Ultimate Colts Pregame Primer: Week 17 vs. Jaguars
Well, this is it. After Sunday, both the Colts and Jaguars can be put out of their misery and they can focus their full attention on the offseason. The Jaguars have already relieved head coach Gus Bradley of his duties and have begun interviewing other candidates. Meanwhile, the storyline for the Colts will be all about any potential changes coming to the front office and coaching staff, especially if they lose to Jacksonville on Sunday, which would be their third consecutive loss to the division basement-dwellers.
This game may have zero playoff implications and neither team has anything to play for, but these two teams seem to have some sort of ill will towards each other, no matter how subtle. But, that is to be expected in a division rivalry where one team went from the long-time embarrasser to the embarrassee in just a year (just made those words up; you're welcome, Merriam-Webster). It is one of the least-sexy matchups of the NFL Week 17 slate, but it might actually be pretty entertaining.
- Indianapolis Colts (7-8) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12)
- Sunday, January 1, 1:00 pm EST
- Indianapolis, IN, Lucas Oil Stadium
- TV: CBS (Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots)
- To find out which games will be on TV all Sunday in your area, check here!
- Radio: WFNI 93.5 FM/1070 AM "1070 The Fan", WLHK 97.1 FM "HANK FM" (Bob Lamey, Jim Sorgi, Matt Taylor)
Here are the main points I will be looking for on Sunday:
- Protect the pass, rush the passer – A couple of things that the Colts have struggled with over the past few years have been not only protecting their own quarterback but getting to the opponents' as well. This week, it is especially pertinent to victory because the Jaguars have very talented pass rushers and cornerbacks, but their quarterback, Blake Bortles, is awful when flustered. If the Colts can continue keeping Andrew Luck on his feet (haven't allowed a sack in the last two weeks), he can do damage to Jacksonville's defense, but the Colts' chances of winning rise exponentially if they can stay in Bortles' face and force him into mistakes.
- Take advantage of Bortles' issues – For his career, Bortles averages 1.4 turnovers and is sacked 3.1 times per game. The Colts did sack Bortles three times back in October, but he had zero turnovers. That needs to change this week, especially since the Colts have some sort of groove lately on defense, forcing seven turnovers in the last four weeks.
- Last dance with Chucky P.? – The elephant in the room for the Colts is the future of head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson. After three consecutive 11-5 seasons with subsequent playoff berths to start their reign in Indianapolis, the pair has had their part in the team falling to a 15-16 record over the last two seasons. Their awkward alleged feud last year cast a dark shadow over the season, but the injuries to Luck essentially excused the down year that the Colts had. It was assumed that with fences "mended" between Pagano and Grigson, plus Luck's healthy return, the Colts would get back to the top of the AFC South and back into the playoffs in 2016. Nope. The Colts have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot and are plagued with the same exact on-field issues that have haunted them for the past several seasons. Owner Jim Irsay gives off the impression of having zero tolerance for anything less than success for this team. Can he see what everybody else seems to see, and will it result in the release of "Grigano" following Week 17's game?
Colts Injury Report
- QUESTIONABLE – OLB Chris Carter (shoulder), CB Rashaan Melvin (knee)
- DOUBTFUL – WR Donte Moncrief (shoulder)
- OUT – DB Darius Butler (concussion)
Jaguars Injury Report
- QUESTIONABLE – RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), WR Marqise Lee (hip), TE Neal Sterling (concussion)
- DOUBTFUL – WR Allen Hurns (hamstring)
- OUT – DT Jordan Hill (calf)
- Colts WR TY Hilton vs. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey – Hilton had a modest game in October's matchup (7 catches for 42 yards and 1 touchdown), but Ramsey was not the player then that he already is now. He was a rookie playing in just his fourth game, but he has already begun developing into a playmaking, shutdown corner. He seems to be getting better every week, and he has stuffed the stat sheet the last two weeks, totaling 8 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 9 pass breakups, 2 interceptions and 1 touchdown. Hilton has also heated up as of late, racking up three 100-yard games in the last four weeks and taking over the NFL lead in receiving yards (1,353). He is having a career year, having set personal single-season highs in catches (85), targets (144) and yards, plus he is one touchdown away from tying a career high (7) and three first downs away from a new career-high (63).
- Colts OT's Anthony Castonzo/LeRaven Clark vs. Jaguars DE's Dante Fowler Jr./Yannick Ngakoue – In October, the young Jaguars duo of Fowler and Ngakoue terrorized Luck and his protection. Their effectiveness can be seen more in the film than on the stat sheet, but they did combine for 6 tackles (2.0 for loss), 1.0 sack, 2 QB hits, 2 pass breakups and 1 interception. The Colts' protection has been better lately, including Castonzo and Clark on the edges. With the Colts at home this time around, will they fare better?
- (Enclosed stadium). Outside: Mostly cloudy skies, 40% chance of rain | Temperature in low 40's | Wind 10mph from ESE
- On Friday, OLB Robert Mathis announced that Sunday will be his final game, as he is retiring. The 14-year vet is the franchise's all-time sack leader (122.0), and he ranks 18th in NFL history. He is a six-time Pro-Bowler and one-time All-Pro.
- At halftime, former general manager Bill Polian will become the 13th member inducted into the Colts' Ring of Honor. The 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee was in Indianapolis from 1998-2011, and the Colts won eight division championships and two conference championships, reaching the Super Bowl twice. The Colts won their first Super Bowl while in Indianapolis against the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Polian was named The Sporting News "Executive of the Year" twice with the Colts (1999, 2009).
- Luck needs one 300-yard passing game to tie Johnny Unitas (26) for the second-most in team history. Luck needs one rushing touchdown to pass Bert Jones (14) for second in team history for a QB. Luck needs 11 pass completions to pass Andy Dalton (1,556) for fifth-most in a player's first five seasons, 201 passing yards to pass Matt Ryan (18,957) for the third-most in a player's first five seasons and one win to tie Donovan McNabb (43) for the 10th-most wins in a starting quarterback's first five seasons in NFL history.
- RB Frank Gore needs 37 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season (Elias Sports Bureau took a yard away from his Week 16 performance), the first for a Colts running back since 2007. With another 1,000-yard season, Gore would be the first running back 33 years or older to reach that feat since 1984 and only the fourth to ever do it at that age. Gore would also join Emmitt Smith (11), Curtis Martin (10), Walter Payton (10) and Barry Sanders (10) as the only players to rush for 1,000 yards in at least nine seasons. Gore needs one carry to pass Franco Harris (2,949) for 10th in NFL history. Gore needs two rushing touchdowns to pass Clinton Portis (75) for 23rd and three to pass Pete Johnson (76) for 22nd in NFL history. Gore needs 116 yards from scrimmage to pass Thurman Thomas (16,532) for ninth in NFL history. Gore needs one 100-yard rushing game to tie O.J. Simpson (42) for 16th in NFL history.
Hilton would become the first Colt to lead the league in receiving yards since 2007 (Reggie Wayne) if he maintains his lead. Hilton needs one 100-yard receiving game to pass Raymond Berry (6) fourth-most 100-yard receiving games in team history for a single season, which would also be a new career-high for Hilton. Another 100-yard receiving game would also tie Jerry Rice and Demaryius Thomas (25) for the sixth-most in a player's first five seasons in NFL history. Hilton needs 107 receiving yards to pass Calvin Johnson (5,872) for eighth-most in a player's first five seasons in NFL history. Hilton needs three receiving yards to pass Wayne (1,355) for seventh-most, 14 receiving yards to pass Marvin Harrison (1,366) for sixth-most and 61 receiving yards to pass Harrison (1,413) for fifth-most in team history for a single season.
- Mathis needs to play in one game to tie Justin Snow (192) for seventh in team history. Mathis needs 1.0 sack to pass Dwight Freeney (122.5) for 17th in NFL history.
- K Adam Vinatieri needs two converted field goals from 20-29 yards to pass Morten Andersen (176) for most in NFL history from that distance. Vinatieri needs two converted field goals from 50+ yards to pass Matt Prater (35) for eighth most in NFL history from that distance. Vinatieri needs one win (regular season) to pass Gary Anderson (201) for second in NFL history.
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