JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2020 season, 10 Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Bucky Brooks, 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: They score early. They have only averaged 7.5 points a game in the first half over the last two years. This puts too much pressure on the defense and makes quarterback Gardner Minshew II one dimensional. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden must keep the Colts off balance by mixing up the run and pass, allowing Minshew to get the ball into his playmakers' hands.
The Colts will win if: They can run right at the Jaguars. This remains the Jaguars biggest question: "Can they stop the run?" Even with Philip Rivers as the Colts' new starting quarterback, the game plan should be simple for Head Coach Frank Reich: run Marlon Mack and rookie Jonathan Taylor right at Jacksonville. If the Colts can do this, they should have little problem winning.
As Ballou sees it: The Jaguars will take some chances on offense. They have been far too predictable the past few seasons. There will be a lot of pressure on rookie tailback James Robinson to fill the void left by Leonard Fournette. I expect the Jaguars to play hard, but with 16 rookies – including four of their six cornerbacks – I believe the Colts have too much talent. Indianapolis, 23-20.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: They win in the trenches. Offensively, the line is the most experienced and veteran group. For this team to succeed, the line must dominate in both the run and pass game. Individually, the linemen have the talent but were inconsistent as a group last season; that must change. Defensively, the Jaguars must stop the run. Look at the two Colts games last season: they allowed 264 yards rushing in a loss at Indianapolis before allowing less than 50 second-half rushing yards in the season-ending victory.
The Colts will win if: They win on early downs with the run game, which will slow the pass rush of the Jaguars and allow Rivers to get into a rhythm; that would be disastrous for the Jaguars. The Jaguars had enough issues with Rivers when he was on a Chargers team with a below-average offensive line and average run game; the Colts are good in both areas.
As Boselli sees it: The Jaguars must play some of their best football to beat a team that in my estimation is the AFC South's best entering the season. The good news is it appears it will be in the high 80s and humid Sunday. I think Minshew and the Jaguars will come out of the tunnel with a giant chip on their shoulders and shock the NFL with a great performance on both sides of the ball. It will be a close game late in the fourth quarter when Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo lines up for a 49-yard field goal to win, 27-24.
Bucky Brooks, Jaguars and NFL Network Analyst
The Jaguars will win if: Gruden can make the game easy for Minshew. The second-year veteran put together a solid rookie campaign in the Jaguars' previous offensive scheme, but Gruden utilizes a different system and it will be important for the play calls to mesh with Minshew's talents. If Minshew gets into a groove early while distributing the ball to multiple playmakers on the perimeter, the Jaguars could score enough to make the Colts rely on Rivers as a playmaker instead of as a game manager.
The Colts will win if: Rivers takes care of the football. The gunslinger had 23 giveaways in 2019 and his miscues cost his previous team – the Los Angeles Chargers – dearly in one-score games. If he takes better care of the ball and lets his playmakers do the work, the Colts' offense should be able to move up and down the field utilizing a balanced approach as part of a ball-control game plan.
As Brooks sees it: The Jaguars have the Colts' number at home dating to 2015. The streak could continue with conditioning being a factor due to the lack of preseason games and a complete offseason. The Florida heat and humidity could assist the Jaguars, particularly if the offense utilizes tempo to speed up the game. Despite a host of young players occupying prominent roles in the season opener, the Jaguars will walk away with a surprise victory over a division rival.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They can stop the run. It's a gigantic part of this game – and of every game for Jacksonville. Mack returns and the word is Taylor has been great in camp for the Colts. Indy had great success running against the Jags in Indianapolis last season; the Colts are going to run it right at the Jags. Rivers also has had great success against Jacksonville, so the defense has its hands full. But it starts with stopping the run.
The Colts will win if: The Colts will win if they run and give Rivers time to throw. They also have to harass Minshew, who is a bit of gunslinger with a very good receiving corps. If he gets some confidence and hits some throws early, the Jags could turn this into a shootout. I doubt that is what Indy wants.
As Frangie sees it: Many expect the Colts to win, but Indianapolis hasn't won here in a long time; I think that matters. You lose some confidence when you play somewhere you usually lose. Maybe Rivers' presence can change that since he has won here a bunch. I also think the Jags are a great unknown to many now, and I think they will play well Sunday. I'll bet the Jags play better than most expect in this one – a fourth-quarter game that will come down to the wire in a more even game than most think. I'll bet it's a heck of a game.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win: If they can stop the Indianapolis running game. Rivers has had great success in the past against the Jaguars; having a strong running game to add to his veteran experience will make that a tough trend to break.
The Colts will win if: They can make Minshew struggle in his first live action in Gruden's offense. The 2020 offseason did not feature the "normal" opportunities for repetitions because of COVID- 19. This can make for some bumps along the road once a season gets underway. The Colts' newly-acquired defensive tackle, DeForest Buckner, will be a handful playing alongside edge defender Justin Houston.
As Lageman sees it: This game comes down to the offensive lines and the running games. Both teams return their offensive lines from a year ago and are depending on them to be a strength. The Colts have an edge here as they have proven in the past to be a force. The Jags have some proving to do. Mack is also a known quantity, with Taylor backing him up. Robinson will make his NFL debut. The Colts on paper have a clear edge, but that is why the games are played. I'm looking forward to watching a young Jags team perform.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: They hold the Colts under 130 yards rushing. Indianapolis will try to establish the run based on the Jaguars' unproven defense. While 130 yards would be a respectable day by Indy, it wouldn't be dominant. That would allow the Jags to stay in the game.
The Colts will win if: Their defensive line wins the battle of the trenches. Indy added Buckner to the line; if that front stops the run and pressures Minshew, it could add up to be a long day for Gruden's offense.
As Martineau sees it: Let's get crazy, Jacksonville! Week 1 is as unpredictable as it gets. The Jaguars will stun the Colts in Week 1, 31-26.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They stop the run and create pass-rush opportunities. This likely will be a season-long key for the Jaguars, but it's particularly important against a Colts team that wants to control games on the ground. If the Jaguars can control Mack and Taylor, Jacksonville's pass rush could pressure Rivers into mistakes.
The Colts will win if: They can keep Minshew and the Jaguars' offense contained early. Minshew and the offense struggled early in games last season, continuing a recent trend for the Jaguars. If the Colts can keep the Jaguars under a touchdown in the first half, they could keep the Jaguars at a disadvantage throughout the game. If the Jaguars start quickly, they will be dangerous.
As Oehser sees it: This is a tricky Week 1 matchup for the Jaguars. A roster with 16 rookies could need time early in this game to get comfortable, which may give the Colts an early edge. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone believes this team will respond well to adversity, so look for the young Jaguars to rally late and give themselves a chance in a game that the Colts will ultimately win.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: The offense can match the Colts. That's a big ask without a preseason, but if Minshew is up to the task – and if new coaches and players can expand the offense's ability to score – it will keep the game close. That's this team's formula for winning in 2020.
The Colts will win if: They can run. The Jaguars couldn't stop the run last season and have spent most of the time since then working on a way to fix the problem. If they're no better, it's going to be a long day against Rivers.
As Sexton sees it: Sunday's game and this season is going to require patience. Sixteen rookies made the Jaguars' final roster; key veterans were traded or released and are playing in other cities. Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell may like what they think this team can become, but too many questions weren't answered in August to think they're ready to beat a seasoned team like the Colts in Week 1.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: This new offense can utilize the potential weapons all over the field: wide receivers that can stand out, a new tight end, multiple options at running back. But it all comes down to one guy to trigger all those playmakers: Minshew. If he plays well, the Jaguars might be able to keep up with most teams. If he doesn't, it will be tough to get it to all those guys to make the plays.
The Colts will win if: Rivers is the same guy with the Colts that we saw over and over and over and over with the Chargers. He has performed well in nine games all-time against the Jaguars: 7-2 record, 69 percent passing, 296 passing yards per game with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. He's one of the all-time greats, but if you can get in his head by being a pest all day you'll have a better shot at him. (Good luck getting in there; Rivers is an all-time talker – ask the former defensive end who was just traded.)
As Shadrick sees it: Considering the way the offseason went, who really knows how this game will play out? Neither team has played an actual football game since Week 17 of the 2019 season. Could tackling suffer? Is timing there for the offenses? This could go either way, so give me a high-scoring game in the high-20s or low 30s for each side with a late score deciding it one way or the other.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: They can stop the run. I am tired talking about it, you are tired hearing about it but we will continue to focus on it until we see otherwise. The Jaguars brought in Schobert to fix this issue and Sunday is the first test. The Colts will rely on their running game despite signing Rivers – they have two very talented backs who will split carries and I am sure Reich will continue to hand off until he sees the need not to.
The Colts will win if: Minshew shows inconsistencies like we saw in the scrimmage. He cannot waste any drives on Sunday. He must start fast; playing from behind is not the key to success with a roster as talented as Indy. Minshew will have to play a complete game and be successful in the first quarter for the Jags to win.
As Sullivan sees it: I have not seen enough from this team to give me confidence they will win. The Colts are predicted to be one of the AFC's top teams. It is nearly impossible to predict who will win any game this weekend because we have barley seen any tackling. Based off strictly rosters, I will have to go Colts in this one.