Unless the hat you’re wearing has a horseshoe on it, or your favorite colors are teal and black, I can count only two other reasons you might tune in to the Colts and Jaguars game Sunday afternoon.
One: to find out if Andrew Luck is really that good. Two: to find out if Jacksonville is really that bad.
Spoiler alert: the answers are “Yes” and “Yes”.
Did I ruin it for you? Then allow me to make it up.
Here are my three bold predictions for Jacksonville at Indianapolis. Granted, I wouldn’t bet on these.
But if they’re right, you might just want to flip the channel over to this game; it could surprise you.
1.) Andrew Luck will toss more interceptions that Blaine Gabbert
If any of you stat geeks are reading this, my prediction may not surprise you.
But if you’re just reading the names, you may need some convincing.
While Luck dazzled last week against the Vikings, he struggled in Week 1 against the Bears with three picks. On the other hand, Blaine Gabbert has remained untainted in the interceptions department through the Jags’ first two games, despite possessing a 51 percent completion rate.
If anyone else caught the Jacksonville-Houston game, you saw a Jaguars team that looked completely inept on offense. Blaine Gabbert struggled getting the ball to his receivers. And when he did, they dropped it like it was hot (in a bad way). I know the Jaguars are expecting more out of their receivers, namely first round pick Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon has only three catches on ten targets, totaling 24 yards. He has a lot of ground to make up to show he was worth such a high pick. Lucas Oil Field may be just the place to make it up, but I expect Gabbert and Blackmon to build that bridge slowly. As in, downtown construction slow.
Laurent Robinson has led the way for the Jacksonville receiving corps up to this point. His eight catches on 15 targets have netted him 115 yards, but he needs to find the end zone at least once before his stats really become something worth writing home about. The fact of the matter is, Gabbert has to find his receivers in the end zone.
In order to do that, the Jags' offense will have to find a way to move the ball down the field. Last week against Houston, the Jaguars only reached red zone territory one time. Look for the Jaguars to do whatever it takes to increase that number on Sunday.
On the other side of the ball, much has been made about the need for the Colts to establish the running game. They went to the run 30 times last week in their overtime victory over Minnesota, totaling 84 yards. Do the math and you’ll figure out that’s not a great average per run.
Luck will look elsewhere for help against the Jaguars, and I believe the coaches will grant him more passing opportunities. Only then may the Colts' running game find ways to gain yardage in chunks. Call it a “you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-your-back” offensive scheme.
Luck will take to the air quite a bit more than Gabbert will, so I’m sticking with my prediction; Luck will throw more interceptions than Gabbert.
2.) Maurice Jones-Drew notches his first 100-yard game of the season.
Last week the Jaguars only totaled 117 offensive yards against the Texans. At home. The Jags were forced to go to the air early and often to try to make up their scoring deficit. By often, I mean only 21 times. But when your time of possession is only 16:43, it feels like all you do is throw the ball.
In that same game, Maurice Jones-Drew only got 12 carries for 60 yards. That’s five yards a pop. The average is still where it should be, but the touches are missing.
It’s unlikely Indianapolis jumps out to the same kind of lead Houston did in Jacksonville last week, so I’m expecting the Jags to run the ball twice as much as they did last week, if only to tilt the time of possession closer to their favor.
On the year Jones-Drew has 31 attempts for 137 yards. That’s a 4.4 average. I like Jones-Drew to at least come close to that average against a Colts defense that is allowing 3.5 per carry. A couple big plays won’t hurt the ol’ stats line, and MJD is due.
On the year, the Colts haven’t been bad against the run. The Bears got 114 in Week 1, while the Vikings only mustered 95 in Week 2. In that game, Adrian Peterson only gained 60 yards on 16 carries (not very AD-like), so MJD may be up against it with this prediction.
Even I may need more convincing with this prediction. So let’s go a little deeper, Inception-style, and take a look at how the first prediction affects the second.
Andrew Luck throws more interceptions than Blaine Gabbert does, mostly because the Colts’ game plan will have them leaning toward the air. The Jaguars will counter that by trying to rule the clock. How do you do that? By running the ball. If MJD sets up a decent pattern of runs, the Jaguars will do whatever it takes to move down field (like I mentioned in Prediction 1).
Whether that means trick plays or deep play action passes, I don’t know. I’m not a wizard. But at some point in the game, the Colts' defense will be set up against that big pass, giving Jones-Drew space for the big run. Add that to maybe 22 or 23 other carries, and Jones-Drew gets his first 100-yard game of the season.
Okay, maybe it’s flimsy. But come back and find me when he’s the fantasy stud of the week, and you decided to sit him.
3.) The Colts require overtime to win for the second week in a row.
I think this game is going to be a lot better than other people think. I believe that even weak teams are capable of close, entertaining football. I believe that is what we will see with Jacksonville at Indianapolis.
Hey, maybe that should have been a bold prediction.
No, I’m going to take it one step further. The Colts win this one, but it takes overtime for the second week in a row. Last week, Luck got his first career NFL win in gut-check fashion. It’s a perfect welcome into the league.
Now at home against the Jaguars, the Colts are favored by only a field goal. That’s exactly what I think it’s going to take for the Indy win. A field goal in overtime.
The Colts and the Jaguars may be better matched than other people will give credit for. While the Texans seem to be the runaway favorites to win the AFC South, the pecking order for the three remaining teams is up for grabs and no team will give up easily.
If “Overreaction Week” before last Sunday taught us anything, it’s that no one performance can be indicative of your next. Jacksonville, Sunday is your chance to redeem.
It may seem obvious that this game will be close. But why overtime?
Last week the Colts won in overtime against the Vikings, 23-20.
In the Minnesota Vikings, we already have a common opponent for comparison. The Jags faced the Vikings in Week 1. Remember that outcome? Jaguars lose in overtime, 26-23.
Three weeks of tangled football outcomes interweave. The Colts win in overtime by a field goal, but you pretty much knew the ending before it even happened.
Or did you?
Christopher Nolan would be proud.