JACKSONVILLE – Sunday's storylines: The streak, and a lot more.
The streak is a weird thing about the Jaguars' regular-season home opener, but it's real – and it's a theme for both teams this week.
The Jaguars have won seven consecutive home games against the Indianapolis Colts, who they will play at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. The streak began in 2015, including six games at TIAA Bank Field with one at Wembley Stadium in London.
The streak is odd because the Colts have been good entering many of those meetings while that has rarely been the case for the Jaguars. The streak included not only the Jaguars' highest-scoring game in team history – a 51-16 victory in 2015 – but one of their most memorable recent victories.
That memorable game? A 26-11 victory in the 2021 regular-season finale, which essentially knocked the Colts from the postseason and led to multiple offseason changes for Indianapolis.
The biggest change:
- Longtime Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is now the Colts' starter, having replaced Carson Wentz – who struggled in the '21 finale but whose four touchdown passes for the Washington Commanders beat the Jaguars in the '22 regular-season opener five days ago.
- Last Sunday's opener is past for the Jaguars and the streak also won't matter much once Sunday begins. What matters for both teams? It's an AFC South game, with the winner earning a crucial early-season victory in what on paper seems like one of the NFL's most evenly-matched divisions.
What must the Jaguars do to attain that victory?
Here are 10 things:
- Stop Taylor. As the third-year running back Jonathan Taylor goes, so goes the Colts' offense. How strong is Indianapolis here? They ran their way back from a 17-point deficit in Week 1 to force overtime and a 20-20 tie with the Houston Texans. NFL teams that can rally from double-digit deficits by running are rare. Then again, Taylor is a rare runner.
- Convert in the red zone. The Jaguars struggled here in the preseason. They converted three of five opportunities in Week 1, with one of those conversions a field goal. They turned one red-zone opportunity over on downs and lost another opportunity when Riley Patterson missed a 37-yard field goal. Given point-blank opportunities, the Jaguars must convert.
- Reduce penalties. The Jaguars committed a league-high 13 penalties in the opener. That's too many. Seven of those penalties were on offense, where the Jaguars had just four penalty-free drives. Both of their touchdowns came on those penalty-free drives. Clean offensive football is the Jaguars' Priority One Sunday.
- Win giveaway-takeaway. The Jaguars, after forcing just nine takeaways in 2021, won this statistic here in Week 1 with three takeaways and a turnover. They won't lose often with that ratio.
- Complete the "complete-ables." Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence missed multiple completable red-zone passes in Week 1, plays that could have changed the outcome. Red-zone opportunities are valuable in the NFL. You can't squander the makeable ones.
- Contain Pittman. Michael Pittman is the Colts' No. 1 wide receiver and far and away the go-to receiver. Quarterback Matt Ryan will lean on him heavily and constantly. The Jaguars must keep that duo from consistently converting in big situations.
- Run effectively. This doesn't mean run more. At least not a lot more. Head Coach Doug Pederson was fine with last Sunday's run-pass mix, and the Jaguars produced 123 yards with a 6.8-yards-per-carry average. That effectiveness created the balance that enabled the offense to produce 383 yards and five red-zone opportunities.
- Get the tight end going. Jaguars tight end Evan Engram caught four passes for 28 yards Sunday. Considering Pederson's history of productive tight ends, that production level will rise sooner rather than later.
- Pressure Ryan. This is a must, particularly in key situations. The Jaguars' defensive front felt like a threat and a team strength entering the season. The group played well overall in Week 1, but couldn't get pressure in critical times – i.e., two Commanders fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Defense in today's NFL is about disruption at critical moments. The Jaguars didn't get enough of that in Week 1.
- Look to the Joneses. Wide receiver Christian Kirk caught six passes for 117 yards Sunday in his Jaguars debut. That won't go unnoticed by Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. If the Colts shift to limit Kirk, enter the Jaguars' next two wide receivers: Zay Jones and Marvin Jones. Hooray for the Joneses.
Buy tickets to the Jaguars 2022 Season Home Opener,*here.*
3 sleeps until kickoff. 🏈 The Jaguars prepare for their 2022 Season home opener against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field.