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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s time to start up the second wave of AFC South games in 2018.
The Colts (6-5) will have all 3 of their road divisional games in December, with the first one taking place this Sunday afternoon against the reeling Jaguars (3-8).
Here are 7 things to watch for as the Colts face the Jaguars in Week 13:
1. Don’t Give Jacksonville Hope
-The Colts played with fire and gave the Dolphins hope last week. That can’t happen again, especially on the road. Jacksonville has lost 7 straight games and has had a week of all weeks: firing their offensive coordinator, benching their franchise quarterback, seeing their star running back get suspended and placing their best offensive linemen on IR. You get an early lead on the Jaguars this Sunday and they could be tapping out early.
2. Replacing Jack Doyle
–We went in-depth on this subject earlier in the week. The loss of Doyle is obviously significant, given how much Frank Reich used the Indy native. While Eric Ebron’s snaps will increase a bit, the Colts really want to keep him in the role that he’s thrived in so well. Health is also a question for this group. Erik Swoope did return to practice this week for the first time in more than a month. Mo Alie-Cox is out for Sunday’s game with a calf injury.
3. Take The Act On The Road
-This is the next step for the 2018 Colts. They did what they absolutely had to do on this recent homestand, winning 4 straight inside of Lucas Oil Stadium. During the 5-game win streak, 4 of those games were at home, with the only road contest coming in Oakland. A trio of road divisional games remain in December. For the Colts to make the playoffs, they are going to have to get it done away from the Circle City.
4. Marlon Mack Returns
-You don’t often see players enter the concussion protocol after a Sunday game and play that next week. But Mack did practice on Thursday and Friday this week. If Mack clears the independent neurologist on Saturday, he will be good to go for Sunday in Jacksonville. Since Mack re-entered the lineup in Week Six, he’s 4th in the NFL in rushing yards but the Jaguars did shut him down for a few weeks back.
5. Handling Their Front
-Even though Jacksonville’s sack numbers are way down this season, the talent in the front seven is still eye-popping. Evan Boehm’s second NFL start on Sunday will be on the road and against an extremely talented front. The Colts struggled to run the football back when these teams met earlier in November. Jacksonville has just 2 sacks in their past 3 games.
6. Be Prepared For Anything
-A new offensive coordinator, a new quarterback and a really desperate football team could lead to some spontaneity by the Jaguars in Week 13. Any gadget plays, particularly on special teams, could be in play this Sunday. Remember, the Jaguars did convert a fake field goal against the Colts earlier in November. The Colts need to be prepared for anything from a team all but eliminated from the playoffs.
7. Nothing Self-Inflicted
-The September/early October Colts reappeared for long stretches last Sunday against the Dolphins. This cannot continue. We saw the Colts give the Dolphins several short fields via a fumble, an interception and a blocked punt. Since September, the Jaguars haven’t proven any sort of ability to win consistently. If the Colts keep their own mistakes to a minimum this Sunday, it’s going to be very difficult for this 7-game losing streak to stop for Jacksonville.
Bowen’s Prediction: Colts, 24-17. Despite these two teams being at two totally different ends of the spectrum, the Colts are just a four-point favorite against the Jaguars. Now, the Colts haven’t really proven themselves on the road this season and the Jaguars do still have plenty of defensive talent. Still, it’s hard to see the Colts losing a game they really, really need to maintain their playoff push. Times might be a bit difficult for the Colts offense on Sunday, but I still think they reach 24 points for a 9th straight game. Defensively, the Colts might see their weakest offensive test of the season, outside of the Buffalo game. I see the Colts winning a 6th straight game for the first time since 2009.