JACKSONVILLE – It's Wednesday already?
Yes, it is – and that means the day has arrived when the Jaguars officially put the Lost Weekend in New England in the rearview and look ahead to a key AFC South matchup in Indianapolis.
How key? The winner leaves with at least a share of first place in the AFC South. Who cares that the winner will also exit with a.500 record?
These teams don't. A share of first place is a share of first place, and it's at stake Sunday.
With that in mind, here are six quick questions as preparations begin:
1)Can the Jaguars bounce back?This is a key question for a second time in three weeks. And if it was important to respond against Miami after a Week 1 loss to Carolina, it's equally critical the Jaguars play well Sunday. The 51-17 loss to the Patriots was just one loss, but the post-game feeling was one you don't want to linger.
2)Can the Jaguars pressure Luck?If there was a lasting image of the Jaguars' loss at Indianapolis last season, it was the defensive front harassing Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. A five-sack/three-forced fumble first half gave the Jaguars a chance at halftime. Five first-half sacks will be hard to match, but the Jaguars want a similar effort against a Colts line that has undergone significant changes this season.
3)Which is the real Blake Bortles?This has been asked before this season, and will be asked until we know an answer. The second-year quarterback struggled in Weeks 1 and 3, performances that wrapped around a two-touchdown, no interception effort in a Week 2 victory over Miami. His interceptions have been key plays in both losses. Bortles has looked better this season than last. He hasn't looked as consistent as necessary. That's normal for a young quarterback, but the Jaguars need the progression to accelerate.
4)Who's coming back?The injury list could get shorter this week. Safety Johnathan Cyprien, tackle Luke Joeckel and defensive end Andre Branch have improved, and their practice statuses look more promising than in recent weeks. That's a start, and until the Jaguars have a week with at least one healthy inactive on game day, injuries will be an issue.
5)Can Yeldon get going?The Jaguars have been persistent with the run. And T.J. Yeldon has had flashes in three games in which he has appeared ready to break out. The Jaguars aren't going to stop trying Yeldon, nor should they. It takes young lines longer to achieve cohesion in run-blocking than pass blocking. The signs are there, but is this the week?
6)Can the Jaguars stop T.Y. and Co.?Extend this past Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Co., and include the tight ends. The Jaguars have had trouble stopping a whole lot about the Colts' passing game in recent seasons, with Hilton and the tight ends giving them particular trouble. The Jaguars have been strong against the run so far, so they could match up with Frank Gore. But once the Jaguars get Luck into passing situations, they have to cover better – and tighter – than they did in New England.