When you ask most NFL fans what particular regular season game they are looking forward to these days, most will point directly to the week nine showdown between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, both of whom are currently undefeated and many believe they will likely stay that way. The Colts, however, don't appear to be looking ahead, especially not this week when they play the Jaguars with first place in the AFC South on the line.
Colts head coach Tony Dungy was asked about the magnitude of this Monday night's game-
"I think our team knows that (with Jacksonville coming up). That's the biggest game of the year right now for us. We have a chance to create some distance between ourselves and the rest of the division. We have a chance to get ahead in the tiebreakers, and Jacksonville has a chance to be in first place. If they win, they will be in first place. If we win, we'll be two games ahead with the tiebreaker. So, it's a huge game, probably the biggest game we'll have all year. And I think our players, hopefully they understand. They will by Thursday for sure."
Of course no coach is going to give any type of answer but some derivative of the one game at a time cliche, but this is especially true regarding this game, especially when you look at the recent history between these two teams. Last season, the Jaguars and Colts split their two meetings, both winning at home, but in the first meeting in week three, the Jaguars dominated the stat sheet, and the football game, and pretty much dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard. The Jaguars allowed a punt return for a touchdown, missed two field goals, and had two interceptions in a 21-14 loss. It was a fluky type of game for the Jaguars, and many players, coaches, and fans alike felt as if the better team did not win that day.
In the second meeting, the Jaguars running game was clicking on all cylinders, and the defense played Peyton Manning and the Colts offensive machine very well, en route to a 44-17 victory in which the Colts were embarrassed by allowing 375 rushing yards, franchise records for both teams, and nearly an NFL record for rushing, despite the Jaguars not playing their first or second string running backs for most of the second half. That game propelled the Colts to change their defensive philosophy, and they have only lost once since then, en route to a 29-17 victory of the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, their first championship since moving to Indianapolis.
Colts head coach Tony Dungy was asked if he would show the team tape of the last meeting between the two teams-
"We will look at it and certainly look at how they ran the ball against us, what plays they ran. We'll look at what we did well, and try to build on that. Again, that game ended up tough, but it wasn't what you would think that there was nothing good that came out of it. We did some pretty good things in a lot of cases, just didn't have enough momentum in the second half to keep going. There were some things that we did that we can build on."
One other thing that will help the Colts not look past Jacksonville this Monday will be the fact that they've had two weeks to prepare. The Colts spent week six on a bye, watching the Jaguars game and giving the coaching staff extra preparation time.
Coach Dungy talked about the Jaguars on film-
"I have watched them. We saw the Tennessee game because we played Tennessee the second game. Tennessee played very well and Jacksonville probably didn't play their best. But since then, they have been as hot as anybody. They've won in Denver and in Kansas City, which not too many people can say they've won both of those places in the same year. They have played very well the last four weeks, and I know they will be excited to play us in the fact that if they win, they will be in first place. They'll be ready for us, no question."
Although it's likely that the Jaguars will be more focused for this game, being that it's on a national stage, it very well may work against them. Jacksonville has played on Monday Night just twice in the past six years, and it could cause them to be over aggressive early on. As for the Colts, this is business as usual for them. They've already been on national television once this season, in the season opener, and are scheduled to be on again another three times. With them being the most successful team in the league in terms of winning percentage over the past five years, the Colts are not only used to being "the hunted", but seem to relish the title.
Coach Dungy talked about the team's winning streaks, and if the players appreciate them-
"I try to get that across to them every week, how hard it is to win just one week and what you have to do, do things right, play your best. And I hope we don't ever take that for granted because it's just not something I've been around in all of the places that I've been. It takes work and it takes good players and good preparation. That's what we've had and that's what you have to continue to have if you want to keep going."
As for what to expect this Monday night, who knows? One thing that can be just about guaranteed is that Indianapolis remembers what the Jaguars did to them last season, and that they will be ready to play.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer.
Dungy Knows Best
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