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 TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: Quarterback Cody Kessler sparks the team, plays mistake-free football and makes a couple of clutch passes to a wide-receiver group that has been invisible as of late. The Jaguars also will feed Carlos Hyde, who could have his best game as a Jaguar.
The Colts will win if: The offensive line once again protects quarterback Andrew Luck. Indy has been a well-oiled machine of late, and that will continue as Luck benefits from great field position and he's able to pick apart the Jags defense. Defensively, the Colts must make Jacksonville one-dimensional and rattle Kessler.
As Ballou sees it: Colts, 20-13. Once again, the Jags will be in it for four quarters but will come up empty. The Colts will dominate the time of possession as the Jaguars struggle to run the ball. Luck will be the difference with his clutch passing performance.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: Kessler can breathe life into what has been a struggling passing game. The Jaguars have to hit some throws down the field to loosen up potential running lanes; that has been a major problem. They have to harass Luck more than the last time the two teams played.
The Colts will win if: They can stuff the run and force the Jaguars to pass on their terms. And they must protect Luck, which they have been doing very well.
As Frangie sees it: This will be tough challenge for the Jaguars. The Colts, specifically Luck, are playing at a very high level. The Jaguars are starting a new quarterback. Jacksonville will have to play at a very high level.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win: If they play fantastic defense as they did in the second half of the first meeting against the Colts in Indianapolis. Luck is on an impressive roll with at least three touchdown passes in each of his last eight games. The Jaguars need to return to "Sacksonville" and find a way to disrupt the comfort that Luck has been enjoying in his pocket, having only been sacked once in six games.
The Colts will win if: They are able to frustrate a Jaguars offense by keeping it from running the football effectively. Kessler, who has been sacked 31 times in 248 career attempts, will be playing behind an offensive line that has more pieces that didn't start the year than did. If the young Colts defense led by linebacker Darius Leonard is able to stifle Jaguars running back Carlos Hyde, it will make for a tough day on Kessler's first start in two years.
As Lageman sees it: Luck is playing at a high level behind an offensive line that is allowing him to read the morning paper and enjoy a cup of coffee before getting rid of the football. The Colts' defense is playing with youthful enthusiasm. The Jaguars' defensive front has been able to generate only two sacks in the last three games and may be without their best corner in Jalen Ramsey. The Jaguars are playing a new quarterback and running back behind an offensive line beset by injuries. This could be a tough day at the Bank with the Colts having playoff aspirations.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: Kessler give this offense a huge spark and the defense just plays instead of pressing now that the season appears lost. Kessler will have to overcome a lot in this game to spark the offense.
The Colts will win if: They score 17 points. It's hard to imagine the Jaguars reaching their average points of 17.9 per game in this one. Indianapolis has been on fire; a couple of touchdowns might get the job done on Sunday.
As Martineau sees it: It's amazing and unfathomable that it has come to this for the Jaguars. How do the Jaguars win? How do they break this slide? I'm not sure winning the turnover battle will allow for a victory in this one. I would think the Jags will need a huge defensive effort to have a chance. That's too much to ask. Colts, 27-10.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: Kessler throws for two touchdowns, and Hyde gives the offense something close what Leonard Fournette has given them in recent weeks – and if the defense holds the Colts to 21 points or less. Mental lapses hurt Jacksonville's defense in Indianapolis earlier this month. If the Jaguars cut them out, the defense can play well enough to give the Jaguars hope.
The Colts will win if: They play to their offensive level of the last two months. That means getting the Jaguars' pass rush blocked and avoiding turnovers. Luck has played at a Most Valuable Player level in recent weeks. If he has time and doesn't throw interceptions, he will continue at that level.
As Oehser sees it: The guess here is the Jaguars' offense will play well despite the changes and a slew of injuries; the Colts, after all, have nothing with which to game plan for new Jaguars play-caller Scott Milanovich. This one will stay close into the fourth quarter, with the Jaguars finding a way to pull the upset. Why? Because it's professional football and weird things happen.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: Kessler can find the end zone early. I expect the Jaguars defense to play more as it did in the second half in Indianapolis last month than they did in a 29-point Colts first half; that means the Jaguars will keep it close. But if Kessler can't get them in the end zone early they won't be able – without Fournette – to come from behind. The Jaguars must get a lead, work to stay close and perhaps finish a game.
The Colts will win if: They can score 29 points. That's all they needed against the Jaguars in November and the Colts got that in the first half. Luck is playing behind an excellent offensive line and has had all the time he wants to throw. If they can get to the end zone early this one could be over early ... again.
As Sexton sees it: The Colts are one of the league's hottest teams playing with a quarterback who looks as good as any in the game – and they're in search of a playoff berth. The Jaguars are a mess right now. The Colts will keep the Jaguars searching for a way to win – and thinking about the future instead of the present.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: They can protect Kessler and find some offensive rhythm without Fournette. The Jags are on their fourth left tackle, second left guard and second center. Without their best offensive weapon in Fournette, Hyde needs to churn out some yards somehow. It starts up front in both the pass and run games.
The Colts will win if: They put up 21 points. Luck is back and playing at a high level in a tight end-heavy offensive attack. That attack burned the Jaguars a few weeks ago in Indianapolis. This Jaguars defense has zero room for error this week considering the late-season reboot on the offensive side.
As Shadrick sees it: The Jags have a new play-caller on offense, a backup quarterback starting and backups starting on 60 percent of the offensive line, at tight end and at running back. How will this offense look? Will there be a surge in play or a difference with the changes of this week? Maybe, but can it last a full 60 minutes? How do the Jaguars score points against a Colts team that scores a lot of points and is surging toward a Wild Card berth? Quit asking me questions…
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: Kessler can perform at an efficient level with the odds stacked against him. With starting offensive lineman Andrew Norwell on injured reserve and Fournette serving a one-game suspension, it's not going to be easy for Kessler to revamp this struggling offense. The good news is the Colts don't know what to expect from Kessler. The bad news is neither do the Jaguars.
The Colts will win if: They use their tight ends to expose the Jaguars defense … again. In the Colts Week 9 victory, the Jaguars defense allowed four touchdowns to tight ends before making adjustment at halftime. Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said this week it's a matter of execution for the defense to avoid those coverage busts again this week. The Jaguars defense is going to have to execute from the first drive to stop tight ends Ebron and Mo Alie-Cox – and that guy Luck.
As Sullivan sees it: The Colts are on a five-game winning streak and have a solid shot at wild-card spot. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue said this week his goal for the next five weeks is to ruin teams' playoff chances. I think the Jags defense will play sound football this week and eliminate some of the busted coverages they had in Week 9. What worries me is how the Jaguars are going to score points with no Fournette – and no Norwell protecting Kessler. The Colts will win this one because they are playing for something more than pride at this point in the season.