Don't worry – I'll delete my browsing history as soon as I'm done – but this week, I've stumbled across an article via jaguars.com about ten things Jacksonville must do to beat Indianapolis. While none of us want this to happen, or think it will (bar a surprise visit from Jim Caldwell), reading the game from Jacksonville's perspective gives insight into how the struggling Jags have turned things around this year.
2. Forget September. The Colts beat the Jaguars 37-3 in the teams’ first meeting at EverBank Field in late September. The Jaguars by any measure are a dramatically different team now. They’re better on defense and significantly better offensively. They played competitively through the second half of the season, with their worst loss coming by 13 points to an Arizona team that could finish 11-5. The Jaguars are making fewer mistakes and playing smarter to stay in games. They have to keep doing it.
Remember, Jacksonville used to be the hands-down worst team this year. While they're certainly not great (their wins are all against unimpressive opponents), there's more fire there than in, say, Tennessee. Meanwhile, here are the ten thing Indy has to do to beat the Jags this week.
1. Take it seriously. Indy has been very good against bad teams this year – especially inside their own division – and it's the biggest difference from last year's Colts team. Jacksonville still has a long way to go, but they've played the Colts tough in the past.
2. Force turnovers. Indy's defense came up with three interceptions against Jacksonville in week four, and are 8-0 when winning the turnover battle this year. Oddly, Jacksonville has an interception in every game against Luck, but their only win against the sophomore came at the start of last year, when Indy couldn't force a turnover of it's own.
3. Mix it up. It feels like Indy's losses this year are usually due to mediocre playcalling and excellent opposing gameplans (see: San Diego). If they really want to put this game out of reach, Indy's best bet will be to try different things, especially on first down – oh, and speaking of …
4. Start strong. I don't mean actually (though that would help); I mean, the Colts need more production on first and second down. Against teams like Arizona and St. Louis, the Colts ran 25 third down plays, and only seven went past the marker. In other words, Indy loses when they're forced into long third down situations; minimizing those will be key for the rest of the year.
5. Run quicker routes. Andrew Luck usually relies on Reggie Wayne for short, down-and-in routes; with the veteran sidelined for the year, he's been forced to wait longer before getting the ball off. For the Colts to have any success at offensive line, Luck needs to get quicker releases (even if they aren't for many yards). They did this rather well against Kansas City last week.
6. Stop Andre Branch. The Jag's defensive end has been awesome over the last half of Jacksonville's season; more importantly, Indy needs a healthy Andrew Luck come January.
7. Spread the ball around. And by that, I mean Andrew Luck has a bad tendency to fixate on a receiver during the game; he'll get a few completions, and then will start forcing the ball. The best example was last week, when Luck started going to De'Rick Rogers on plays where Rogers was easily covered. One such time, in the third quarter, should have resulted in an interception.
8. Run Coby Fleener on inside slants. This always works. Seriously. Last week, he kept on running out-patterns and getting three or four yards; with Geno Hayes declared out and Russell Allen on IR, the Jags are weak in the middle of the field. Oh, and among people who'd like bounce-back weeks …
9. Get D.H.B. going. This is more for the playoffs, but remember – at the start of the year, Heyward-Bey was contributing here and there, including 33 yards on three catches against the Jags. While we all appreciate what Whalen and Rogers bring to Indy's receiving core, D.H.B. could be a surprise in the playoffs; if he's going to be, they need this game to get him rolling.
10. Put up fast points. Indy should get off to a fast start, because Maurice Jones-Drew will either be out, or playing injured. With a diminished running game, Jacksonville's offense should sputter. Indy needs to start strong if they want to give anyone on their roster some rest, come the fourth quarter.