Zach Bolinger | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – It’s time to pick up the AFC South schedule in the final two months of the season.
Frank Reich’s Colts (3-5) will face the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) on Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Here are 7 things to watch as the Colts take on the Jaguars in Week 10:
1. Cause More Turmoil
-For a third straight game, the Colts are facing a team in disarray. The Bills were starting their third string quarterback. The 1-win Raiders were losing their best players right and left. And now the Jaguars have lost 4 straight games by an average of 17 points. That’s why if the Colts can grab a lead early on, that could very well get the Jaguars to question themselves a bit with both teams returning from their bye week.
2. Protecting Motivated Luck
–Maybe I’m putting too much stock into this. But I do think Luck will have a little extra edge to him this week in facing Jalen Ramsey, after the All-Pro corner called out No. 12 during the offseason. Luck is already a very motivated QB, but the competitive nature of his should be up a notch this Sunday. Protection wise, this is something the Colts have done exceptionally well in 2018. Frank Reich says though that their toughest test yet will come on Sunday from Jacksonville’s front. Now, the Jaguars have not been as dominant in producing quarterback pressure this season. But they did record 10 sacks against the Colts last season at Lucas Oil Stadium and have balanced talent across the front.
3. Top Pass Defense
-What Luck will see with Ramsey and the Jaguars on Sunday is the NFL’s top ranked pass defense. That will test a Colts passing offense that has been extremely efficient in recent weeks. Will the Colts be able to get T.Y. Hilton going on Sunday, especially if Ramsey is shadowing him? Hilton has had just 59 total receiving yards in his two games back from injury. But the Jaguars will be without fellow starting corner A.J. Bouye, which could impact things for them on the back end.
4. Um, Slow Down Bortles
-Yes, this is a serious statement when it comes to Bortles and recent history with the Colts. In his last 6 games against the Colts, Bortles has thrown for 10 TDs, 0 INTS and has a QB rating of 102.5. He’s averaged 282.5 yards per game with the Jaguars 4-2 over the Colts since 2015. It’s amazing the success that Bortles has had against the Colts, whether the game has been in Indianapolis, Jacksonville or London. Bortles is having another very mediocre season so it’s time for the Colts to finally take advantage of that.
5. Return Of Malik Hooker
-Even though the Colts have won two straight games, they are still struggling mightily in defending the pass. The secondary will get safety Malik Hooker back on Sunday after he missed the win over Oakland due to a hip injury. It was against the Jaguars last season when Hooker’s season came to an end on an ugly looking knee injury. Will Hooker’s returns on Sunday help out a poor pass defense?
6. Continuing Momentum
-Unlike the Jaguars, the Colts enter Week 10 with some nice momentum. They’ve won two straight games and believe they can get on a run with a favorable schedule down the stretch, with just two opponents having better than .500 records. For the Colts to put any sort of pressure on Houston’s AFC South grip or enter the Wild Card picture, they have to do their part, especially here in the month of November, with all three games at home.
7. Tyquan Lewis’ NFL Debut
–If Tyquan Lewis can follow in his fellow second-round pick footsteps, the Colts could have a grand slam rookie draft class. Expectations for Lewis are high, given his college production at Ohio State, how the staff has raved about him and what his fellow rookies have done in 2018. Lewis’ 2018 debut will come this weekend. A toe injury suffered in early August has kept Lewis off the playing field, but after two weeks of practice, the Colts have activated him from the IR list. Lewis’s interior rush is needed with the Colts producing just 4 sacks over the past 4 games.
Bowen’s Prediction: Colts, 24-20. On paper, this might be the most talented team the Colts face in November. But the Jaguars have shown several signs of dysfunction already in 2018. I don’t see the bye week as a cure all for a team that went to the AFC Championship last season and started this year with a 3-1 mark. However, I still think the Jaguars have enough talent to keep this a very competitive game deep into the second half. The return of Leonard Fournette could help a stagnate run game, too. But, in my eyes, it comes down to quarterback play. The Colts have Andrew Luck. And the Jaguars have Blake Bortles, who will finally resort to his normal self down the stretch as the Colts win a third straight game.