a Week 17 game):
"I think everyone plays for the same thing. Everyone is competitive in this league. You have professional players that are going out there. They're professional players, we're professional coaches. There's always a lot on the line for us when we take that field. There are a lot of clichés, 'Hey, we want to build on something, we want to do this and we want to do that,' and that's all true. I'm not going to say that they're not correct. But I think it's more important to make sure that the competitiveness in all of us that when we go out on that field, as long as there's a scoreboard, everyone is going to be looking to come on top of the scoreboard."
Jaguars Quarterback Blake Bortles(on the difficulty of last week with Gus Bradley getting fired):
"Obviously, a tough situation for everybody on the team, really everybody in the building. Gus (Bradley) was an unbelievable guy. I don't think anybody has a bad thing to say about him or ever did. For him to get fired like that was obviously tough. It was a difficult situation and I think Doug Marrone has done a really good job. He stepped in in a difficult place for himself and did a really good job of kind of just announcing to the team and making sure that everybody knows that this is Gus' team. Gus has brought everybody here for some reason or another and it is on everybody's shoulders collectively as to why he is no longer the head coach as well. I think that was made clear and then he did a good job of laying out the plan for the week and what we needed to do going into last week in order to win. So that was made clear from day one and I think the guys responded well and did a good job."