JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines key players, matchups and storylines as the Jaguars prepare to visit the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday
The buzz for the Jaguars is they can finish on a high note.
They also have a chance to finish 2-0 under interim head coach Doug Marrone, who coached the team's 38-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field.
That victory snapped a nine-game losing streak, the longest single-season losing streak in franchise history. It also came less than a week after the Jaguars dismissed Head Coach Gus Bradley after nearly four seasons.
The Jaguars played their most complete game of the season against Tennessee, holding the league's 10th-ranked offense to 263 yards and pulling away late. Offensively, quarterback Blake Bortles played more efficiently than he has during what has been a frustrating season – and the Jaguars won for the first time in a game in which Bortles passed for more than 300 yards.
Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson had his best game of the season Saturday, catching nine passes for a season-high 147 yards. He had five receptions of 15 or more yards.
The Colts enter the game a week after being eliminated from the postseason.
That happened when the Colts lost to the Oakland Raiders Sunday, a loss that wasn't as close as the 33-25 final score indicated. The loss eliminated Indianapolis from the postseason for the second consecutive season, the first time that has happened since 1997-1998.
The Colts have been inconsistent because of a defense that has struggled at times – and while because quarterback Andrew Luck remains one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, he has been more inconsistent in the last two seasons than in his first three.
The Jaguars, after six consecutive losses to the Colts, have won the teams' last two meetings. They beat the Colts 51-16 at EverBank Field last December and 30-27 at Wembley Stadium in London in October.
Matchups to watch
*Jaguars defensive front versus Colts running back Frank Gore. The Jaguars' defense ranks fourth in the NFL in yards allowed, and it held the Titans – the NFL's third-ranked running offense – to a season-low 58 yards rushing. The Jaguars also held running back DeMarco Murray to a season-low 42 yards. Gore needs 36 yards Sunday to reach 1,000 for the ninth time in his career.
*Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey versus Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. It has reached the point that any matchup involving the Jaguars' rookie cornerback is the best matchup of the week. That's particularly true with Ramsey facing Hilton, who made his third Pro Bowl this season. Ramsey has nine passes defensed and two interceptions in the last two weeks, and he held Hilton to 42 yards receiving in Week 4.
*Jaguars passing offense versus Colts passing defense. Bortles and Robinson had their best game of the season as a duo Saturday. That productivity had been absent too often this season. If the duo can duplicate it Sunday, it would establish a level of confidence/consistency entering the offseason.
Jaguars to watch
*Blake Bortles, quarterback. Bortles had his best game of the season Saturday, perhaps the best game of his career – and his 18-of-23, 217-yard first half set the tone. Can Bortles put together back-to-back strong games and enter the offseason on a high note?
*Dante Fowler Jr., defensive end.Fowler, like Bortles, had his best game of the season Saturday. He had a monstrous first-half sack and two other plays that disrupted Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. The second-year veteran is still learning to rush the passer at the NFL level, but a second consecutive strong game would start the offseason positively.
*Marqise Lee, wide receiver.The third-year veteran has accounted for five touchdowns in the last six games – three receiving, one as a kickoff returner and one when throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass on Saturday to Bortles. But Lee is no gimmick. He's the Jaguars' most dynamic, entertaining offensive player.
The Jaguars have lost nine of 10 road games dating to a mid-November victory at Baltimore last season. The lone victory during that span came when they rallied from a 16-0 fourth-quarter deficit to beat Chicago, 17-16, in October. The Colts are 3-4 at home this season.
Key to victory
Focus, focus, focus. Neither team is in playoff contention, with the Jaguars eliminated long ago and with the Colts' final playoff hopes disappearing in Oakland Saturday. There will be talk of offseason change around both organizations this week. Which team plays with the most focus, desire and professionalism could determine Sunday's outcome.
Keep an eye on …
The Jaguars' running back situation will be a focus this week. T.J. Yeldon (ankle) is out for the season, Chris Ivory (hamstring) didn't finish Saturday's game, and Denard Robinson has missed the last three games with a high-ankle sprain. That leaves Corey Grant, Bronson Hill and Daryl Richardson – acquired off waivers Monday – as healthy players at the position.
The Jaguars also face injuries at tight end. With Neal Sterling in the concussion protocol and with Marcedes Lewis and Julius Thomas both out for the season, the Jaguars had just two healthy tight ends Saturday: Ben Koyack and Alex Ellis. That meant the Jaguars stayed in 11 personnel – one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers – most of the game.
Wide receiver Arrelious Benn also remains in the concussion protocol, and wide receiver Allen Hurns (hamstring), defensive tackle Jordan Hill (calf) and linebacker Sean Porter (hamstring) are expected to appear on the injury report after missing Saturday's game.