Sunday, December 2nd, 2007
Kickoff Temperature: Dome
Records: Jacksonville 8-3, second place in the AFC South, Indianapolis 9-2, first place in the AFC South
Line: Colts by 7
Indianapolis offense- 4th overall (9th passing, 9th rushing); Scoring- 4th- 28.1 ppg. Vs. Jacksonville defense- 23rd overall (28th passing, 12th rushing); Scoring- 7th- 17.7 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 rookie 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 nice year with 42 catches for 467 yards, and seven touchdowns. Marvin Harrison has missed the last five games with a knee injury, but he figures to play on Sunday. Harrison has been a Jaguars killer in his career, as he's caught 50 passes for 726 yards, and eight touchdowns in just 12 games against Jacksonville. Reggie Wayne leads the Colts in receiving, as he has 68 receptions for 1011 yards, and seven touchdowns.
One of the most underrated threats on the Colts offense is running back Joseph Addai. Addai has fueled a top-ten rushing attack by gaining 876 yards and nine touchdowns already this season. 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. The Colts attacked the Jaguars in the passing game over the middle of the field in the first meeting, and will likely try to exploit a similar philosophy, especially with rookie linebacker Justin Durant expected to start.
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, who is nursing a groin injury of his own, 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- 17th overall (23rd passing, 3rd rushing); Scoring- T13th- 22.1 ppg. Vs. Indianapolis defense- 2nd overall (2nd passing, 16th rushing); Scoring- 3rd- 15.6 ppg.
Defensively, Indianapolis is a small, quick unit who can rush the passer effectively, and are built to play with a lead. The Colts will be missing their best defensive end, Dwight Freeney, who went down a couple weeks ago with an ankle injury. Playing in place of Freeney will likely be a combination of Josh Thomas and veteran Simeon Rice. Opposite Thomas is Robert Mathis, who is a very quick, athletic end 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 23rd ranked passing game to beat them through the air. The Colts defense was embarrassed last year when these two teams got together, as the Jaguars physical offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, 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 are perhaps the best duo of running backs in the game, 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 fourth-ranked passer in David Garrard. Garrard has played error free football in 2007, as he's completed 136 of 209 passes for 1626 yards, with nine touchdowns and no interceptions, accounting for a rating of 103.1. Garrard will likely spread the football around in the Jaguars short passing game to leading receiver Dennis Northcutt, Reggie Williams, John Broussard (if healthy), and Ernest Wilford. Garrard has also utilized tight end Marcedes Lewis in the passing game more and more.
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, something he didn't have in the first meeting when Garrard went down with an ankle injury that forced him to miss the next three games.
Colts kickoff return- 23rd (22.5 ypr.); punt return- T23rd (8.0 ypr.); punting- 21st (42.5 gross); net punting- 31st (35.5 avg.); kickoff coverage- 24th (25.2 ypr. allowed); punt coverage- 32nd (18.8 ypr allowed)
Jaguars kickoff return- 4th (25.4 ypr.); punt return- T15th (9.2 ypr.); punting- 26th (42.0 gross); net punting- 23rd (38.1 avg.); kickoff coverage- 1st (16.8 ypr. allowed); punt coverage- 9th (7.3 ypr. allowed)
Colts: PK Adam Vinatieri, P Hunter Smith, LS Justin Snow, KOR/PR Craphonso Thorpe
Vinatieri is 19/25 on field goals with a long of 39 yards. Thorpe is averaging 21.2 yards per kickoff return, and 5.2 yards per punt return.
Scobee is 7/7 on field goals with a long of 48 yards. Jones-Drew is averaging 27.7 yards per kickoff return. Northcutt is averaging 10.5 yards per punt return on just six chances.
In this all-important special teams battle, the Colts appear to have a slight edge with their kicker Adam Vinatieri (best clutch kicker ever), and their punter Hunter Smith. The Jaguars return men are considerably better and more explosive. The Jaguars coverage units are much better than Indianapolis', so if a big play is going to be made in special teams it is likely to come from Jacksonville.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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