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Worst most important?


The battle between Peyton Manning and the Jaguars defense has top billing for this Sunday's game at Alltel Stadium, but it may be the clash between the league's worst offense and worst defense that will determine the game's outcome.

Why are the Jaguars' offense and the Colts' defense each ranked 32nd? Because there isn't a 33rd.

"I want everybody to forget about us. It might make it easier," Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich joked.

Everyone is certainly focused on the feature performers in this game.

• Manning owns a 119.9 passer rating, with nine touchdown passes against only one interception. His offense is ranked first overall, with the fourth-ranked passing game and the seventh-ranked rushing attack.

• The Jaguars defense is number eight in the league, with the eighth-best pass-defense and a number 15 run-defense ranking that's a bit misleading because the Jaguars are seventh in run-defense average.

Classic matchup: the irresistible force vs. the immovable object.

Then there's Leftwich vs. the Colts defense. Nothing misleading about their rankings.

• The Jaguars are 24th in rushing and 32nd in passing, and also last in first downs per game and third-down efficiency.

• Indianapolis is 32nd in pass-defense, 32nd in first downs allowed per game and 31st in third-down defense. Why are the Colts 13th in run-defense? Because everybody wants to throw the ball against them. The Colts are 26th in run-defense average.

Yeah, classic matchup: the resistible force vs. the movable object.

But don't laugh. Those two beleaguered units could end up deciding the game. One of them almost certainly has to step up and be the difference-maker.

"What we're doing offensively is we're doing enough to win. Enough to win may be 13-10, but it may be 33-30. To be honest with you, it gets a little frustrating," Leftwich said of the Jaguars offense's inability to break out of the slump that has burdened it since the start of training camp.

In last week's 15-12 win at Tennessee, the offense came to life late in the third quarter. The Jaguars put together two impressive drives, the second one going 69 yards in 13 plays to produce the winning touchdown.

Was that the breakout game for which everyone has been waiting?

"We got real close in the second half. We played Jaguars football in that second half," Leftwich said.

"Jaguars football" would seem to mean a ball-control running game and a turnover-free passing attack. It's what the Jaguars used to upset the Colts last year at Alltel Stadium.

"It's a little easier defending (Manning) when he's on the sideline," coach Jack Del Rio said.

In the second half of last year's Jaguars win, after trailing 20-7 at halftime, Fred Taylor rushed for 101 yards and the Jaguars controlled the ball for 20 minutes and seven seconds. The Colts ran only 23 plays in the second half.

Yeah, that's how you beat Manning and the Colts. They can't score if they don't have the ball, right? And that's where the league's 32nd-ranked offense enters the picture. Doing enough to win this Sunday may require doing enough to get themselves out of last place in the rankings.

"We're very close offensively, as far as having a breakout game," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said. "But the most important thing is getting a win. This may not be the offense to put up the big numbers. We may be the offense to do whatever it takes to win."

Today's injury report has tight end Kyle Brady "out" again, as he's developed a staph infection in the finger that was surgically repaired a month ago. Kick-returner Jermaine Lewis (groin) and guard Vince Manuwai (calf) are "questionable," though Del Rio said he hoped to get Manuwai back at practice on Thursday. Running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (foot), defensive end Lionel Barnes (shoulder) and cornerback Juran Bolden (shoulder) are "probable."

The Colts have major injury problems in their secondary. Starting strong safety Mike Doss (hamstring) is "out" and safety mate Idrees Bashir (groin) is "doubtful." Also "out" are defensive back Joseph Jefferson, safety Bob Sanders and wide receiver Troy Walters.

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