INDIANAPOLIS – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ Sunday meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium:
- Kickoff: 1 p.m.
- Broadcast: CBS4
- Spread: Colts by 2½.
History lesson, Part I: Home sweet home, or so the Colts hope. They’ve won four straight against the Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium and eight of the last nine. The home team has won 10 straight in the series.
History lesson, Part II: At the risk of piling on the offense, it has failed to score more than 20 points in seven consecutive games. That’s the team’s longest such streak since – drum roll please – 1993. The 69 total points are the fewest in the first five games of a season since Peyton Manning’s rookie year of 1998 (57).
History lesson Part III: The Colts have trailed at halftime in seven straight games. Their last halftime lead: 12-6 at Arizona in week 16 of last season.
Clean it up
The lack of production on offense is what you get when you mix horrendous pass protection with a careless quarterback. The Colts have allowed 21 sacks and 73 pressures while Ryan leads the NFL with seven interceptions and 11 fumbles. He’s lost three fumbles, running his turnover total to a league-high 10.
It’s hard enough to win in the NFL when things go relatively smoothly. We’re seeing the results when a team insists on offering the opposition a helping hand.
A stat that jumps off the page: The Colts have nearly twice the number of turnovers (11) as touchdowns (six). Of the 94 points the defense has allowed, 46 (48.9%) have come following a turnover.
Get something out of the run game
And that won’t be easy without Jonathan Taylor (ankle) and Nyheim Hines (concussion). The offensive line continues to put Ryan in harm’s way, but a run game that’s at least competent could help ease the pressure that’s sure to come from Josh Allen, Travon Walker and the rest.
Deon Jackson and Phillip Lindsay formed a workable tag team in the overtime win at Denver by combining for 102 yards on 24 carries. That’s hardly up to Colts standards, but it represented a marked upgrade over the previous three games that saw the team average 58 yards per game and 2.7 per attempt.
It’s entirely possible Ryan and his running backs will be operating behind a third different offensive line combination in as many games. At Denver, rookie Bernhard Raimann was inserted at left tackle with Matt Pryor moving to right tackle and Braden Smith sliding to right guard. Maybe that group stays in place. Maybe Smith goes back to right tackle and Pryor goes to right guard.
Whatever the combo, the o-line needs to pick up its game.
The entire offense should benefit from the presence of Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce. Each missed the first meeting with injuries.
Speed up Lawrence
Trevor Lawrence obviously remains a work in progress. The 1st overall pick in 2021 is 5-17 as a starter. But he’s 2-1 against the Colts, and has been more than they could handle the last two meetings. In the 24-0 blowout win in week 2 and 26-11 victory in the final game last season that put the Colts out their misery, Lawrence was 48-of-62 (77.4%) for 458 yards with four TDs, no interceptions and a fat 118.9 passer rating.
He toyed with Gus Bradley’s defense in September – 83.3% completion percentage and a 121.5 rating, both career highs – in large part with quick drops and short throws. It was the old death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts approach. The defense seldom forced the issue with just two QB hits and zero sacks.
In the rematch, look for Bradley to lean on tighter coverage from his DBs to force Lawrence into his second or third reads. Maybe Stephon Gilmore spends a good part of the day shadowing Christian Kirk, who had six catches for 78 yards and two TDs in the first meeting.
Also, Isaiah Rodgers is part of the equation in round 2. He did not take one defensive snap at Jacksonville as Bradley went with Gilmore, Kenny Moore II and Brandon Facyson in his cornerback rotation. Rodgers’ playing time has increased in each of the last three games: 38% against the Chiefs, 44% against Tennessee, 47% against Denver.
And the winner is…
Colts 20, Jaguars 17. We initially had the Colts winning 21-17, but decided the smart move is to expect a streak to continue, not end. So while we’re projecting a Colts’ win that would move them to 3-2-1 – that would be such a weird record – and within a whisker of 3-2 Tennessee atop the AFC South, we’re also expecting the 20-points-or-fewer streak to hit eight.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.