Good news Colts fans regarding running back Donald Brown.
UPDATE, 12:30 p.m. ET
That said, it's still hard to imagine Brown will receive the lead number of carries. Vick Ballard has proven to be a reliable back when needed, and the rookie is capable of moving the ball against a weak Jacksonville Jaguars defense.
If anything, Brown contributing on third down would be the most logical. With a rather tough schedule from Week 11 onward, the veteran must be fully healthy if the Colts are to make a postseason run.
Original Update, 10:30 a.m. ET
It would be extremely surprising if Donald Brown played on Thursday night for the Indianapolis Colts.
After all, according to the team's official website, Brown hasn't practiced during the short week and is listed as questionable.
Considering that Indy's Week 10 matchup is a divisional road game at the 1-7 Jacksonville Jaguars, Brown's potential absence won't play much of a factor. Jacksonville presents one of the NFL's worst defenses, and the Colts have a stud rookie in Vick Ballard anyway.
With so many other offensive weapons, Indianapolis will be fine. Not to mention the defense can be expected to shut down the Jags' weak offense.
Here, we simply look at how each team will adjust if Brown doesn't suit up.
How the Colts Can Adjust
The idea of a two-back system certainly works in keeping a defense honest as well as play-calling dynamics. Still, the Colts ride a three-game winning streak, and Brown's overall impact during that stretch—even when playing—hasn't been immense.
That said, for Thursday's game, it's simply a matter of feeding Ballard downhill. First, though, it's not a bad idea to come out firing with Andrew Luck. Jacksonville doesn't have a pass rush capable of getting constant pressure, so attacking early to put the Jags on their heels is an advantage.
Jacksonville's offense lacks explosiveness to match pace, and using the pass to set up the run assists Ballard on the ground. Linebackers become more concerned with a pass, and the rookie ball-carrier doesn't face a stacked box.
And although Luck is also a rookie, the Colts must rely on the No. 1 overall pick because the guy is performing better than a newbie.
What to Expect From the Jaguars
Regardless of who lines up in the Colts backfield, the Jaguars must blitz early and often for any chance of winning. And the potential absence of Brown must give Jacksonville even more reason to send extra defenders.
One area where the Jags can somewhat match Indianapolis is in the secondary. Guys like Rashean Mathis (if he plays), Aaron Ross and Dawan Landry are solid coverage players. Still, because Jacksonville's front has managed only eight sacks this season, the pass defense isn't getting any help.
Regardless of how elite or not coverage defenders may be, the lack of a consistent pass rush will seep into the secondary and create a vulnerable defense. So to help the coverage and assist the defensive line, Jacksonville has to blitz all game long.
It's the best way to fluster a young quarterback and take advantage of a rookie running back as well.
Schedule Looking Forward
Because of what Indy has left on the schedule after Jacksonville, the Colts will need Brown more later on than right now.
The Bills, Titans and Chiefs are the surest of victories, whereas Houston and New England will be the toughest. To make a playoff push, being fully loaded in the backfield is crucial to remain balanced and keep the pressure off Luck.
The AFC is still wide open as far as the wild-card spots, and the division is still within reach because the Texans matchups aren't until the final weeks. Believe it or not, the Colts are in the midst of a historic turnaround and are alive for January.
Being in this position, having their veteran back completely healthy is required to make a playoff push.
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