JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines key players, matchups and storylines as the Jaguars prepare to play host to the Indianapolis Colts at Wembley Stadium in London, England, Sunday
The Jaguars have to somehow, some way … win.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said it early this week and he's right. There's no clever way to say it – and we're not even talking about the Jaguars climbing from their 0-3 hole and contending for a winning record or the postseason.
Those goals remain, even if they seem distant, but the Jaguars' main goal this week in London must be to figure out a way to get one victory. Players are frustrated, coaches are frustrated and fans are frustrated – and the only way to end that frustration is to win.
It's not as if this team hasn't been close. It's not as if it doesn't have the talent to win. That may have been the case at times in recent seasons, but that wasn't the case in the regular-season opener against Green Bay and it wasn't the case against Baltimore Sunday.
No, the Jaguars are close. They have had chances. But they let a winnable game get away against the Packers and they let a lead get away against the Ravens.
They somehow must find a way to stop letting games get away. That's the only buzz that matters this week.
The Colts narrowly averted a disastrous start to the season. Indianapolis had lost its first two games and needed a 63-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Luck to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to beat the Chargers, 26-22, Sunday – but because they got the victory, they are now 1-2 and a game out of first place in the AFC South. Indianapolis didn't lead in either of their first two games, and while Luck led the 14th game-winning drive of his career Sunday, he also continues to struggle at times with inconsistency and turnovers. The Colts also are struggling defensively this season, ranking 24th in the NFL in total defense with 401.3 yards per game and allowing 95 points in three games.
Matchups to watch
*Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey versus Colts WR T.Y. Hilton.Ramsey is fast progressing to the point that whoever he plays is a matchup to watch. Hilton is a dangerous, big-play receiver but Ramsey has impressed with his ability to cover deep, and his physicality/tackling ability already is exceptional for his position.
*Jaguars MLB Paul Posluszny/DT Roy Miller versus Colts RB Frank Gore.Gore had his best game of the early season last week, rushing for 82 yards on 21 carries against San Diego. If the Colts run that well it makes their offense particularly dangerous. The Jaguars' ability to stop the Ravens' running attack last week was a major reason the defense turned in its best game of the season.
*Jaguars WRs Allen Robinson/Allen Hurns versus Colts CBs Patrick Robinson and Vontae Davis.Robinson and Hurns have a combined two touchdowns this season after combining for 24 in 2015. Defenses are scheming against the deep pass that made the duo – particularly Robinson – so effective last season, but the Jaguars' offense needs scoring from these two to be effective. Patrick Robinson has missed the last two games in the concussion protocol, and the Colts' defense was helped last week by Davis' first appearance of the season.
Jaguars to watch
*Blake Bortles, quarterback.Bortles has become the Jaguars' major early-season storyline. He has committed six turnovers in the last two weeks, and when the quarterback struggles, he's a player to watch until he proves otherwise.
*Telvin Smith, linebacker.There may not be a Jaguars player playing better than the third-year veteran through the first three games. He always has had speed. He's playing with consistency this season and he's a reason the defense overall is improved since last season.
*Ramsey.If you're not watching him you're missing out.
The Jaguars had lost six consecutive games to the Colts until they broke that streak with a 51-16 victory at EverBank Field last December. The Jaguars have lost six consecutive regular-season games since that game, which was the most one-sided victory in Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley's four seasons with the team.
Key to victory
Bortles must play better. He has struggled in the last two games, committing three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) in a Week 2 loss at San Diego and three more (three interceptions) in a Week 3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He was also sacked four times against Baltimore, plays when he seemed to move into pressure rather than getting rid of the ball in timely fashion to avoid the sack. There are more issues facing the Jaguars than the quarterback, but the position is too critical in the NFL for such mistakes not to prove very costly.
Keep an eye on …
*Jaguars left tackle Kelvin Beachum remains in the concussion protocol after missing Sunday's game. His status likely will be updated Wednesday. …
*Jaguars linebacker Hayes Pullard III left Sunday's game with a left ankle sprain and did not return while tight end Julius Thomas (elbow), running back Chris Ivory (right knee/left ankle sprain) and linebacker Dan Skuta (strained hip muscle) returned after sustaining injuries. …