Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts Week One Preview

Midwest Sports FansAnalyst ISeptember 11, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 20: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts drops back to pass the football against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 20, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Guess what kids? It’s that time again! The NFL season kicked off tonight with the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Tennessee Titans.


Life seems to have such a void without football, especially considering that all people like me have done for the last six or seven months is talk about football. Now...finally...we can stop just talking and watch.

The Indianapolis Colts kick off their season against division rival Jacksonville Sunday at 1:00 PM EDT in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Changes have occurred throughout the roster and on the coaching staff, and these changes have been the focus of the Colts' offseason.

The exit of long time head coach Tony Dungy was the headliner, but the changes were felt all the way down to a change in punters from longtime Colt veteran Hunter Smith to rookie punter Pat McAffe. And there were plenty of other changes in between.

Jacksonville and Indy have what has become quite an intense rivalry, regardless of the year-by-year success of each team. The Colts hold the overall series advantage with a 12-4 head-to-head record, but in recent years they have struggled against Jacksonville’s running game.

Here’s all the info on the game according to MSF’s NFL Week One Preview and TV Schedule:

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-0)

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Like I said earlier, the Jags have dominated the Colts on the ground in recent years led by with their two-headed monster of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. The monster was cut in half this past offseason, however, when Taylor left Jacksonville and signed with the New England Patriots.

That being said, MJD is one of the league’s toughest backs, although this past preseason was somewhat unkind to Jones-Drew. The Philadelphia Eagles went Tonya Harding on MJD’s leg in their preseason bout.

Luckily for Jones-Drew and the Jags, the injury wasn’t serious and turned out to be only a contusion. There’s a chance that it may still be somewhat tender come Sunday, but I expect MJD to be usual battering ram self.

The Jags also added one of the NFL’s premium route runners during the offseason: Torry Holt. Holt had a sub-par season last year with the Rams, but do not count him out. Look for David Garrard to hit Holt on third down every chance he can get, and Holt will convert.

Indy’s defense has also changed significantly. Safety standout Bob Sanders will most likely not play and will be replaced by Melvin Bullitt, who subbed very well for Sanders most of last season.

The biggest place the Colts have tried to bolster is in the middle as they drafted two defensive tackles and brought back the troubled Ed Johnson. Jacksonville will provide a great test to see if the Colts’ defense has truly moved past the “bend but don’t break” mantra they have held for so long.

New head coach Jim Caldwell didn’t get a lot of looks at his new defense as Marlin Jackson, Kelvin Hayden, as well as many of the other defensive starters did not play much in the preseason due to nagging injuries.

Thus, there is a possibility that continuity—or, more specifically, a lack thereof—may perhaps be a bigger issue than any Colts fan or coach would like to admit.

I could sit and talk about Peyton Manning and the Colts offense for hours upon hours, but in order to be brief we’ll talk about the changes and the question marks.

Joseph Addai looks like he is back at 100 percent, and the addition of 2008 NCAA leading rusher Donald Brown will hopefully improve on what was quite a dismal 2008 rushing season. 

The departure of future Hall-of-Famer Marvin Harrison leaves a lot of question marks in the WR corps, with third-year player Anthony Gonzalez expected to step into Marvin’s shoes. Rookie Austin Collie locked up the third WR spot on the roster, and no doubt TE Dallas Clark will find himself in the slot.

The biggest advantage the Colts have on Sunday is that they are playing at home in the very impressive Lucas Oil Stadium. They will be in front of a sold-out crowd and one that has been deemed as one of the loudest crowds in the NFL.

The key to the game is for the Colts is either to handcuff MJD or establish an early lead and make David Garrard have to beat them through the air. If this is the case, Pro Bowlers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis can “pin their ears back” and put pressure on the Jags QB.

The Jags must establish the run to be successful, as well as get pressure on the three-time MVP Peyton Manning. Zone coverages and blitz schemes will force Peyton into quick decisions and, if the Jags are lucky, flush him out of the pocket.

The Jags will likely take their chances letting the Colts beat them on the ground rather than giving way to Peyton and the Colts always dangerous aerial assault.

My Colts-Jaguars prediction is to take the Colts minus the points, with the final score of this game being somewhere in the realm of 27-13.

Jacksonville is not the team they used to be and with the emergence of the upstart Texans, the Jags may very well find themselves in the cellar of the AFC’s toughest division in 2009.

I do, however, anticipate this game to “feel” closer than the score shows. I expect a tough, hard-fought game throughout, with the Colts dominating the fourth quarter to pull away and seal the victory late, led by one of the NFL’s best pass rushing tandems.

As usual Colts v Jaguars will be a great watch.

Thank God football has returned to us! Gone are the Sunday Honey-Do lists. Gone are the awkward Lifetime movies and Family Guy repeats.

The NFL is back boys and girls! Viva la Sunday!

You can follow BigMB on twitter by going to www.twitter.com/mylesb3269

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