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Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts primer: Key matchups, storylines, predictions, and more for Week 10

The Jacksonville Jaguars head to the middle of America this Sunday to take on divisional rival Indianapolis Colts (3-5) at Lucas Oil Stadium at 1:00pm EST.

For fans not making the trip, we’ll have Spero Dedes and Adam Archuleta on the CBS call for Sunday.

UNIFORM WATCH: White tops, black trousers in Indy.


The Colts’ season may have started off a little rocky as Andrew Luck knocked off some understandable rust following his long hiatus from football, but Captain Luck has led his troops to two consecutive wins heading into last week’s bye.

Sure, the wins may have been against the Bills and Raiders, but three out of the Colts’ five losses have been within one possession, so it’s not like they’ve been getting embarrassed by 30+ points against the Cowboys or anything. While Luck ranks third in the NFL with 42.9 pass attempts per game, he is 29th in yards per attempt (6.2), so rookie head coach Frank Reich’s up-tempo West Coast offense has helped contribute to keeping Luck healthy and clean in the pocket. The real story surrounding the Colts offense has been the dominant play of their offensive line, which hasn’t allowed a sack in 15 quarters and is allowing one sack every 35 drop backs this year.

To put this into perspective, Luck was sacked once every 14 drop backs the last time he played in 2016. The Jaguars defense may be middle of the pack in sacks, but they’ve been applying an incredible amount of pressure with their defensive line this year, so this battle up front should be a phenomenal one this week for anyone who admires trench warfare.

To make matters worse for the Jaguars, the Colts also have their running game rolling since Marlon Mack has returned from injury, and Mack became the first Colts runner with back-to-back 100 yard rushing games since Joseph Addai in 2007. In addition to Mack, rookie running back/wide receiver hybrid Nyheim Hines has been devastating out of the backfield and adds another underneath dimension for the Jaguars linebackers to account for. The Jaguars defense currently ranks second in passing yards allowed per game and points allowed per game, so expect the Colts to go to the well in their running game early and often to not challenge the Jaguars through the air more than they have to — A.J. Bouye or not.

Defensively, the Colts have been fairly mediocre against the run (averaging 109 yards allowed per game), so this is a good opportunity for the Jaguars to get back to their smash mouth offensive identity. The Colts are a bottom ten pass defense statistically, and as inconsistent and unreliable as the Jaguars receivers have been lately, expect them to get some good chances against below average cornerbacks if Nathaniel Hackett can get the play action game up and running. The one player the Jaguars will need to pay attention to on every snap will be impressive rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. Leonard leads the NFL with 88 tackles and has been a one-man wrecking crew with four sacks and three crucial forced fumbles this season.

Check out Ryan O’Bleness’ cross-over piece with Chris Blystone of Stampede Blue for more information about the opponent and check out the all-time series history against the Colts.


The biggest storyline for the Jaguars this week is the return of Leonard Fournette to help catalyze what has been an inept offense over the second quarter of the season. Some fans are looking for Fournette to be a magical elixir that totally fixes the offense, but reality is that simply won’t be the case. Having Fournette available, however, should positively influence play calling and bring back the balance that has escaped Nathaniel Hackett in the second quarter of the season. Getting back to their offensive identity should force the Colts to pack the box and open up some looks for Blake Bortles to work off of play action.

The other big storyline this week is the Donte Moncrief revenge tour. Moncrief has been fairly disappointing this season, but there’s just something against playing a former team that causes players to dial it up a notch. There is no doubt that Moncrief will be playing to prove that the Colts made a mistake in letting him go in free agency, but Moncrief should really be playing to prove that he deserves the healthy one-year deal the Jaguars gave him that he hasn’t lived up to. The Colts don’t have a premier lock down cornerback, so if Moncrief can’t get it going this week, when will he?

On the other side of the football, the major storyline is how this defense adjusts to life without Dante Fowler Jr., who was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for a couple of draft picks before the deadline. Early speculation is that 2017 third round pick Dawuane Smoot will be active for the first time this season, but does that mean he gets the replacement snaps for Fowler? Does Taven Bryan see more time? Will Bryan slide inside to three-technique for some snaps now that that they are down one speed rusher? Keep an eye on the rotation this week and see how they adapt for the final eight games, as this will give a good indication of how they’ll attack the defensive line decisions come this offseason.

Key matchups

Jalen Ramsey vs. T.Y. Hilton

Nicknamed “Ghost,” Ramsey will be following Hilton around everywhere on the field to make sure he becomes an apparition on the stat sheet. While Ramsey would probably follow Hilton around regardless if A.J. Bouye played, Bouye’s absence on Sunday all but confirms this. Expect to see D.J. Hayden get the start opposite Ramsey with Tyler Patmon lining up in the nickel against three receiver sets, and expect the Jaguars cornerbacks to Press on the line often to take away the quick, short passes for Luck.

Ronnie Harrison vs. Eric Ebron

Eric Ebron has been on absolute fire this year already finding the end zone seven times. Similar to the Eagles last week (who still have Frank Reich’s fingerprints all over that offense), the Colts also use a ton of two tight end sets with Ebron and Jack Doyle, so expect a heavy dose of brute back with Ronnie Harrison this week. Harrison has played very well for a third round rookie and as much as I personally feel he would be an upgrade over the struggling Barry Church at strong safety, Harrison has filled a niche role so well and the Jaguars don’t have another player with his skill set that can replicate his contribution in the big nickel.

Leonard Fournette vs. Darius Leonard

The “Battle of the Leonards” will probably be a thing in the AFC South, and we get the first edition on Sunday. Considering how many carries most anticipate Fournette getting this week to reboot the offense, Leonard could be pushing a 20 tackle game this week. The Jaguars offensive line will need to get good push off the snap and matriculate quickly in the second level if Fournette is going to average more than four yards per carry on Sunday with the ubiquitous Leonard on the prowl. Expect to see a heavy dose of fullback Tommy Bohannon this week to try and seek and destroy Leonard in the open field.

Malik Jackson vs. Quenton Nelson

The Colts offensive line has been playing stellar, and that should be expected when you use top ten pick on an offensive guard. As the first offensive guard ever to win NFL Offensive Player of the Month, Nelson looks like the real deal and should be a huge problem for the Jaguars in the AFC South for the next decade-plus. Jackson doesn’t have the flashy statistics this season, but he’s been effective from the three-technique spot and his experience should give Nelson a good challenge this week.

Calais Campbell vs. Braden Smith

Labeled as a reach at the time of his selection atop the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Smith has been extremely solid this season since moving over to right tackle. Unfortunately for Smith, he has yet to face a Defensive Player of the Year caliber defensive end like Calais Campbell. Between Campbell’s diligent preparation to identify vulnerabilities and his grown man strength, this will be a match up that will be worth keeping an eye on. It also feels like Campbell is probably the healthiest he’s been following the bye and not being on the injury report, so I expect a much more productive second half from Campbell.

Blake Bortles vs. Malik Hooker

Blake has generally played well against the Colts in his career, but people are failing to realize that this is a completely different Colts team than the Chuck Pagano units that Bortles has smoked in the last few seasons. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has shown creative ways to disguise coverages running zone coverage 78.6% of the time and second-year free safety Malik Hooker will definitely try baiting Bortles to take some shots off play action. Bortles must be especially aware of where Hooker is on the field before making his decisions to throw beyond the line of scrimmage.

Final prediction

If the Jaguars offense can’t put up points early or the defense doesn’t get an opportune turnover in the first quarter, it’s likely this ends up a one score game. As we know, Jacksonville hasn’t been able to win the mental war of attrition that comes in playing close games this year. The longer the game goes on as a one-possession battle, the less likely the Jaguars come out on top. This game has the feeling of a three-point contest one way or another, and with the Colts having home field advantage, I’ll give the nod to them.

I think the Jaguars lose 20-17.