By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – The Jacksonville Jaguars are certainly not the same team
that the Indianapolis Colts saw – and beat by 27 points – on the road in Week
That doesn’t mean they’re any more likely to win a Week 12 rematch, of course,
but they’ve at least got a fair chance to be a bit more competitive.
Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles made his NFL debut off the bench and threw
two late touchdown passes in the 44-17 debacle back in September, but the
youngster who was selected third overall in the 2014 NFL Draft has shown
intermittent signs of progress in a handful of appearances since.
The University of Central Florida product took over the starting role from
Chad Henne a week after the loss to the Colts and has thrown for at least one
touchdown in five of seven games as the No. 1 option.
He also was under center for the Jaguars’ lone win of the season, a 24-6
defeat of Cleveland in Week 7.
In his most recent start – a 31-17 loss to Dallas in London before a Week 11
bye – Bortles was 22-of-37 for 290 yards and was intercepted once, leaving his
passer rating for the season at 72.2. His highest single-game rating of the
season, 96.4, had come a week earlier in a 33-22 loss at Cincinnati.
“These final six weeks are really a great opportunity for Blake to really say,
‘How do I step up my preparation, how do I step up my practice habits and how
do I step up my communication?'” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said.
Helping his cause against the Colts will be the presumed return of tight end
Marcedes Lewis for the first time since an ankle injury in Week 2. To make
room for Lewis, however, rookie receiver Allen Robinson was jettisoned to the
injured reserve list with a broken right foot. He’d led the team with 48
catches and 458 yards and had scored twice.
Another youngster, Allen Hurns, remains questionable after suffering a
concussion in the Dallas loss. He caught a 63-yard touchdown pass in the first
game with Indianapolis.
On the ground, former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has averaged 5.4
yards per carry while going for 389 yards and scoring four times in his last
“It’s nice to see the running game getting better,” Jaguars guard Brandon
Linder said. “He’s a talented athlete and a great team player. He brings it on
every play and is very confident in the way he runs. That’s Denard. He makes
things happen. He’s a very talented player. It’s nice to be able to block for
him and see the outcome he gets on a play and the success that he’s had the
past couple of games. Hopefully we can keep those types of results going the
rest of the season.”
Meanwhile, even though they lead the AFC South by a game, the Colts could use
a little good news.
Indianapolis has lost two of its last three games and will be without running
back Ahmad Bradshaw for the rest of the season after he broke his right leg
against New England, in a 42-20 defeat, last week.
The loss to the Patriots saw the Colts gashed for 246 yards on the ground and
was the second time in three games that an opponent went for 40 or more
points. Ben Roethlisberger threw six touchdowns in a 51-34 Pittsburgh win in
Week 8 and Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four TDs for New England.
Still, they have won 10 straight games in the division and are the only team
among its quartet with a better-than-.500 record. And, they haven’t lost to
Jacksonville since September 2012.
“It’s up to us to execute,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “It’s a tough
pill to swallow, but let’s make it clear – we’ve got to go out and play
In a five-game win streak that stretched from Weeks 3 through 7, Indianapolis
allowed 75 total points and registered a shutout of Cincinnati. In three games
since, it’s allowed 39 points per game.
“It’s definitely frustrating because we’re a good defense,” defensive tackle
Arthur Jones said. “We just have to be consistent.”
It may not be a problem against the Jaguars, who are second from last in the
league in scoring (15.8 points per game), 27th of 32 teams in total yards
(315.1 per game) and have been on the short end of a 138-40 composite score
against the Colts since their last win in the series.
Indianapolis held a comfortable 30-3 lead before Bortles’ late uprising in the
Jacksonville has given up 91 points in losing three straight since its lone
win in 2014, and Colts QB Andrew Luck leads an offense that’s still averaging
a league-best 438.3 yards per game even after being held to its low for the
season – 322 yards – against New England.
Luck has thrown for at least 300 yards in eight straight games, a franchise-
record streak that began with the initial defeat of the Jaguars. Elsewhere,
Bradshaw’s absence means more responsibility for Trent Richardson, who has 594
total yards for the season. Indianapolis also signed Josh Cribbs to fill
Bradshaw’s slot on the roster.
“We are going to miss his energy, his passion, everything he brings to the
table,” coach Chuck Pagano said.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
A Two-Man Advantage
Now that veteran cornerback Alan Ball has been lost for the season due to
injury, the Jaguars’ defensive backfield will be headlined by starting corners
Demetrius McCray and Dwayne Gratz, both of whom were drafted in 2013. They’ll
face the prodigious receiving tandem of T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne,
who, incidentally, have 106 catches, 1,556 yards and five touchdowns between
Stopping the Plummet
The Colts had maintained a respectable place among the NFL’s rush defenses
before the 244-yard debacle against the Patriots dropped them just past the
midway point to 17th overall. Their front seven faces an interesting challenge
this week in Robinson, who’d averaged more than 100 yards per game before
being held to 60 yards on 15 attempts in the London game before the bye.
For all the strides the inconsistent Jaguars may have made since the early-
season meeting between the teams, they’re still the Jaguars and the Colts are
still the Colts. Indianapolis plays respectable defense and Jacksonville
doesn’t score. Indianapolis has a prodigious offense and Jacksonville allows a
lot of points. Regardless of burgeoning optimism, it’s not a good recipe for
the visiting cats.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Colts 27, Jaguars 10