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5 Questions with Stampede Blue: Can the Colts make a playoff run?

Syndication: USA TODAY Robert Scheer / USA TODAY NETWORK

For the first time ever, the NFL has reached Week 18 of the regular season. The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) will host the AFC South rival Indianapolis Colts (9-7) to wrap up the team’s miserable 2021 season. The game is set to kick off at 1 p.m. EST on Sunday and will broadcast on CBS.

A win gets the Colts into the playoffs, and on paper, Indianapolis should be able to take care of business against Jacksonville. The Colts defeated the Jaguars earlier this season by a final score of 23-17 in Indianapolis. However, the Colts have struggled in Jacksonville, and have lost each of the last six matchups in Duval.

To give us a better understanding of what to expect from Indianapolis on Sunday, we spoke to Andrew Thomison of Stampede Blue — SB Nation’s website for all things Colts. Here is our conversation below:

1. Jonathan Taylor has been a revelation for Indianapolis this season. He leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,734) and rushing touchdowns (18) by a wide margin. What makes Taylor so good, and how can a struggling Jacksonville defense limit his effectiveness?

Taylor has been nothing short of sensational for the Colts this season. Part of what makes him so special and unique is his ability to hit that “second gear.” For Taylor, a simple five-yard run can easily go for 25 to 30 yards and he’s a threat to take it to the house with every touch. Jacksonville will likely have a tough time stopping Taylor, but their defense made the second-year back earn every yard when these teams last met earlier this season.

2. How has the first year of the Carson Wentz experience gone? What does Wentz do well and what does he need to improve upon?

Wentz has been very solid from a production standpoint (26 touchdowns to only six interceptions and over 3,400 passing yards). His mobility and ability to make plays off script is partially what’s kept the Colts afloat in games this season. At the same time, the turnovers he’s had have turned out to be very costly, as most of them have come late in games. The biggest thing Wentz needs to work on is knowing when to try and make a play and when to live to play another down.

3. Surprisingly, Indianapolis hasn’t won in Jacksonville since 2014. Why do you think the Jaguars always play the Colts so tough, regardless of record?

Part of the reason Indianapolis hasn’t won in Jacksonville since 2014 is because of self-inflicting wounds, such as costly turnovers. Another reason is because sometimes the Colts play down to their opponent, regardless of the team’s record.

4. If Indianapolis wins Sunday’s game, then the Cots make the playoffs. Assuming the Colts win and get into the postseason, what do you think of the team’s chances? Can the Colts make a run?

I do believe the Colts can make a playoff run. Their team is built for January football upfront on both sides of the ball. Indy’s offensive line is still one of the league’s best, and the team’s defensive line/secondary continues to force turnovers at a ridiculous rate. What Indy also has going for it is that the Colts have shown the ability to be able to play in rough weather conditions through running the football and chewing clock. Not many teams in the AFC have the kind of rushing attack the Colts do, which could give them an advantage in the postseason.

5. Defensively, what do the Colts do well and what does the team struggle with? Are there any under-the-radar contributors on the unit who Jaguars fan should look out for on Sunday?

Forcing turnovers is part of what makes this Colts’ defense so unique this season. They’re currently tied with the Dallas Cowboys for most turnovers forced with 33. Although Indy has forced turnovers at an incredibly high rate, the Colts are prone to giving up chunk plays at times because they play a lot of zone and count on their pass rush — which can be inconsistent — to get home.

6. Score prediction?

The Colts had an opportunity to punch their playoff ticket last Sunday against the Raiders. Now, they’ll have to snap their six-game losing streak at Jacksonville to get in. If they can’t beat a 2-14 Jaguars team that just surrendered 50 points to New England last Sunday, then they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. All things considered, I think the Colts find a way to get it done and win 31-13.

Thank you to Andrew for providing his thoughts and insights. You can follow Andrew on Twitter, and for Colts news, be sure to follow Stampede Blue as well.