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Ten things: Jaguars-Colts


JACKSONVILLE – It's all still right there. Very much so.

It maybe hasn't felt that way to those following the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Indianapolis Colts in a 2022 Week 6 game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., Sunday.

It is the nature of the NFL that a victory or two makes all seem rosy and a loss or two makes all seem … well, un-rosy – and the Jaguars' loss to the Houston Texas last Sunday indeed has many observers doubting what they saw in a two-game winning streak in September.

That's outside the team. That's perception.

Inside the team, here's what the Jaguars know:

That despite the first two-game losing streak of the season, and despite slipping from first place in the AFC South, nothing is lost yet. They are a game behind the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South with three months of games remaining.

A victory Sunday over the Colts would mean a two-game sweep in the division. A victory Sunday and the Jaguars would be in sole possession of second place, a half-game behind Tennessee.

A victory would change perception.

This game figures to be tough. The Jaguars beat the Colts 24-0 in Jacksonville in Week 2, and second games against division teams are difficult. The Colts are 2-2-1, and if they haven't played as well as many expected, they have played well enough – and gritty enough – to be a half-game out of first place.

Yes, the Jaguars on Sunday can show the season is very much right there. They'll need to play better than they have in the past two weeks to do that.

Here are 10 things they must do to beat the Colts:

1. Protect the ball … The Jaguars have committed seven turnovers in the last two weeks, all by quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Not all have been killers. Enough have.

2. … particularly in the red zone. Lawrence's third-quarter red-zone interception in a 29-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 came with the Jaguars trailing by six – and changed the game's momentum. His end-zone third-quarter interception in 13-6 loss to the Texans in Week 5 came with the game tied – and changed the game's momentum. That pattern must stop.

3. Score touchdowns in the red zone. The Jaguars produced a season-high 422 yards against the Texans, but managed just two field goals on three red-zone trips. The Jaguars haven't been bad in the red zone the entire season, but struggles there cost dearly in their losses.

4. Pressure Ryan. Of the Jaguars' 10 sacks this season, five came in Week 2 against a Colts offensive line that has struggled to protect veteran quarterback Matt Ryan. If the Jaguars repeat that sort of performance, they will be tough to beat Sunday.

5. Turn pressure into takeaways. The Jaguars dominated the Colts in Week 2, but three interceptions made it feel really dominant. Ryan leads the league in lost fumbles and is tied for the lead in interception. If the Jaguars harass him, they can control the game.

6. Stop the run. The Jaguars did this in a big way in Week 2. Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, the NFL's leading rusher in 2021, was limited in practice this week with an ankle injury after missing a Week 4 victory over the Denver Broncos. With or without Taylor, stopping the Colts on the ground is paramount.

7. Be patient. Lawrence was patient against the Colts' bend-don't-break Cover-3 defense in Week 2 and the result was one of his best career games. He forced passes too often against the Texans' bend-don't-break Cover-2 this past week and the results were a lot of yards but no drives finished.

8. Be big late. The Colts have shown a knack for squeezing out tight victories this season. The Jaguars' three losses have come by a score or less and their victories were by a combined 52 points. You contend in the NFL by winning close games.

9. Keep Christian Kirk involved. The Jaguars' best wide receiver in the first three games, Kirk caught one pass for 11 yards against the Texans on three targets. A repeat of those numbers Sunday would be a major surprise.

10. Break one. Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. had his career-best game against the Texans and was thiiiis close to breaking a long touchdown run. Close will eventually become points. A Jaguars offense struggling for touchdowns would benefit from that happening sooner than later.

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