Well, it's finally here. Week 17 of the Jacksonville Jaguars season has arrived, and that means we get one more chance to watch this team take the field before 2014.
For Jaguars fans, it's been an up-and-down year. Despite their 4-11 record, with general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley at the helm, the Jaguars look like they are finally in capable hands.
As the rebuilding process continues, this team ends their season going up against the playoff bound Indianapolis Colts.
Unlike their last few opponents, defeating the Colts this week is going to be an astonishingly difficult task. So, how do the Jaguars walk into Lucas Oil Stadium and leave with their fifth win of the season? It's time to breakdown Jacksonville's game plan for beating Andrew Luck and the Colts in Week 17.
Find Donald Brown
When the Colts went out earlier this season and traded their 2014 first-round pick for former University of Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Twitter exploded with mixed emotions. But fast-forward 13 games later, and Richardson has struggled—averaging just three yards per carry.
As Richardson attempts to live up to his potential, Colts backup running back Donald Brown has quietly become the most productive option out of this backfield.
Rushing for 506 yards and five touchdowns on the season, finding a way to stop Brown has to be a top priority for the Jaguars in Week 17.
In the example above, you'll see the strengths of Brown as a runner.
Lined up in a shotgun formation, Brown is given the football on a delayed handoff.
Thanks to a creative blocking scheme and good vision, Brown is able to slip through the line of scrimmage undetected and maneuver his way into the second level.
Realizing that there's nothing but clear real estate sitting in front of him, Brown blows past two oncoming Kansas City defenders and caps off a spectacular 51-yard touchdown run.
For the Jaguars, stopping Brown isn't going to come easy. Giving up a generous 135.2 rushing yards per game this season, it's going to take a renewed sense of focus and discipline to make sure they keep their eyes on what's going on in Indianapolis' backfield.
Dipping into the intoxicating pool of advanced statistics, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Jacksonville defensive end Andre Branch is the only player on this defensive line who has generated a stellar grade for run defense on the year.
If he can continue to play well against the run and his teammates are able to feed off that, there's a sliver of hope that the Jaguars will be able to contain the impressive Brown.
As Bleacher Report's own Kyle J. Rodriguez pointed out back in early November, when the Colts can't successfully run the football, their offense really struggles.
That's why for Jacksonville, stopping Brown will be the key to slowing down Indianapolis' potent offensive attack.
The Power of Marcedes Lewis
Over the last four weeks, Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis has put together quite a run.
Hauling in 13 receptions for 172 yards and four touchdowns, Lewis has stepped up in the absence of wide receivers Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon.
The de facto "go-to guy" in the Jaguars' depleted passing attack, quarterback Chad Henne has developed a nice connection with the former UCLA Bruin since the start of December.
According to PFF (subscription required), in just 536 snaps this season, Lewis has managed to become the 21st-ranked tight end in the NFL.
If Jacksonville has a shot of putting up points on Indianapolis' 19th-ranked defense, they are going to have to get the 6'6" Lewis involved from the opening kickoff.
In the picture above, you'll see just how big of a nightmare Lewis can be to opposing defenses.
Lining up in the I-formation, Lewis is sent in motion across the field. Realizing that Tennessee Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers is shadowing him in coverage, Henne knows right away that Lewis has a huge advantage.
With zero safety help over the top and a cornerback nowhere near in sight, Henne is able to loft the football up and watch the massive Lewis comedown with an easy 30-yard reception.
When you've failed as a team to score more than 20 points in your last two games, it's going to be essential to get creative and feature your most productive offensive weapon in just about every passing situation.
|Opposing Tight Ends vs. Indianapolis Colts Defense|
|Week||Team||Yards Allowed||Touchdowns Allowed|
|16||Kansas City Chiefs||19||0|
After witnessing 16 games of Jaguars football, it's nice to know that this team is finally headed in the right direction.
Thanks to the strong leadership of head coach Gus Bradley and David Caldwell, it seems like the Jaguars finally have a chance to get back to their winning ways.
Amongst all of the Tim Tebow hysteria, Bradley has built a culture of hard-working guys who want to play hard and win football games. With free agency and the draft looming, it's not unrealistic to think that the misfortunes of the Jaguars could turn around a lot sooner than most people expect.
So this week, when you turn on the TV and watch Jacksonville's showdown with the Colts, look for glimpses of the future. From the speedy wide receiver Ace Sanders to the hard-hitting safety Johnathan Cyprien, Week 17 brings these young players one last chance to pull off the upset and take down their division rivals.
*All stats courtesy of NFL.com unless noted otherwise.