Dec. 9, 2009: Dec. 9, 2010: Peyton Manning throws a pass against the Titans in Tennessee. Manning will try to work his magic against the Jaguars.
Could this be the last hurrah for the Indianapolis Colts (7-6)? They’re in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in forever.
By beating Indy, the Jaguars could clinch the division. They’d have a two game lead with two games left in the season—and two victories over Indy.
2001 was the last time Indianapolis missed the playoffs. They’re one game behind Jacksonville in the AFC South. If the Colts win this game, then both teams will be (8-6) and tied for first place.
By the NFL’s tiebreaking system, Jacksonville holds the advantage. The second tiebreaker is the best record within the AFC South. If the Colts win, both teams will be 3-2 in the division.
The next tiebreakers are won-loss records against common opponents, conference records and strengths of victory. Against the team’s common opponents, and there are eight of them, Indy is 5-4 and Jacksonville is 4-5.
Their common opponents were Denver, San Diego, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston and the Giants. They both beat Denver and lost to San Diego and Philly. While Indy beat the Chiefs, the Jaguars lost to K.C.
The Cowboys beat the Colts, but they lost to Jacksonville. The Jags split two games with the Titans. Indy beat the Titans but split two games with the Texans. While the Jaguars lost to the Giants, the Colts beat them.
Like a small thing to a giant, Indy can still make the playoffs if they win out. It starts this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium at 1 p.m. EST against Jacksonville.
On Oct. 3 in their first meeting, Peyton Manning hit the Jags up for over 350 passing yards. Reggie Wayne had 196 yards receiving.
Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for over 100 yards, and David Garrard threw two touchdown passes. The Jaguars won it in Jacksonville, 31-28, on Josh Scobee’s 59-yard field goal to end the game.
Concerning their next game, Jacksonville (8-5) comes in on a roll—winning five of their last six. As I revealed earlier, they can clinch the division with a win.
Division winners five of seven times since 2003, meanwhile, the Colts will try to keep their run going. They’ve seen challengers come and go. Before the season started, Houston was thought to be Indy’s main challengers in the division.
The best record the Texans can have is 8-8. Houston’s loss to the Ravens on Monday night hiked the stakes for the Jaguars-Colts.
Although Indy won their last game, they come in sort of reeling. They’ve lost three out of their last five games and had lost three in a row.
If the Colts make the playoffs this year, it will be because of their passing game. And if they miss the playoffs, it will be because of their passing game.
Indianapolis has the No. 5 ranked offense in the NFL. They average 384 yards per game, but 304 of those come from their pass offense. Of course, they’re No. 1 in the league in passing yards per game.
Manning ended the Titans game leading the league in passing yards. Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees, Kyle Orton and Aaron Rodgers were behind him. Reggie Wayne, who has topped the NFL in terms of receiving yards this season, is the Colts' leading pass catcher.
Mike Thomas is Jacksonville’s leading receiver, but he has almost half the receiving yards as Wayne. Raiders cornerback, Nnamdi Asomugha, held Thomas without a catch last week.
The number two wide receiver for the Colts, Pierre Garcon, has almost the same number of yards receiving Thomas has. Austin Collie isn’t too far behind.
There is one area where the Colts are far behind the Jaguars—running the football. The franchise that had Marshall Faulk and later Edgerin James now ranks dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
Joseph Addai rushed for 406 yards before he was injured. Yet, he is the Colts' leading rusher. Donald Brown and Mike Hart—his reserves—are also out and/or questionable on any given Sunday of football.
On the other side of running the football, the Jags are hot. Jones-Drew, who is battling Arian Foster for this season’s rushing crown, could possibly run for 406 yards against the Colts.
In two NFL games against the Colts, this season, Foster hit them up for 231 and 102 yards rushing. MJD rushed for 105 yards on Oct. 3 against Indianapolis.
Indy was ranked No. 29 in the NFL—ahead of only Arizona, Denver and Buffalo—in run defense. As the Jaguars have the No. 2 rush offense in the league, this spells tremendous trouble for the Colts.
Averaging 157 yards rushing per game, Jacksonville has always been deep at running back. Once it was Fred Taylor and Jones-Drew, now it’s Rashad Jennings and MJD.
Jennings rushed for over 100 yards last week against Oakland. The running game, obviously, is a clear advantage for Jacksonville.
Indianapolis has the advantage, though, when it comes to pass defense. Marcedes Lewis, however, could have a good game against them. He torches the Jags’ defense in practice.
Ranked No. 28 of 32 in the NFL, Jacksonville has played horribly against their opponents passing games. The only teams ranked lower are Washington, Seattle, New England and Houston.
Yes, New England. No disrespect to the Patriots, they beat the Colts this season.
The Colts are ranked No. 8 in pass defense. They trail only the Chargers, Giants, Packers, Bills, Saints, Dolphins and Raiders. Yes, the Buffalo Bills are ranked No. 4 in the NFL in a statistical category—pass defense yards per game.
Jacksonville beat Buffalo, 36-26, on October 10. Jones Drew rushed for 84 yards and Garrard threw three touchdown passes. Throwing two to Steve Johnson and one to Lee Evans, Ryan Fitzpatrick had three touchdowns.
I reason that a supreme passer, Manning, should be able to do enough damage to keep his team in the hunt. In an interview after the Thursday night Colts-Titans game, his country boy “Rocky Top” twangs surfaced.
NFL TV’s Marshall Faulk wanted to know what Manning was seeing during his interceptions streak.
Manning said he was “in a slump,” but he’s “had an eight and a half year hitting streak.” The television crew was busted up—laughing.
In the NFL it was the worst slump he’s ever experienced. He was throwing interceptions for touchdowns left and right.
He said he doesn’t usually get emotionally “too high or too low.” Against the Titans, he was hitting bull’s eyes.
Usually when humans keep an even keel, situations tend to work themselves out—karma, some would call it. I call it the Colts keeping their hopes alive for making the playoffs.
Prediction: The Colts are playing with their backs against the wall. They could possibly rise to the occasion and play one of their best games of the season.
Under normal circumstances, they can’t run it and can’t stop the run. A one-dimensional squad, they’re injured on the offensive side of the ball.
A focus on the running game by Jacksonville, therefore, could make MJD the leading Fantasy running back this week. Indianapolis allows 141 rushing yards per game.
In comparison, Pittsburgh allows 62 yards rushing per game, and they are No. 1 in the NFL.
There’ll be a lot of Jaguars running the football in this game. Rashad Jennings did his damage on only five carries last week and Mike Thomas gets an occasional end around.
Jones-Drew will get his, but Garrard and the passing game will struggle in crunch time. Peyton Manning, nonetheless, will go completely off, and Indianapolis will win it, 37-34.