The 1-7 Jaguars will have their work cut out for them when they host a divisional matchup against the Indianapolis Colts Thursday night.
There is no shortage of drama for a resurgent Colts team that was just 2-14 in 2011.
They own a surprising 5-3 record and control the last playoff seed in the AFC; their rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck, has played up to his No. 1 overall draft pick status already this season and there is plenty of emotion after head coach Chuck Pagano returned to the locker room a week ago, following their victory over Miami.
That could all end against Jacksonville.
On the road in Green Bay, Gabbert threw for a season-high 303 yards and a touchdown and parlayed that into a Week 9 loss to Detroit where he completed 71.1 percent of his passes and threw for two scores.
Gabbert faces a more challenging defense this week against Indianapolis—ranked 11th in passing defense. Nonetheless, the Colts surrendered 281 yards through the air against Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins in Week 9.
Gabbert will have to do the same in Week 10. One reason for Gabbert’s increased yardage as well as increased pass attempts these past weeks is likely due to the injury to Maurice Jones-Drew.
Filling in for Jones-Drew is Rashad Jennings, who will be making his third start in as many weeks. Although it seemed that Jennings might be a seamless transition from Jones-Drew, he has yet to surpass 60 yards in a game this season.
In actuality, his best contributions have come from his hands out of the backfield, where he has two games with over 50 yards receiving. However, against the Colts’ 25th-ranked rush defense, Jennings should see some better action on the ground, or else he must use his catching ability as best he can.
In their Week 3 meeting—Jacksonville’s only victory this season—Maurice Jones-Drew led the way with 177 yards on the ground and a touchdown. If Jennings can break out this week and even shadow that production, the Jaguars could be on pace for a victory.
Fortunately for Jacksonville fans, both the Jaguars and Colts will match weaknesses. Jacksonville’s 27th-ranked rush defense will face off against Donald Brown and the 19th-ranked Colts rush attack.
This is where the Jags must make Indy one-dimensional.
Andrew Luck will succeed on Thursday night—there is little question about that—but if Jacksonville can manage or limit Luck’s production, at least on the scoreboard, they can put themselves within striking distance.
It is a tall order, but not out of the question. The Jaguar defense has fought hard against Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford the past two weeks and will look to improve on that at home against Luck this week.