The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8) will take on the Indianapolis Colts (6-6) and try to keep their dreams for a division title and a playoff appearance alive this Sunday. It has now reached do-or-die territory.
In fact, it may be too late already when you consider the Jaguars' inability to finish games consistently, but losing this weekend would make it impossible. However, a win would put them one game behind the Colts, and since the Houston Texans (6-6) take on the New England Patriots (10-2), Jacksonville could gain one game on both division leaders.
But the Jaguars have to show some growth to make that a possibility. After two straight wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans, they dropped two to the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans, which put them two games behind the division lead.
While the offense has shown great progress and considerable improvement throughout the season, the defense has struggled considerably more as the season has worn on. And now that linebacker Paul Posluszny will miss this weekend with a fractured hand, as reported by Jaguars.com's John Oehser, it could get even tougher.
The Colts don't have a great team; in fact, it's hard to say they have a good team. The last matchup should have ended in a Jaguars win, but two missed field goals said otherwise. The Jaguars can win this weekend, but they have to put it all together.
Offensive Game Plan
If the offense can perform anywhere near the quality it showed last week, this game would get easier for the defense. The offense scored six touchdowns, with five coming from quarterback Blake Bortles in a career performance.
One of the notable stats about that performance was that Bortles only threw 36 passes, somewhere close to the optimal number of passes for a quarterback of his age (23). While it may not be a direct correlation to a five-TD day, the Jaguars should look again to limit his passes.
Getting rookie running back T.J. Yeldon involved again in the running and passing game would be a safe bet, especially since he's done so well this season in both. Taking the pressure off Bortles and spreading out the touches will breed an environment for the young QB to succeed.
|T.J. Yeldon Stats|
|Yards||Yards per Carry||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Rushing TDs||Receiving TDs|
With wide receiver Allen Hurns listed as probable, the Jaguars have a reason to hit the air more. Hurns has recovered from his concussion, and he'll be looking to catch up to his dominant teammate, Allen Robinson.
Bortles and the offense have done a good job of spreading out the ball, and it wouldn't be surprising to see even more involvement from wideout Rashad Greene. He doesn't get a ton of chances, but he scored last weekend, and that may earn him another look or two.
Defensive Game Plan
The Colts aren't the most talented team, but they have dangerous weapons across the board. Running back Frank Gore and wide receivers Andre Johnson, T. Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett are all strong options for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and the Jaguars will have to contain them.
Hasselbeck isn't able to make every throw, but the Colts cater the play-calling to him, and he duly delivers. They will look to get the ball into Hilton's hands as soon as possible, and the Jaguars will have to improve their tackling as a result.
Hopefully, this defense has spent this week watching the unbelievable errors of last week and preparing to patch up the issues. The Colts will keep it simple, so it's on the Jags to execute.
This isn't just a concern for the speedier players, but it also goes for dealing with Gore. He's a bit older (32), but there's no doubt that he looks for contact and will plow through a weak defense.
The linebackers will have to elevate their play in that regard, and that includes rookie Jordan Tripp, who will replace Posluszny. He'll have Dan Skuta and Telvin Smith in support, but the group will have to execute as a whole.
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All stats provided by ESPN.com unless otherwise stated.
Evan Reier is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report covering the Jacksonville Jaguars. Follow Evan on Twitter @evanreier.