JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2018 season, nine Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if:They get healthy on defense. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, defensive end Calais Campbell and linebacker Telvin Smith all have played through some minor injuries. The time off with the bye last weekend will help them immensely. In the loss to Philadelphia the week before the bye, the Jaguars had four sacks and two takeaways. Expect more of the same against the Colts.
The Colts will win if:They protect quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts' offensive line has been outstanding all season, allowing 10 sacks despite playing with several different combinations. If they can keep Jacksonville's pass rush off Luck, it could be a long day for the Jaguars' defense.
As Ballou sees it:Jaguars, 20-17. This is a must-win game for Jacksonville, especially with the way the next opponent – Pittsburgh – looked Thursday in a victory over Carolina. Running back Leonard Fournette will return and the Jaguars finally will be able to run the ball. The difference: a big takeaway by the defense in the fourth quarter.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if:They find a way to pressure Luck like the 2017 Jaguars defense did. Until the offense proves it is out of its four-game funk, I really believe the defense must carry this team – i.e., create turnovers and splash plays that change momentum and bring energy to a team looking for an identity. Hopefully, the return of Fournette will help get the offense back on track by bringing some balance and allowing Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles to find his confidence.
The Colts will win if:They are able to run with running back Marlon Mack as they have the last couple of weeks, which will create opportunities in the play-action pass game. This will also allow the Colts to control the pace of the game and keep a young defense off the field.
As Boselli sees it:The Jaguars are in an absolute must-win situation to keep realistic playoff hopes alive. They are 0-2 in the AFC South and the division-leading Houston Texans have won six consecutive games. Losing in Indianapolis will rule out any chance of a division championship. Because of this, I hope and want to believe the Jaguars will come out with fire in their bellies and play at a level that reminds us of last season: Jaguars 24, Colts 14.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if:They get Fournette back, run early, get a lead and force the Colts to throw when they don't want to throw. A Jaguars game hasn't played out that way in a while.
The Colts will win if: They stuff the run – and mostly, if they continue to protect Luck. Luck and the Colts have been very good offensively lately, but they must protect.
As Frangie sees it:I think the Jags will play better this week, in large part because Fournette will be back. They must play from ahead. If they do, they can beat the Colts again.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if:They rediscover their running game. The expected return of several key players such as tight end James O'Shaughnessy and Fournette should help. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett might knock the dust off some plays that were designed for multiple running back formations but haven't been used since the injuries mounted early in the season. Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, and Carlos Hyde should give the Jags a very tough running-back group.
The Colts will win if:Luck and his offense stay on a roll. Indianapolis has been able to rack up over 220 yards rushing in each of the last two games with a much-improved offensive line. Combine that with Luck's three-or-more passing touchdowns in five consecutive games and it makes for a tough combination to stop.
As Lageman sees it:If the Jaguars do not have an impact on Luck in the pocket, it will be a struggle to win a game that falls in the category of "MUST WIN." The Colts' offensive line has allowed the second- fewest sacks in the NFL this season with 10 and has not allowed a sack in the last three games. "Sacksonville" must return to form and take control of this game as it did at times last year.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if:Fournette can establish the power-running game for the offense for the first time in 2018. I think Fournette will need between 15-to-20 touches to impact the football game in a positive way for the Jags.
The Colts will win if:They make the Jaguars one-dimensional and force two or more turnovers. If the Jaguars are forced to pass more than 34 times, that will mean the Colts won the line of scrimmage and will increase the chances for more turnovers.
As Martineau sees it:This one is a tough call. I feel like the Jags must earn our trust after losing four consecutive games, but I also believe the Jaguars' roster is much better than the Colts' roster - even with Luck. I'm conflicted. I think the power running game will take pressure off Bortles and open up play-action passes to the tune of a 27-23 Jaguars victory on Sunday. It's time to snap the streak.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if:The Jaguars get production from their running backs. That means Fournette, but it also means Hyde and Yeldon. This offense is at its best when backs are productive rushing and receiving. It hasn't been close to its best this season, but the return of Fournette at least gives them hope for Sunday.
The Colts will win if:They score 21 points. This is a dangerous game for the Jaguars because the Colts' offense has been very productive lately – and because the Jaguars' offense has been anything but. Indianapolis is averaging nearly 35 points in its last five games. The Jaguars' defense is good – and it will have to be better than it has been in the last few weeks Sunday.
As Oehser sees it:This feels like a tough one for the Jaguars. They've lost four consecutive games and haven't held a second-half lead in any of those games. The Jaguars need early points and production from the running game. Can Fournette provide that much of a boost? That's the hope, but it feels like a slim hope.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if:They can run. It's who they're supposed to be and sets up everything else they want to do. This is a run-first offense and it hasn't been able to run. Any shot of winning on Sunday or the second half of the season rests on the ability to run the ball.
The Colts will win if:The Jaguars can't get to Luck, who is on fire the last few weeks with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in victories over the Raiders and Bills. He was effective in losses to the Jets and Patriots with seven touchdowns, but his five interceptions were the reason for those losses. He hasn't been sacked in the last three games; the Jaguars might not be able to get to him as much as they want, but if they can pressure him and make him throw quicker than he wants, they can create turnovers. That's the key to beating the Colts.
As Sexton sees it:The Colts have momentum from back-to-back victories before the bye, which you would think would give them an advantage playing at home. But in this case, they face a desperate team on a four-game losing streak – a team for which the bye was more important because it needed to kill negative momentum. I think the desperate team will win this week and save – for another week – its playoff hopes.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if:They find early life on offense that results in a touchdown or two. In 21 first-half possessions over the last four games, the Jaguars have no touchdowns and two field goals. In a league designed to help offenses score, it is difficult to win when you cannot score.
The Colts will win if:Luck gets into a groove, gets multiple tight ends involved and maintains methodical scoring drives. The Jaguars' defense got 10 sacks in a game against Indianapolis last season. The Colts haven't allowed a sack in the last 15 quarters. This needs to be the week "Sacksonville" or "Bother-the-QB-sonville" or "Get-some-pressure-sonville" returns.
As Shadrick sees it:After an 0-2 start in the division and a four-game losing streak, this is a must-win situation for the Jaguars. They must empty the playbook, move the ball and score on offense – and take the ball away on defense. Someone needs to make a game-changing play or two on both sides of the ball. We will see within the first 15-20 minutes of the game if the Jaguars can maintain poise and figure it out. If they do not, then we will have a pretty good idea of what the rest of the season will bring.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if:Fournette can revamp the Jaguars offense. The Jaguars could not run the ball the first half of the season. Bortles must play a complementary style of quarterback and will have a chance to play better if the running game gets back to the focal point of the offense. If Fournette can get back to the type of play we saw last year in the playoffs, the Jaguars have a chance to win games in the second half of the season.
2.The Colts will win if:The Jaguars defense cannot get to Luck. This is the best protection Luck has had his entire career. The Colts' offensive line has not given up a sack in three straight games, allowing Luck to have ample time to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The Jaguars' defense is going to need to pressure the quarterback in order stop the Colts' offense, which has used every playmaker on the field to win the past two games.
3.As Sullivan sees it:The Jaguars must treat the Colts as an intimidating opponent because they have the best quarterback in the division – and by no means can the Jaguars lost another game in the AFC South. The Jaguars' roster is much more talented than the Colts, especially on defense. I saw some promise against the Eagles that this defense has its swagger back. The defense will win it this week.