The Indianapolis Colts are not accustomed to finishing last in the AFC South.
As they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Indianapolis, they know that a Week 3 win could go a long way to ensuring that it doesn't happen in 2012.
With the Jaguars under immense pressure to win, the Colts get a good test for a young team. They are going to have to learn how to beat a team whose back is against the proverbial wall, and right now the Jags couldn't get any closer to the wall if they were paint.
Here's what Indianapolis has to do if they want to enter their bye week on a win streak.
Ditch the Run
Despite the return of some healthy players to the offensive line this week, the Colts don't have the right makeup to run effectively. They are only even trying because of a misguided notion that run-pass balance should be close to 50-50, despite the fact that it's clearly suboptimal.
Andrew Luck is the best player on the Colts, and they should be letting him throw the ball 40 times a game, even when ahead.
There are more than enough ways to vary looks and alternate types of throws that can put a defense offense balance without mindlessly handing off every other down.
Go No Huddle
When things get chaotic, Luck takes advantage.
The Colts want to cause as much confusion in the defense as possible, but they have so many young players on offense, they may not be able to go no-huddle as often as they like.
Luck's development isn't stopping the Colts from going full no-huddle. It's the rest of the young receivers and linemen that aren't quite ready for it.
Indy ought to move to a hurry-up sooner rather than later, but if they can't do it against Jacksonville, they'll need to spend the bye week preparing to switch full time.
Spread out the Jaguars
With starting corner Derek Cox hobbled, the Jaguars have not gotten the kind of play they expected out of Aaron Ross. Even if Cox returns for this game, Indianapolis should keep as many targets in the pattern as possible.
With the pending return of Austin Collie and the shocking growth of Donnie Avery, the Colts may be able to challenge teams in a three-wide set. Avery has a long way to go to prove he's more than a one-hit wonder, but the Jaguars are the perfect team to test.
The Jaguars' defensive line has put little pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so sending more men out into the pattern against them shouldn't result in unnecessary hits to Luck.
If Joe Reitz can prove an upgrade from Seth Olson at guard, Luck should be able to spare a blocker in favor of an extra option in the passing game.
Stack the Box
Indianapolis can't let Maurice Jones-Drew dominate the game.
The Jaguars' offense isn't complicated right now. It mostly consists of runs and and short throws.
The Colts' linebackers have played well early, but they'll need help against one of the best runners in football.
If Blaine Gabbert throws for 350 yards and three scores and the Jaguars win, Indy can live it. If Jones-Drew rips off five yards a carry and 150 yards, they'll wonder how they let it happen.
Press Justin Blackmon
The Jaguars have two weapons in the passing game. Laurent Robinson is a threat to go deep, but even with one safety up against the run, there's another to help on him.
The Colts need to press Blackmon and be physical with him. Jacksonville's best hope for a quick score is Blackmon breaking tackles and turning a 5-yard slant into a 75-yard touchdown.
As illustrated in the link above, Houston mixed coverages on Blackmon, throwing a lot of looks. That made life difficult on both him and Gabbert.
Blackmon still has to prove he can beat NFL man coverage. Jerraud Powers and Vontae Davis need to force him to show he has it in him.
Indianapolis and Jacksonville are two evenly-matched teams with opposite strengths. The Jaguars are a better running team, and the Colts are the better passing team.
Given that Indy's playing at home, it's natural to favor them in this game. If it were in Jacksonville, the script would be flipped.
Look for the Colts to put up touchdowns and the Jaguars to put up field goals in a game that should be close, but dictated by Indianapolis.
They'll dare Gabbert to beat them, and he'll have to prove he can.
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