JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) This season’s first AFC South rematch looks
like a mismatch.
The surging Indianapolis Colts have averaged a little more than 33
points over their last eight games while the reeling Jacksonville
Jaguars have topped 21 points once in the last two months. The
Colts (6-5) have won five straight since a less-than-ideal start.
The Jaguars (3-8) have dropped seven in a row since thumping the
New York Jets to end the season’s opening quarter.
”Definitely dumbfounded,” Jacksonville defensive tackle Malik
Jackson said. ”If you would have told me in April we’d be 3-8, I’d
say you’re lying. I don’t know what’s going on. … I don’t know
what to say, what to change. We work hard. Guys have bought into
the scheme. The locker room is still together.
”Nobody’s waving (goodbye), nobody’s searching for flights to get
out of here at the end of the season. Guys are locked in. To go out
there and keep losing, it’s unexplainable. I don’t even know what
to say to you.”
The teams played three weeks ago, with the Colts winning 29-26
thanks partly to Jacksonville receiver Rashad Greene’s fumble in
field-goal range with 1:30 remaining.
Jacksonville won’t look the same in the second meeting.
Coach Doug Marrone fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett
and benched quarterback Blake Bortles this week, making two major
changes in hopes of jumpstarting one of the league’s worst passing
attacks. He promoted quarterbacks coach and former CFL head coach
Scott Milanovich to play-caller along with backup quarterback Cody
Kessler. Kessler, who went 0-8 with Cleveland in 2016, will make
his first start in two years.
Those tweaks could provide a spark for Jacksonville and might be a
challenge for the Colts.
”I have been in the situation before on the other side where we
have had a quarterback change, whether it be by injury or you are
just changing,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. ”In my experiences,
it’s not quite as big of a deal as everybody thinks.
”It’s usually not as big a systematic change as people might
think. You nuance a couple things, you shift a couple things, but
mostly you are running your system. So he will be ready. He’s been
running their system, right? He’s been running their system, been
in it, so we will just prepare against what we have been seeing on
Indy won’t have to prepare for Jacksonville’s best offensive
player. Running back Leonard Fournette was suspended one game
without pay for leaving the sideline, running across the field and
instigating a fight at Buffalo last week. The penalty will cost
Fournette about $100,000.
Former Browns running back Carlos Hyde is expected to start in
place of Fournette.
Jacksonville also will be without left guard Andrew Norwell
(ankle), who became the third O-line starter and fifth lineman to
land on injured reserve.
”We’ve had some injuries,” center Tyler Shatley said. ”You hate
to see that.”
The Colts know the feeling, having played all of last season
without quarterback Andrew Luck and losing by a combined score of
57-10 in two games against Jacksonville in 2017.
Now, Indy is going for its first six-game winning streak since
2009, and Luck has three or more touchdown passes in eight
”You work together and you should be getting a little better every
day,” Luck said. ”It’s great to see it show up on the field, but
we know as the season goes on, the challenge gets a little bigger
and the climb gets a little tougher.”
Here are some other things to know about the Colts and Jaguars:
No team has been more proficient finding tight ends this season
than the Colts.
Eric Ebron already has 11 touchdown catches, matching his total
from the previous four seasons, and he’s tied for the league lead
with Antonio Brown and Tyreek Hill. In fact, Andrew Luck has thrown
18 of his 32 TD passes to tight ends – more than twice as many as
any other team.
The Jaguars are hoping to play a little cleaner. They lead the NFL
with 22 personal fouls, and Marrone has grown tired of all the
flags for undisciplined behavior .
”The way the team plays is a reflection on me,” Marrone said. ”I
understand that. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in having a
well-disciplined, smart football team and obviously I’m not getting
HOLDING THE LINE
The biggest turnaround for Indy has come on the offensive line. The
Colts have given up just 11 sacks all season, matching New Orleans
for the league low and have allowed just one over the last six