A look at the best and worst of 2013 Colts
With three possible playoff seeds on the line for the Indianapolis Colts, they can control only one thing: Their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Colts must beat the Jaguars to have a chance at moving up from their No.4 seed to the No.3 or even No.2 (depending on Patriots and Bengals outcomes). Over the years, the Jags have given the Colts all they can handle, no matter what the standings say.
The Colts (10-5) play the Jags (4-11) at 1 p.m. EST on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium. Here are five keys for a Colts win:
Some things never change and every Colts-Jaguars game includes the mystery of whether the Colts can slow down Maurice Jones-Drew. One could make the argument that Jones-Drew owes a percentage of his salary to the Colts, who have boosted his statistics and stature with nearly every game. He rushed for 177 yards in a game against the Colts last season, although they limited him to 23 yards in their game earlier this season. This hasn't been Jones-Drew's best season -- he has 764 yards at 3.5 per carry -- but something about playing the Colts always seems to get him going. It's possible this will be Jones-Drew's last game with the Jaguars. How appropriate that it comes against the Colts.
The Colts pass rush draws its inspiration from the manic pursuit of Robert Mathis (17.5 sacks), but several other players have stepped up and joined in the fun. Defensive end Cory Redding vows to play again this week despite a shoulder injury, but that remains to be seen. Henne won't likely be the long-term quarterback for the Jaguars, but he has had some solid games over the years. The Colts must harass him the same way they disrupted Kansas City's Alex Smith last week.
Give Luck some time
The Colts offensive line might be fluid from week to week, but the play of tackles Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus has improved all season long in giving Luck more time in the pocket. That was apparent last week when Luck was able to find connections with nine different targets, led by Griff Whalen, T.Y. Hilton and Da'Rick Rogers. There's a comfort level that Luck seems to have found now in the aftermath of losing Reggie Wayne, and Coby Fleener is due for another big game. If Luck has time to operate, he can put post some big drives in the regular-season finale. The Colts need to watch out for Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch (five sacks in last six games).
Counter with the run game
If the Colts can protect Luck and let him find his targets, then they can counterpunch with the running game of Donald Brown and Trent Richardson. If you can get away from the idea (fact?) that Richardson hasn't been the superstar they expected to acquire from the Browns, you'll see that Brown and Richardson offer a nice 1-2 combination when both are playing well. Brown looks like a running back taking advantage of opportunity and Richardson has shown signs of life with the ball in open spaces. Use the pass to set up the run, and see what opens up.
Don't look ahead
The Colts clinched a playoff berth and first-round home game early thanks to some big early wins and the general weakness of the AFC South. They should be able to beat the Jags, who are improved but still a flawed, injury-riddled team. It's vital to enter the playoffs with some momentum, so Colts coach Chuck Pagano and his staff need to find a way to make sure the players remained focused on the task at hand and land a third-straight win. Finishing the regular-season job should be the top priority.
The pick: Colts 27, Jaguars 13
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