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The 1-7 Jaguars have looked much better since the bye week, but can they finally put it all together and upset the surging 5-3 Colts and Andrew Luck on Thursday?
The Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts in their first match up this season at Lucas Oil Field back in Week 3, when Cecil Shorts III caught a pass from Blaine Gabbert over the middle and split the safeties for an 80-yard touchdown pass to give the Jaguars the late lead and eventually their first and only win of the season.
The Jaguars have looked liked a better team in their three games out of the bye week, despite the blowout loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 9, but coming off a short week to turn around and play your second game in five days is always tough. Thursday night games seem to favor the home team this season, as the home team is 7-2 on Thursday night this year, but the Jaguars have been abysmal at EverBank Field, being outscored 126-34.
Meet the Colts
Since the Colts lost their Week 3 match up to the Jaguars, they've won four out of their last five games losing to only the New York Jets, thanks to the Jets forcing four turnovers, including picking off Andrew Luck twice. The Colts have won their past three games in a row, all within a score, in part to late game heroics by the offense and Andrew Luck.
While the Colts look much better than they did in 2011, they're still a young team that will make plenty of mistakes and keep the games close. To beat the Colts, a team simply needs to just take advantages of these mistakes and turn them into points on the scoreboard. Luck has thrown eight interceptions on the season and fumbled the ball six times, so chances will be there. In the first match up, the Jaguars picked off Luck once and nearly picked him off a couple of other times.
Meet the Jaguars
Since the Jaguars beat the Colts in Week 3, they've lost five games in a row and haven't looked competitive in three of those give games, all of which have been at EverBank Field. The Jaguars rank near the bottom in every major statistical category on offense and defense, especially passing the football and rushing the passer, two of the most important things in the modern NFL. Against the Colts in their first match up, the Jaguars had the luxury of Maurice Jones-Drew, who had a long touchdown run to go with the late touchdown pass that won the game.
Shockingly, the Jaguars won because they hit explosive scoring plays... which are very uncommon for the Jaguars. If they want to beat the Colts on Thursday, they'll have to do more of the same because Andrew Luck and the Colts are starting to hit a groove.
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Local Takes: Colts
Josh Wilson from Stampede Blue says one of the keys to beating the Jaguars is to not let the big plays beat you:
Remember week 3? That 80-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts for the game winning touchdown in the final minute? Yeah, the Colts can't let that happen again. They can't let big plays beat them. The Jaguars will be without Maurice Jones-Drew, but the Colts still need to be careful. A few big plays and the game can be swayed greatly. The Colts will also be without corners Jerraud Powers and Vontae Davis, and quite possibly could be without several others such as Robert Mathis. Players are going to need to step up and fill in, and most importantly eliminate the big plays.
Local Takes: Jaguars
Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country notes that it's just the little things in the Jaguars offense that have a ripple effect:
In my opinion, there wasn't really anything wrong with the plays that were called. There were chances to pick up yardage and continue drives if the players can just execute the little things, be it not getting blown off the snap by a defensive end or simply catching the football before you try to turn upfield.
As I keep stressing; It's not one thing, it's everything.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Stampede Blue and Big Cat Country (as always), for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Stampede Blue, @StampedeBlue
Big Cat Country manager, @AdamBCC
Crazy how often I'm asked if I have a beard because of No Shave November. Its been 5 days..I have a full beard. Obviously it's no shave ever— Adam Stites (@AdamBCC) November 5, 2012
Colts beat writer, @mchappell51
An idea. when #colts chuck pagano returns, reggie wayne and robert mathis should GROW HAIR in support.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) November 7, 2012
Jaguars beat writer, @RyanOHalloran
Khan on TV: "It’s embarrassing but there are better days ahead." #jaguars— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) November 6, 2012
SB Nation Prediction
The one way I could see the Jags keeping this close is controlling the clock and running Maurice Jones-Drew again and again, not giving Andrew Luck a chance. Oh, MJD isn't playing, you say? Well then. That makes this decision easier.
The pick: 24-10, Colts
Odds from the OddsShark staff:
The Jaguars - Colts odds would favor the Colts if the lines were set according to power ranks. Jacksonville is rated No. 32 in our latest OddsShark poll, while the Colts sit at No. 17. Math models based on recent stats and predictive formulas point to a 17-9 win for the Colts.
My prediction: Colts 30, Jaguars 17