Jack Del Rio has said on a couple of occasions this week that this Sunday's game isn't about the Colts, it's about the Jaguars. I'm not quite sure what that means but I think it's coachspeak for "we have to take care of our own business and not worry about theirs," and I'm not a big coachspeak guy so I'll just let it go.
There's another reason I'll let it go: I don't agree. In fact, I think this Sunday's game is very definitely about the Colts, much more than it is about the Jaguars.
The Jaguars aren't the defending Super Bowl champions. The Jaguars aren't trying to squeeze one more year out of their salary cap before it swallows them up. The Jaguars didn't give a king's ransom to a pass-rusher who now has a career-threatening foot injury. The Jaguars aren't favored to win Sunday's game and they're not facing the pressure of another lost season at the hands of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
All of the pressure is on the Colts this Sunday. Frankly, the Jaguars are going to Indianapolis to play a football game this writer believes won't change much of anything except public perception. Win or lose, I think the Jaguars are headed for a wild-card berth and, possibly, another trip to Indianapolis.
I'm not suggesting the Colts are facing a must-win, either, because they're not. It's just that I see a withering of the Colts' dynasty and I have to believe they see it, too, and should the Colts further wither on Sunday, well, you know.
They are 3-3 in their last six division games. They've lost to each of their three division counterparts during that time. What does that say?
Peyton Manning had a rebound game against the Falcons on Thanksgiving, but his numbers are still way down over past years. Ignore the stats? Yeah, I usually do that but for all the years Brady was winning Super Bowls the Manning people said look at the stats, so what was good then has to be good now, right?
Sunday's game is an opportunity for the Jaguars to prove they have what it takes to win on the road against a top team. That's what it's going to take to do anything in January so let's find out if they can do it in December. That's what this game is all about for the Jaguars.
For the Colts, it's about proving they still own control of the AFC South. The numbers say their control is withering.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Colts.
- Run the ball—You know the drill. It hasn't changed. Beating the Colts begins with running the ball and dominating time of possession. I think the Jaguars will need 200 yards rushing and 35 minutes time of possession to win this one.
- Pick the right times—To blitz Manning. You can't make a steady diet of it or you'll get burned. Manning, however, may be without Marvin Harrison again and that means the Jaguars should be able to assign double-coverage to Reggie Wayne. Go ahead, blitz him.
- Convert third down—That may be David Garrard's most impressive quality this season. It's most important to convert third down in a run-the-ball game.
- Stop Addai—He's rapidly becoming the Colts' star.
- Start fast—It'll help reduce the natural crowd noise.
- Be physical—It worked last year.
- Block Bob Sanders—A 5-8 guy should not be permitted to have his way.
- Win special teams—The Jaguars have been doing that and it's made a difference.
- Leave your CDs at home—The Colts have lots of them.
- Challenge every throw—No pitch and catch allowed. Every pass caught must result in a hard tackle.