Jaguars vs. Colts: Game Preview I

First in a series of game previews for the Monday Night Football Matchup of the Jaguars and Colts.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Monday, October 22nd, 2007, 8:30 p.m.

Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

Kickoff Temperature: 68 degrees

Line: Colts by 3

Records: Indianapolis 5-0, first place in the AFC South, Jacksonville 4-1, second place in the AFC South

Game notes: Colts lead the all-time series 9-3, and have won four consecutive AFC South Titles. Last time these two teams met, the Jaguars routed the Colts 44-17 in Jacksonville, thanks to a franchise record 375 rushing yards. The Colts used that beating to turn around their season, and marched on to a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

Rankings:

Indianapolis offense- 3rd overall (5th rushing, 7th passing); Scoring- 3rd, 32.8 ppg. Vs. Jacksonville defense- 8th overall (11th rushing, 13th passing); Scoring- 2nd, 11.6 ppg.

    Offensively, the Colts are a well-oiled machine that can strike from anywhere on the field, and can do it in a number of ways. The Colts signal caller is none other than Peyton Manning, who many believe is already one of the best quarterbacks of all-time, and will likely hold every passing record when he decides to retire. Manning can make all the throws, is deadly accurate, smart enough to call his own plays, and almost never makes a mistake.

    Manning's targets are wide receivers Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, and super tight end Dallas Clark. Harrison and Wayne are likely headed for the hall of fame when their playing days are over, and Gonzalez is a slot receiver who is an excellent route runner with good hands and speed. Dallas Clark is a mismatch for any linebacker, corner, or safety, and is having a huge year with 26 catches for 300 yards, and five touchdowns in just five games. Marvin Harrison has been slowed of late with a knee injury, but he figures to play on Monday night. Harrison has been a Jaguars killer in his career, as he's caught 47 passes for 710 yards, and eight touchdowns in just 11 games against the Jags. Reggie Wayne leads the Colts in receiving, as he has 28 receptions for 369 yards, and four touchdowns.

    One of the most underrated threats on the Colts offense is running back Joseph Addai. Addai has fueled the fifth-ranked rushing attack in the NFL by rushing for 407 yards and five touchdowns in just four games. The Colts offensive line opens up huge holes for Addai, as most defenses drop extra men in coverage to try and slow down that explosive passing attack.

    The Colts offensive game plan for this game will likely be what it is for any other contest. Peyton Manning will get the offense to the line of scrimmage, likely without a huddle, and survey the field to see what defense the Jaguars are lined up in. If the Jaguars play their base 4-3, the Colts will likely try to attack the slot match-ups of Anthony Gonzalez or Dallas Clark against a Jaguars linebacker, or nickel-back Terry Cousin. If the Jaguars drop back and play a 3-3-5 defense, the Colts will likely keep the ball on the ground and watch Joseph Addai chew up yardage.

    Defensively, the Jaguars will likely try and stop the Colts rushing attack with their powerful front four, while dropping extra men in coverage to protect against the big play. The Jaguars have historically been successful against Indianapolis with a bend but don't break philosophy, which allows opposing offenses to move the ball easily between the 20's, but then tightens up when the opponent gets in the red zone.

    The match-up that will likely determine the outcome will be if the Jaguars front seven can stop or even slow down the Colts running game. With the Jaguars lack of seasoned talent at the safety positions, defensive coordinator Mike Smith will likely have to help them out against the passing attack and the linebackers will likely have to drop back a little further than normal. Also, Jaguars All-Pro corner Rashean Mathis must do a better job than he's previously done on Marvin Harrison. To put it simply, Harrison owns him and the Jaguars can't allow huge plays in the passing game.

Jacksonville offense- 6th overall (4th rushing, 21st passing); Scoring- T18th, 20.0 ppg. Vs. Indianapolis defense- 5th overall (13th rushing, 3rd passing); Scoring- 11th, 17.6 ppg.

    Defensively, Indianapolis is a small, quick unit who can rush the passer effectively, and are built to play with a lead. The Colts starting defensive ends, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are quick, athletic guys who can get to the quarterback and cause turnovers. The most important player on the Colts defense is strong safety Bob Sanders, who is one of the game's hardest hitters, despite being just 5'8 , 206 lbs.

    The Colts defense normally plays teams straight up with deep safeties to avoid giving up big plays in the passing game. This week, the Colts will likely try to load up the line of scrimmage to force the Jaguars 21st ranked passing game to beat them through the air. The Colts defense was embarrassed the last time these two teams got together by the Jaguars physical offensive line, and they will likely sell-out against the run in this contest.

    The Jaguars will likely try to move the ball on offense the same way they have been doing all season long, by dominating the line of scrimmage and running the ball right at their opponents. The Jaguars running backs, Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have been running better each of the last three games, and they will likely get a lot of work against Indianapolis, assuming the Jaguars are in a close game.

    When the Jaguars throw the ball, it will be from the arm of the NFL's third-ranked passer in David Garrard. Garrard has played error free football in 2007, as he's completed 90 of 136 passes for 1069 yards, with six touchdowns and no interceptions, accounting for a rating of 104.7. Garrard will likely spread the football around in the Jaguars short passing game to leading receiver Dennis Northcutt, Reggie Williams, John Broussard, and Ernest Wilford. Garrard has also found a nice target in tight end Marcedes Lewis.

    I expect the Colts defense to take a few more chances in this game, due to the Jaguars lack of a consistent deep threat. Look for the Indianapolis secondary to jump routes and try to force turnovers. The Jaguars offense can counter this by using double-moves on the outside, so long as the offensive line can give David Garrard enough protection.

Colts kickoff return- 13th (24.5 ypr.); punt return- 19th (8.0 ypr.); punting- 17th (43.1 gross); net punting- 32nd (29.4 avg.); kickoff coverage- 21st (25.4 ypr. allowed)

Jaguars kickoff return- 8th (26.5 ypr.); punt return- 27th (5.9 ypr.); punting- 30th (40.3 gross); net punting- 15th (37.4 avg.); kickoff coverage- 2nd (17.8 ypr. allowed)

Colts: PK Adam Vinatieri, P Hunter Smith, LS Justin Snow, KOR/PR T.J. Rushing

    Vinatieri is 11/12 on field goals with a long of 39 yards. Rushing is averaging 27.0 yards per kickoff return, and 7.2 yards per punt return.

Jaguars: PK John Carney, P Adam Podlesh, LS Joe Zelenka, KOR Maurice Jones-Drew, PR Dennis Northcutt.

    Carney is 7/9 on field goals with a long of 37 yards. Jones-Drew is averaging 26.5 yards per kickoff return. Northcutt is averaging 6.8 yards per punt return on just six chances.

    In this all-important special teams battle, the Colts seem to have an edge with their kicker Adam Vinatieri (best clutch kicker ever), and their punter Hunter Smith. The Jaguars return men don't average as much as Indianapolis' T.J. Rushing, but they are more explosive. The Jaguars coverage units are considerably better than Indianapolis', so if a big play is going to be made in special teams it is likely to come from Jacksonville. If the game is on the line and Vinatieri is in the game, it is nearly a lock that he will be right down the middle.



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.

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