When the Indianapolis Colts lost to the Denver Broncos two weeks ago, it appeared that the Colts were destined to fall short of winning the AFC South crown. The defense looked too shaky in the first two games, and the offense wasn’t giving much help to quarterback Andrew Luck.
Now that the Colts have avoided an 0-3 start and have a division rival next on the schedule, they have a chance of salvaging their season.
The Colts have a match-up with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, a team they’ve historically dominated. Indy has only lost once in the last seven meetings between the two teams, and it holds a 21-9 overall record against the Jaguars. Then there’s the fact that Jacksonville is the only other team in the AFC South that has had an even worse start to the 2016 season than the Colts.
Jacksonville has stumbled its way to an 0-3 start and has found a different way to lose in every game so far. The Jaguars are one of the few teams that have looked worse than the Colts through three games.
It also helps that Jacksonville’s weaknesses play right into Indy’s strengths.
The Jaguars have run for a mere 165 yards through three games this season. That’s the second-lowest total in the NFL, ahead of only Minnesota’s 153 yards. The Colts have the 13th-best rush defense in the league, holding opponents to 95.7 yards per game on the ground.
Jacksonville’s defense is also giving up 28 points a game, tied with Cleveland for 25th in the NFL. Indy’s offense is tied with Detroit’s and New England’s for the fifth-highest scoring offense in the league, averaging exactly 27 points a game. The Jags’ defense looked better against Baltimore last week, but overall they haven’t impressed thus far.
Winning against the Jags doesn’t guarantee the Colts will bounce back and become the front-runners in the AFC South, however.
The Colts still have a number of deficiencies on their roster. Their run game is still one of the worst in the NFL, their offensive line is tied for the fourth-most sacks allowed this season, and their pass rush and secondary are still far too weak against even sub-par passing offenses.
The one thing Jacksonville usually does well is pass the ball. Quarterback Blake Bortles and the passing attack struggled to get going last week against Baltimore, but on the season the Jaguars are averaging 262.3 yards per game through the air. And the Colts don’t defend the pass well at all, giving up 305.7 passing yards per game.
After this match-up, the Colts have games against Chicago, Houston, Tennessee, Kansas City, and Green Bay before their bye week. It’s possible Indy could go 3-2 or even 2-3 in that span to keep them right around .500, but with the holes they have on their roster, that’s far from a guarantee.
Getting back to 2-2 after a dreadful start would put the Colts on the right track to saving their season. And getting a win over a division opponent would put them in an even better position — especially with the schedule they have coming up.
It’s become a cliché to say games are a must-win, but that descriptor applies to the Colts’ match up against the Jaguars if they want to salvage their season.