It's a game between two teams that are polar opposites. The Jaguars are starting over. The Colts are hanging on, trying to squeeze one more title out of the great career of Peyton Manning.
That, in my opinion, is the storyline for Sunday's game. My question is: Which would you rather be, the team starting over or the one hanging on?
There are no realistic postseason expectations for the Jaguars. Maurice Jones-Drew can talk about the Super Bowl being the goal but, frankly, that's just playertalk. You want a goal? I'll give you a goal: Develop young talent and take a major step toward future success. The sooner the Jaguars take that step, the sooner they'll be successful.
The Colts, on the other hand, are still one of the heavy preseason picks to go all the way. Why? Because of Manning, that's why. The Colts will remain a preseason favorite for as long as Manning is their quarterback, just as the Dolphins were when Dan Marino was their quarterback.
Such is the magic of a star quarterback. He offers perpetual hope. The team's fans kind of know the team isn't gonna win the Super Bowl, but they can feign belief and get away with it because they have "The Man."
I prefer not to feign anything. The Jaguars did too much of that last season and all it got them was a heavy dose of disappointment. It's time to move on and I love the fresh sound of those words.
Torry Holt said earlier this week that Sunday's opener is a measuring-stick game. "We can measure ourselves and see where we are as a football team," Holt said.
I love that kind of grasp of the big picture. Yes, this is a chance to determine what's been done and how much more is left to do.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Colts.
- Run the ball—The Colts have an old, familiar look about them. They appear to be vulnerable to the run. Any chance the Jaguars have of winning this game hinges on running the ball for yards, points and time of possession.
- Help the rookie—In this case, I'm talking about rookie cornerback Derek Cox. In his first-ever game and against no less than Manning, Cox needs free safety Reggie Nelson to provide over-the-top security.
- Stop the run with seven—If it takes an eighth man in the box, Manning will pick the Jaguars apart.
- Block the ends—There's no way around it. Rookie tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton have to be effective in pass-blocking against Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
- Score every point—Nothing can be left on the field. Every drive into scoring territory must result in a score. The Jaguars have a kicker at the top of his game. Use him.
- Sack Manning—The Colts offensive line yielded 16 sacks in the preseason and Manning is very quick to surrender at this stage of his career. Sometimes he'll sack himself.
- Win the battle of the hitting—That's not the Colts' game. It has to be the Jaguars' game.
- Tap the energy of youth—The Jaguars have a freshness about them. It's easy to feel within their locker room. It can carry a team.
- Throw it deep—Finally, it appears the Jaguars have a receiver (Troy Williamson) who can get open deep. Let him do it.
- Show us the schemes—The Jaguars spent an offseason devising 3-4 rush schemes. OK, let's see them.