Colts vs. Jaguars: 10 Keys to the Game for Indianapolis

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIINovember 6, 2012

Colts vs. Jaguars: 10 Keys to the Game for Indianapolis

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    The Indianapolis Colts will try and make up for the 22-17 upset loss at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. The loss is the only defeat for the Colts at home this season as they've gone on to win four of the last five games since that disappointment including being winner's of the last three games.

    The Jaguars on the other hand are going the wrong way. They haven't won since that upset victory in Indianapolis and will look to sweep the Colts for the second season in a row.

    Both teams are in headed in different directions as the Colts in a rebuild mode are in the hunt for the playoffs while the Jaguars who should be coming out of the rebuilding mode and going in the direction for the worst record in the NFL and heading straight for the No. 1 draft pick next April.

    The world will see the game as it's the national TV game this week on Thursday night. These are the top 10 keys for the Colts to win the game.

Get an Early Lead

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    The Colts need to come out firing early. The Jaguars are down and the Colts need to capitalize. I've always said don't let a team worse than you hang around as it will only give it hope that it can beat you. If you bury the opponent early, you can cruise to a victory in the end.

    That's exactly what the Colts need to do on Thursday night.

    Indianapolis jumped out to a 14-3 lead at the half in Week 3 and need to do the same, if not score a little more. If the Colts can score on one or both of their first two possessions, they will win this football game. The Jaguars are down and looking for ways to lose. Nothing is more demoralizing that getting behind early on national TV when you've only won one game this season.

    The Jaguars are a bad football team, and it's crucial the Colts jump out to a lead early.

Get the Crowd out of the Game

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    This ties into my first slide as the Colts need to get the crowd out of the game early. It sounds weird talking about getting a Jaguars crowd out of the game early as their fanbase is dwindling down to nothing. They've failed to sell out a game in forever and have been rumored the last several seasons to be moving.

    The fans are in dismay down there as they don't trust the GM, coach or any of the players on this team. But, the hype will be around before the game as they get to play against an AFC South divisional opponent and see Andrew Luck for the first time. They also are on primetime in an NFL Network game and have their lone win against the Colts this season.

    They think they have a chance in this one.

    Like I stated in the first slide, nothing is more demoralizing than beating those expectations from your opposition and their fans early in the game. A touchdown early and jumping out to a two-possession lead in the first quarter silences the fans.

    They may expect to win, but in the back of their minds they know what can really happen. It's imperative the Colts exploit that and get out early to silence the crowd.

    That's the best recipe for a road victory on national TV in primetime. If you allow the crowd hope, then the team thinks it has hope. There's a reason there's so many upset wins in night games. Eliminate that factor early.

Don't Play to Not Lose the Game

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    The Colts had the game won in Week 3 against the Jags. They were up 14-3 and did everything right in the first half. It looked like the Jaguars didn't belong on the same field as them. Even with a Maurice Jones-Drew touchdown on their first possession of the second half, the feel was still the Colts would come out victorious.

    It wasn't until the lucky Cecil Shorts touchdown that gave the Jaguars the late lead and deciding score did the feel of a guaranteed win turn to dismay and anger. That can't happen Thursday night.

    Just seal it off when you have the chance and cruise to a win. Don't let it come down to a lucky pass play in the end.

    The Colts, though, are further along than they were then. At that point of the season, all they could do is play to not lose. It almost lost the game for them the week prior and came back to bite them against Jacksonville. Since, they've learned from those mistakes and kept the accelerator down in the second half.

    If they're going to win on Thursday night, it's time to keep the accelerator down and blow out the lower Jags team.

Don't Turn the Ball over

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    It's a common theme in the NFL these days. The teams that turn the ball over the most always lose. The Colts are young and playing in their first game on the big stage. Nerves surely will be high. That's usually when mistakes are made.

    Indianapolis can't afford mistakes and allow Jacksonville to stay in the game. The Jags had no hope in the game earlier this year until Luck threw a bad interception in the second half. That was the lone turnover of the game and look at what the result was.

    The Colts need to take care of the football.

Control Their Emotions

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    I briefly touched on this in the previous slide, but many of the Colts players have never played in front of a national audience as the only game on TV that day in their NFL careers. Factor in a divisional game with a victory putting the Colts in a good spot for the playoffs, and emotions and the pressure is high.

    With so many younger guys on this team, they may not know how to react. Their emotions are going to be high on Thursday night. That can come back to hurt them. They need to keep their emotions in check and just do their jobs. If they can do that, they will win.

Learn from Tennessee Game

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    The Colts earned their first road win in almost two years a few weeks ago at division opponent Tennessee. They were handed the game on a silver platter by the Titans, but they weren't wanting to take it. Tennessee committed three offensive pass interference penalties, missed a FG, committed so many ill-timed penalties and was trying to give the game away.

    Indianapolis had every opportunity to take it, but failed to until the end. If that was a better football team, it would have lost. They can't do that again.

    You allow a bad football team to hang around in a nationally televised game, and it's going to take the opportunity first despite its own mistakes. The Colts saw that and hopefully learned from it to take any opportunity of a win and capitalize.

Capitalize on MJD Being Inactive

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    For some reason, the Colts always fail to stop the run when they play Jacksonville. Maurice Jones-Drew always has career games on them. He had 177 yards in Week 3 against the Colts and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. That's usually a familiar stat line for him against the Colts.

    Luckily for the Colts, Jones-Drew won't be available to play. He suffered a foot injury a few weeks ago and has been seen wearing a boot. No one expects him back on a short week for Thursday night.

    That means the Jaguars will be without their best player and will have to rely on Rashad Jennings. This is big-time good news for the Colts. They're fortunate enough to not have to face the guy that always kills them. Timing is a huge factor and the Colts need to capitalize.

Get a Good Pass Rush

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    Blaine Gabbert is perhaps the worst quarterback in the NFL. He's very inaccurate and doesn't know how to win games. The lone win this season wasn't the doing by Gabbert rather than a costly mistake by the Colts secondary. He just threw to an open receiver so stop short of praising him for that victory.

    This season, Gabbert ranks among the worst in the league, and in the win over the Colts in September, he only completed 10 passes. Yes, that's right, 10 completions. He also only threw for 155 yards and 80 of those came on the last play. No need to reach for your reading glasses, you're reading this correctly. Prior to the last play, Gabbert was 9-of-20 passing with 75 yards for the game.

    How does an NFL quarterback only complete nine passes and throw for 75 yards for every play combined but one? Gabbert was way off on his passes all day too. He threw high, he threw low, he threw to areas no one was at.

    Now, Gabbert is banged up and is worse than he was then. The Colts need to establish a pass rush and force him to throw quickly. He's flat out terrible and the Colts need to exploit that.

Establish a Run Attack

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    The recipe for a road win is don't turn the ball over, take the crowd out of the game and establish a run game. The Colts did this against the Titans a few weeks ago and came out victorious. This needs to be done on Thursday.

    Indianapolis had 124 yards on 29 attempts in Week 3 against Jacksonville. It had nearly 200 yards at Tennessee a few weeks ago. The Colts need over 100 yards again on Thursday night. If they can do that they will win.

    The Colts backs are getting  healthy and have some of the best depth at that position in all the NFL. They can keep fresh legs out there at all times and exploit the Jaguars' inability to stop the run. The run game allows Luck more time to throw as teams will have to respect the ground attack. That frees up the passing game and keeps Luck up.

    By establishing the run against the Titans, the Colts ran nearly all play-action passes in the second half. They were successful because of that. Doing this again will lead to a win.

Take Advantage of the Short Week

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    The Jaguars are banged up. Their star running back is out, their quarterback is no where near healthy and many of their other position guys are hurt as well. The Colts, on the other hand, are getting back to full strength at the right time, and with a short week, that means there's no time for the Jaguars to heal.

    Also, the Jaguars only have one practice day to prepare for the Colts, and that could be the biggest factor in a Colts win of any of these. This Colts team is nowhere near where it was in Week 3. If Jacksonville tries the same game plan as then or only watches film from that game, it will lose by three possessions at least.

    With a short week, health and preparation are tough to overcome. The Colts have more talent and that's what usually rises to the top on short weeks.