JACKSONVILLE – They have momentum. Now, they must keep it.
To do so, the Jaguars face a difficult task. After two consecutive victories, they play the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Stadium Sunday, with the Colts have proven themselves a tricky opponent since losing to the Jaguars in a Week 1 game very much undecided until late in the fourth quarter.
The game is a matchup of two teams tied atop the AFC South at 3-2, with the Jaguars holding the early-season tiebreaker advantage because of their 31-21 Week 1 victory.
It's also a matchup of two confident teams. The Jaguars, after losing back-to-back home games to defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City and the improved Houston Texans, won back-to-back games in London in Weeks 4 and 5 over the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills.
The Jaguars have navigated a strong early schedule, with each of their victories – Indianapolis, Buffalo and Atlanta – over a team that currently has a winning record.
The Colts, too, have had a strong start to the 2023 season. They are 3-1 since Week 1, with their lone loss during that span coming to the Los Angeles Rams in overtime. They are contending despite quarterback Anthony Richardson leaving three games with injuries. He won't play Sunday because of a shoulder injury.
The Jaguars have a major opportunity Sunday. They can take sole possession of first place in the South with a victory. They can ensure a tiebreaker advantage over the Colts with a head-to-head sweep. This is the sort of early-season game division champions win.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to get that victory:
- Stay scrappy. The Jaguars entered the season projected as an elite offense. They haven't been that, but they fought their way to impressive "street-fight" victories over Atlanta and Buffalo the last two weeks. Scrappiness was an element they didn't show much last season. If that's the team's personality in 2023, that bodes well for November and December.
- Stop the run. Running back Zack Moss has played well early for the Colts. All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor is coming back into shape. No matter who's in the game, the Colts will run until you stop them and then they'll run some more. Among the Jaguars' defensive strengths is stopping the run. They will need that strength Sunday.
- Protect the quarterback. Even when they have played well, the Jaguars haven't done this well enough this season. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence played well despite being pressured often Sunday against Buffalo. That's a tough ask for the long-term.
- Minimize the Mania. Gardner Minshew II will start at quarterback for the Colts Sunday. Jaguars fans loved Minshew Mania and all that that entailed when he was the Jaguars' quarterback in 2019-2020. He deserved that adoration, giving the franchise multiple memorable moments. Those days are over. The Jaguars must stop the run Sunday and force Minshew to throw deep into coverage on third-and-long. That hasn't always been his strength. The Jaguars must make him prove he can do it Sunday.
- Keep Minshew contained. Minshew, usually the Colts' backup, doesn't have the game-breaking running ability of Richardson. But he's crafty outside the pocket and can beat you with creativity. The Jaguars must minimize his opportunities to do that.
- Stay persistent. This is about the Jaguars' running game and running back Travis Etienne Jr. He often has been better late in the game than early this season and rushed for 111 second-half yards and two touchdowns in the victory over the Bills Sunday.
- Create turnovers. All teams are better when they're doing it. That holds true for the Jaguars. They are 3-1 this season forcing two or more turnovers and 0-1 forcing none.
- Keep working in Ridley. Lawrence found a rhythm with wide receiver Calvin Ridley in London. You can't force this if it's not there, but increasing that rhythm and finding more routes that Ridley and Lawrence like will increase this team's explosiveness.
- Get a lead. The Jaguars haven't done it enough this season, but they did it against Buffalo and Atlanta – and they were in control of both games late. That's a trend the Jaguars must continue. An early lead will help get the Colts away from the run.
- Feed off the crowd. The Jaguars are 0-2 at EverBank Stadium this season. They must be a better home team than that to repeat at AFC South champions.
Feels good to be home 🐆 The Jacksonville Jaguars are back at the Miller Electric Center for practice in preparation for Week 6 of the regular season. Check out top practice photos of the Jaguars working to face the Indianapolis Colts ➡️