Eric Hartz: Many NFL observers thought it was a bold move when the Jaguars cut QB Byron Leftwich at the end of training camp and named David Garrard the starter. Three months later, it's apparent that it was absolutely the right move for the team. Garrard is playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and is in line for Pro Bowl consideration. What qualities does Garrard possess that make him the right leader for this team?
Charlie Bernstein: David Garrard has always possessed the physical tools to be a great quarterback, but prior to this season he was prone to mental mistakes. Since the third week of training camp, Garrard has transformed himself into a very good decision maker and one of the league's better quarterbacks. Garrard has a calming presence about him that inspires confidence from his teammates.
Hartz: The Colts enjoyed a relatively easy win over the Jaguars on Oct. 22 in Jacksonville, in part because they were able to knock Garrard out of the game. What lessons did the Jaguars take from that game, and what have been the biggest reasons for the team's excellent play in recent weeks?
Bernstein: I believe the Jaguars more or less threw out what happened in the Monday night game against Indy. They were overwhelmed by falling behind quickly, then losing their starting quarterback.
The reason for the team's fine play of late is their early starts on offense. In the last three games, the Jaguars have scored on their first possession, and in the last two weeks, they've scored on their first three possessions. Teams tend to get out of their normal game plans, especially early, when they fall behind against a team that isn't known for putting points on the scoreboard.
Hartz: Whatever happened to Matt Jones? He looked like he had unlimited potential when the team first drafted him. Now, he seems to be lost in the shuffle for Jaguars. What's holding him back, and do you think he'll ever become a valuable weapon for this team?
Bernstein: Matt Jones has all the physical tools that anyone would want in a wide receiver. Unfortunately, he is not an especially hard worker and he maintains a laissez-faire attitude about playing the game of football. I can all but guarantee that this will be his final season in Jacksonville.
Hartz: What's the injury situation like in Jacksonville? Star corner missed Rashean Mathis missed Sunday's game against Buffalo. How will his groin injury affect the Jaguars coverage of the Colts' receivers?
Bernstein: Rashean Mathis will likely play this Sunday and he likely could have played last Sunday. Mathis has had an off year so far in 2007, and the Colts are one of the only teams in the league that seem to go after Mathis and have had great success — especially Harrison. If Mathis is a step slow, he will probably play more conservatively and give more cushion, which will open up stop or out routes on the sidelines.
Hartz: This is becoming one of the NFL's best rivalries, but Jacksonville hasn't been able to dethrone the Colts from their perch atop the AFC South yet. Obviously, a lot is on the line this weekend, as the Jags would send a loud message to the rest of the NFL with a win in the RCA Dome. What's the blueprint for a Jaguars' victory?
Bernstein:In my opinion, this game isn't really yet a rivalry. Indy has proven that they are the team to beat in the division, and until the Jaguars beat them more than once every other year, or beat them in a big game, the rivalry only really exists in the eyes of the Jaguars and their fans.
For the Jaguars to pull the upset, they need to get ahead early, and find a way to put pressure on Peyton Manning. If Manning has all day, he will pick apart the Jaguars, like he does everyone else in the league. Running the football effectively is a must, and they must score touchdowns instead of field goals. It will be a tall task for the Jaguars if they're going to come away with a win on Sunday.