Jaguars vs Colts: Game Preview

The Jaguars got off the snide as they beat Green Bay, 20-16. Indianapolis was less than dominant in a 31-21 victory over the winless Detroit Lions, still it was their seventh straight victory. Here's our first preview of the Thursday night matchup of Jaguars vs Colts.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, December 18, 2008, 8:15pm EST

Records: Jacksonville 5-9, Indianapolis 10-4

Series history: Indianapolis leads, 11-4. Last meeting Jaguars won 23-21 in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis offense 18th overall (6th passing, 30th rushing); Scoring- 17th – 23.1 ppg. vs. Jacksonville defense 15th overall (14th passing, 17th rushing); Scoring- 19th- 22.1 ppg.

The Indianapolis Colts once explosive offense has been anything but that in 2008, as Peyton Manning missed all of preseason and began the season rusty. Since, Manning has seemed to right the ship as he has been more effective and clutch down the stretch in recent victories.

Teams have taken a bit of a different approach to the Colts this year as they're stacking up the line of scrimmage to stop dynamic running back Joseph Addai, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection a year ago.

On the outside, Indianapolis has perhaps the best trio of wide receivers in football, with Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne, future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, and slot-machine Anthony Gonzalez. Tight end Dallas Clark is among the handful of best tight ends in the game, and is very effective on third downs.

The Colts offensive line has taken a bit of a hit, as many point the team's offensive problems to those injuries. Center Jeff Saturday missed some time early on, but has since returned and the entire line is playing much better.

The Jaguars front four has had major issues rushing the passer this year as rookies Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves haven't contributed much, and Paul Spicer and Reggie Hayward are on the down sides of their careers. The interior of the Jags defensive line has been underwhelming this season as John Henderson isn't the player he once was, and the combo of Tony McDaniel, Rob Meier, and Derek Landri are little more than average.

The Jaguars linebackers were supposed to be a strength this season, but have also underachieved. The unit has been better since middle linebacker Mike Peterson was moved to the bench, and Daryl Smith has slid to the middle position, but they've missed far too many tackles. Smith will likely be out for the final two games of the season, marking the return of Mike Peterson to the starting lineup.

The Jags secondary has been disappointing, but has played much better lately since Brian Williams was moved from strong safety back to cornerback. Rashean Mathis was playing at a high level, but is out for the season with a knee injury. Free agent acquisition Drayton Florence has been terrible, and was moved from starting corner to nickel. Safety Reggie Nelson has an aversion to contact, and he's found himself out of position several times this season.

Best offensive matchup for Indianapolis: Reggie Wayne vs. any Jaguars corner- Wayne is among a handful of the best wide receivers in the game, and the Jaguars have given up big plays in the passing game repeatedly.

Best defensive matchup for Jacksonville: Justin Durant vs. Joseph Addai- Durant has bounced back from a tough start to the year to play pretty well. He should be able to contain the dynamic Indianapolis rusher.

Jacksonville offense 20th overall (16th passing, 18th rushing); Scoring- 24th 19.4 ppg. vs. Indianapolis defense 12th overall (7th passing, 25th rushing); Scoring- 9th – 19.6 ppg.

The Jaguars offense has a threat of a great running game, but teams have neutralized the talented duo of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor by placing extra men in the box and mostly playing cover one. Jones-Drew leads the team in rushing with 655 yards while averaging 4.3 ypc., with 14 touchdowns (2 receiving). Taylor's season is over as he was placed on the IR with a thumb injury. He finished with 556 yards while getting just 3.9 ypc.

Quarterback David Garrard is looking more and more like a one-year wonder as he tends to hold the ball too long, looks at his first read then checks down, and hasn't been particularly careful with the football. Garrard has completed 62.5% of his throws for 3164 yards, but has just 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. His 82.6 quarterback rating is pedestrian at best, and he hasn't been strong enough to get opposing teams to keep their safeties away from the line of scrimmage.

The Jags best receiving threat is wide receiver Matt Jones, who has 65 catches for 761 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, Jones is out for the season with a suspension. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is second on the team with 54 catches for 484 yards, and tight end Marcedes Lewis has 34 catches for 434 yards and two touchdowns.

The Indianapolis Colts have a small, quick defense that can get after the quarterback. The Colts defense is best when teams are forced to pass from a heavy deficit, as defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are lightning quick off the snap. The center of the Indy line is small, as Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster are little more than average.

Matching up against the Jaguars wide receivers will be corners Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden, with Tim Jennings entering in nickel situations. Safety Bob Sanders is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and Antoine Bethea can cover a lot of ground.

Best offensive matchup for Jacksonville: Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Clint Session- The Jaguars great running back usually plays very well against Indy, and the Colts have had a tough time tackling this year.

Best defensive matchup for Indianapolis: Bob Sanders vs. David Garrard- Sanders is the best safety in the game and if Garrard isn't careful, Sanders will take one of his throws back the other way.

Special Teams

Indianapolis: PK Adam Vinatieri, P Hunter Smith, LS Justin Snow, KOR Pierre Garcon, PR Justin Forsett/Keiwan Ratliff

Jacksonville: PK Josh Scobee, P Steve Weatherford, LS Joe Zelenka, KOR Brian Witherspoon, PR Brian Witherspoon

Special teams advantage: The Jaguars have solid coverage units, but Indy has the better kicking game. Special teams should be pretty even.

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