1. Are Indianapolis Colts fans legitimately worried about this game, or is it an assumed win?
Yes. I think that, overall, Colts fans think this game won't be an easy one but that the Colts will win. It's hard to overlook a team after just losing by 35 points, so I don't think that Colts fans are by any means writing this one off. But, with that said, let's face the facts: the Colts have won 16 games in a row against AFC South opponents. They have a huge game next week against the Texans that might ultimately determine the division winner. And the Colts beat the Jaguars earlier this year with Matt Hasselbeck in his first start. So there's understandable reason why Colts fans think this one will be a win, but that's not to say that they think that the Jaguars will be an easy opponent or won't provide a tough test.
2. How should an opposing defensive coordinator game plan against Matt Hasselbeck?
The Colts with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback have embraced a shorter passing game with more play-action passing and more offensive balance. So when facing Hasselbeck, I would focus on winning in the trenches. Stop the run and put pressure on a hurting quarterback (he was injured last week but will play). Don't allow the Colts to get the run game going and get in that rhythm.
Be wary of the play-action pass, but you have to stop the run game and not allow the Colts' offense to roll the way they would ideally want it to. That's a major part of stopping the Hasselbeck-led offense -- disrupt their rhythm, don't let them get comfortable running the football, and get some pressure on him. If you do that, the Colts' offense will likely struggle as they rely on Hasselbeck to win the game. Maybe he'll be able to do that, but odds are that it won't work well if he has to play that way for the entire game and that's the best chance you'll get of stopping the offense.
3. There have been a lot of non-participants in practice this week for the Colts. What's the single greatest deficiency the team is facing due to injury?
The biggest one is that they'll be without Andrew Luck, who will miss his fourth straight game as he recovers from a lacerated kidney. But the fact that he is out was expected, along with left tackle Anthony Castonzo and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman. The newcomers to the injury report this week that are concerning are outside linebacker Erik Walden (who is doubtful) and then inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and cornerback Greg Toler, both of whom are questionable. Those guys will be game-time decisions, but it's clear that the defensive side of the football might take a hit.
Freeman is already out, and while it sounds like the hope is that Jackson will play, the Colts can't afford to lose guys at inside linebacker - especially since the next man up, Nate Irving, was placed on IR this week after starting for Freeman a week ago.
Then at cornerback, if Toler can't go, the Colts would very likely start either a rookie who spent the first half of the year on IR (D'Joun Smith) or a guy they just re-signed this week (Jalil Brown). Either way, that's not ideal. Then if Walden can't play, it would likely be former first round pick (and bust) Bjoern Werner, who has been inactive in recent weeks. So I think you get the sense that the Colts would have major defensive questions if those injured players can't go. We don't yet know their statuses and I'd be surprised if all of them miss, but it's a concern to keep an eye on.
Ultimately, then, the biggest deficiency that this team is facing due to injury is not having Andrew Luck at quarterback, but since they've been without him for a few weeks, I'd highlight the defensive questions that have arisen thanks to injury uncertainties.
4. Is there a Jaguars player on either side of the ball that you say, "If the Colts don't stop him, we're in trouble"?
I think the obvious answer for the Colts is Allen Robinson, and then even more so the tandem of Robinson and Allen Hurns. I don't need to tell Jaguars fans how impressive Robinson has been this year, and the problem that both receivers create for the Colts is that they are able to get downfield and make big plays.
Those two players have combined for 38 plays of 20+ yards in the passing game while the Jaguars have the second-most such plays of any team in the league (54). The Colts' defense, meanwhile, has given up more passing plays of 20+ yards than any other team in the league this year (also giving up 54). In other words, that's not a good matchup for the Colts, and with the team unable to get much of a pass rush, leaving their cornerbacks out to dry against two dangerous weapons will lead to struggles.
So I think those two players (especially Robinson) are the ones that the Colts need to be able to stop, as getting into a shootout with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback probably isn't going to end up well for the Colts.
5. What's your prediction for Sunday? Can the Jaguars get a win?
Earlier this year, when we didn't know what to expect from the Matt Hasselbeck-led Colts in his first start, I thought the Jaguars would win - and they almost did, if it weren't for Jason Myers (sorry for the reminder).
Besides for their blowout loss last week to the Steelers, though, the Colts have played solid football during their games with Hasselbeck, and we've also seen defensive improvement (though that perception was likely all undone by last week's game). As long as we see the same Colts team show up this Sunday that showed up against the Broncos, Falcons, Buccaneers, and AFC South opponents, they should be fine. But if the team that shows up this Sunday was the one that showed up against the Steelers, they won't be.
Ultimately, I think that the Colts will be able to do enough to get the win, though I don't expect it to be an easy one.