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Pressure is on the Colts


The Jaguars are facing a lot of pressure for a game this early in the season. Our high expectations for the Jaguars this season are already on the line, and should the Jaguars lose in Indianapolis this Sunday, you'll have to get in line next week to complain.

Tough town that Jacksonville, huh? Yeah, well wadda you think it'll be like in Indianapolis next week should the Colts lose?

If you think the Jaguars are facing a pressure game, consider the importance of this game from the Colts' perspective. This is their home game in these AFC South foes' two-game series. This is their season to win it all; maybe the last season they can have that expectation during the Peyton Manning era.

The pressure to win has never been greater during Manning's magnificent eight-year career. He is in the late prime of his career. He'll never be better. This is it, just as it was for the Dolphins at the same stage of Dan Marino's career.

A team such as the Colts, which is to say a team that has become a postseason fixture and a favorite for the Super Bowl, has to be careful in games such as this Sunday's. The Colts have to be careful not to look ahead to their next postseason meeting with the Patriots. They have to be careful not to be ambushed along the way by some young upstart. The Jaguars, of course, want to be that upstart team.

This is a season for which the Colts have pointed. Everything seems to be in their favor, from last year's major point of emphasis on the chuck rule to the addition of Corey Simon on the eve of this season to the long odds the Patriots face in their quest to become the first team ever to win three Super Bowls in a row.

Everything seems to be favoring the Colts, but didn't it always seem that way for Marino and the Dolphins, too?

Then along came the Buffalo Bills. Just as the Broncos and the Browns were departing the scene and leaving the AFC for Marino and the Dolphins to rule, the upstart Bills seized the conference for a long run at the top. It was a run that ate up what was left of Marino's prime.

Hmmm, might the Jaguars be to Manning as the Bills were to Marino?

That's the kind of pressure the Colts are facing in this game. They are being confronted by a team that wants to replace the Colts at the top of the AFC South, and the Colts can't allow that and expect to have homefield advantage for the playoffs.

Make no mistake about it, that's what the Colts want. They want to be at home when they play the Patriots in this season's playoffs. They dream of getting the Pats under the "big top" in the AFC title game. That's the kind of pressure the Colts face: AFC title game or bust.

The AFC title game and the Super Bowl, however, are not on the schedule. You have to win your way into those games, and that means having to beat all of those upstart teams all over again, beginning with the Jaguars this Sunday in Indianapolis.

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