If there was ever a more important Week One game for the Jacksonville Jaguars it would have to be very, very big. A win for the Jaguars could do one of many things. It could boost ticket sales, earn them some respect, and increase the morale and confidence of the team.
A win might even trigger a early season push at a playoff berth.
Maybe its too much to expect from a team that went 5-11 last year. In fact, as you look at AFC discussions around many web pages it seems like the Jaguars are considered the only team not to have a chance at winning the division.
The Week One matchup against the Colts should either confirm that belief or hopefully invalidate it.
Here are the position battles to watch for come Sunday:
David Garrard vs. Colts Secondary
David Garrard is coming off a mediocre at best season last year in which he threw 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. Note however, that his O-line and wide receiver corps have become much improved. Garrard even claimed that this is the best wide receiving core hes ever had. However, from what Colts fans have claimed, the secondary has improved in Indy even with the loss of Bob Sanders.
MJD (and a bit of Rashad Jennings) vs. Colts Defense
MJD may be coming off an injury but it is a shin contusion or a fancy way of saying a bruised leg. I guarantee that MJD will play, considering that at the least hell be juiced up with painkillers for the game. None the less, Rashad Jennings may pick up an increased role for the Jaguars against the Colts. He may be the perfect back to beat the Indianapolis Colts, considering he is a bruiser back and could go right up the heart of the Colts defense, which without Bob Sanders is not a very big heart. Expect Greg Jones to have a big game as well. The Colts have new DTs playing and Bob Sanders out spells disaster for the Colts run defense.
Jags WR vs. Colts Secondary
The Colts are not used to seeing these Jaguars wide receivers out to play. In fact they are much more used to guarding tall slow towers. Now they'll be covering speedy talented receivers like Torry Holt. The difference may give the Jaguars a slight edge in this matchup.
Jags O-Line vs. Colts D-Line
On the outside, Eugene Monroe will get the pleasure of blocking Dwight Freeney and Eben Britton will enjoy Robert Mathis fully. However, on the inside it will be the opposite relationship, as a combo of Mo Williams, Brad Meester, and Vince Mauniwia should dominate the inside front of the Colts.
Special Teams vs Special Teams
The Jaguars have shown lapses in there special teams coverage throughout the preseason and have the Colts' old special teams coordinator. The Colts should have a slight edge over the Jaguars in this aspect. In terms of kickers Josh Scobee has been perfect in the preseason, but opposite him is one of the best in Adam Vinateri.
Peyton Manning vs. Jaguars Secondary
Although the secondary is improved, it will be Derek Cox's first game for the Jaguars with the starting string. Look for the Colts to attack him early and offen, unless of course he comes up with a INT early. The whole question is, is Derek better the Brian Williams? I think the answer is yes, however, Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning.
Colts Running Game vs. Jaguars Defense
The Jags defense has looked dominate against the run so far in the preseason, besides maybe the Bucs game. After taking on Ronnie and Ricky and LeShaun McCoy, Joesph Addai and Donald Brown should be nothing that the Jags cannot handle.
Colts WR vs. Jaguars Secondary
Maybe when Derek Cox develops into a top corner we could call this matchup even. But for now Cox is simply a rookie. Reggie Wayne and Rashean Mathis are about even, however Anthony Gonzales is not as good as Marvin and should not be a huge problem, but the one player that may really hurt the Jags is Dallas Clark.
Colts O-Line vs Jaguars D-Line
The Jaguars defensive line has seemed to improve this fall, as Henderson is playing much better and Harvey has been seemingly everywhere during the preseason (besides sacking the QB). The Colts have a pair of two young new tackles, much like the Jags, so it would be nice to see some pressure on Peyton Manning.
PREDICTABILITY FACTOR: (How easy is the game to predict: 10 being easiest to 1 being toughest)
The Jaguars and Colts have traditionally been an unpredictable series no matter what the records of the two teams indicate. There have been times in which both teams have unexpectedly dominated, but there have been much more times in which the game comes down to the final drive, as did both games last year. The game is too close to call.
The Jaguars take an early 7-3 lead but then fall behind 17-10 in the third quarter. However, late in the third and early fourth, MJD takes over and rushes for 87 yards in the 2nd half to finish with 123 on the day. The Jaguars have a 24-17 lead on a late Garrard bootleg to Mercedes Lewis in the end zone. However, Peyton Manning goes for a late touchdown drive to tie the game. The game goes into overtime and on 3rd and 1 Garrard runs a play action fake and hits Troy Williamson for a 40 yard bomb to the 15 yard line. The Jaguars kick a field goal and win the game in overtime 27-24 in OT.
Peyton Manning: 15-32 234 yards, 2 TDs
Joesph Addai: 15 carries 50 yards 1 TD
Reggie Wayne: 6 catches 87 yards, 1 TD
David Garrard: 15-20, 142 yards, 1 TD
MJD: 23 carries, 123 yards 1 TD
Greg Jones: 5 carries, 23 yards 1 TD
Troy Williamson: 5 catches 98 yards