1. First things first... what's with the rash of injuries the Colts have suffered? Is this a team that's healthy enough to make a run at the AFC South?
They're getting there. The beginning of the season was brutal for the Colts when it came to the injury report, as they were without several starters and the defensive side of the football in particular was rough. But they are now starting to get healthy, and in fact this Sunday's game will be the first time all year that the Colts have their starting defense all together. They still have a couple of injury situations - number two wideout Donte Moncrief is out for the next few weeks still with a shoulder injury, while cornerback Darius Butler is week-to-week with a hamstring injury - but overall the team is as healthy as they've been yet this year. The biggest news on the injury front is that Vontae Davis and Henry Anderson are back, as they are two of Indy's best defenders and both made their season debut last week - playing well, too. The Colts defense hasn't been good yet this year, but with everyone fully healthy there's reason to hope they can be an average unit. As far as this week's game is concerned, the big injury situation to keep an eye on is along the offensive line. Backup lineman Jonotthan Harison is out after having an emergency appendectomy this week, while starting right guard Denzelle Good and starting right tackle Joe Reitz are both dealing with back issues (their status for the game is not yet determined). If neither Good nor Reitz can go then the right side of the Colts offensive line may have some issues, but if one of them is able to play then the Colts should be able to get by fine.
2. This could be Gus Bradley's last game. (Congratulations!) What do you think of the whole Gus situation? Is he under-performing? Should he be given more time?
I do think that it's time for the Jaguars to move on from Gus Bradley. I surely don't have to mention to Jaguars fans his putrid record (12-39) and the fact that the team hasn't performed well this year, and it seems like it's time to fire him. Entering the season there were many who thought he should be fired, but even those who thought he should stay were pretty clear that the 2016 season was going to be a make-or-break one for him.
So an 0-3 start and the possibility of entering their bye week 0-4, combined with his failures in the past few years, makes me think that the Jaguars absolutely have to move on from him.
The only question is when, and doing it at the bye week makes a ton of sense to me.
I think the Jaguars have talent, and while I didn't expect them to be a great team this year I did expect them to be better than they've shown so far. So yes, I think Gus Bradley has under-performed, and yes, I think he should be fired (though some Colts fans would disagree with me, since they'd like him to stick around as the coach of the Jaguars for a while).
3. 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 Jaguars offense is much more frightening than their defense, and I think that's because of the playmakers they have in the passing game. So while it's two players instead of one, the tandem of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns could be key to this game. Robinson and Hurns are both good players (they both went for over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns last year) and are dangerous in the passing game.
On the flip side, a lot of what the Colts' defense is built around is the play of their cornerbacks - if they are able to trust their corners in one-on-one coverage and play press man coverage, then it frees up the rest of their defense to help in run support and pass rush. So if the Colts struggle with Robinson and Hurns, the entire defense will probably suffer for it.
4. Can you give us one Colts player on offense and one on defense who fly under the radar but who you think will play a critical role in determining the winning team on Sunday?
On the offensive side of the football, tight end Jack Doyle has really stepped up for the Colts and actually is second on the team in catches, third in yards, and first in receiving touchdowns so far this year. He's their number two tight end, but he's become a reliable target for Andrew Luck.
And with Donte Moncrief out, the Colts are thin at wide receiver, meaning that they will utilize their tight ends (both Doyle and Dwayne Allen) more. Not many people know of Jack Doyle, but he's been a really reliable pass-catcher for the Colts so far this year and could play a role this Sunday once again, especially since Moncrief is still out.
On defense, outside linebacker Erik Walden had a great game a week ago in recording two sacks, two forced fumbles, and a tackle for loss. He's really been the Colts' most consistent (and at times only) pass rush threat this year, as he leads the team with three sacks (everyone else has one... combined). Walden is primarily a run defender, but this year he's had to step up in the pass rush game as the Colts are desperate to generate much of anything in that area. So I think Walden could be a guy to keep an eye out for, though he's not really an overly consistent player when it comes to pass rush.
5. What's gonna happen on Sunday? Will it be a back-and-forth matchup? Will the Jaguars disappoint again? Will the Colts be our first win of the year?
I do expect the Jaguars to be competitive in this one, as it's against a division opponent, as their coach might be fired if they don't win, and as they're more accustomed to playing in London than the Colts are.
But with that said, I think the Colts will get the win.
Andrew Luck has had a very good start to the season overall, while the defense should be at full strength for really the first time this year. The Colts have had some sloppy play at times this year and if that lingers too long on Sunday the Jaguars likely will take advantage of it on the scoreboard, but I expect the combination of Luck and a healthy defense to be enough to pull out the win.