Game Preview, Week 17: Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
By Zoltan Paksa
When the schedule was announced I thought the NFL decided to try to give a possible re-match of the 2010 Jaguars at Colts (a. k. a. “the AFC South Title game of ’10”) with the game Colts at Jaguars in Week 17. Well thanks to a lot of things(Peyton Manning’s neck injury and the perfect storm at the Jaguars) these two teams are not obviously not playing for the division crown, or playoff birth. The stakes are even higher then that. This game will decide the fate of the Nr. 1 draft pick of next year. And with the most promising QB prospect since Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck will be selected first next April, you can understand why Peter King and Adam Schefter called this battle as the game of the week. Which is a huge praise because the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys will play a ‘win and in’ game on Sunday night. The irony is neither team should win this game. If the Colts win, they most likely will pick only 2nd after St Louis. And with a loss the Jaguars can avoid playing in the same division against another (most likely) excellent QB in a Colts uniform for the next decade. But this will be an emotinal game for the home team anyway. The man (and his family) who bring this franchise in Jacksonville will see his team for the last time as the owner. Not to mention Maurice Jones Drew’s quest. This game is obviously very big, and I guess you all understand why.
Don’t expect me to break down fully the matchups this time. The two teams know each other very well, some of them played for both teams in the past (and I expect at least 1 high profile current Indianapolis player can join the many ex-Colts in Jacksonville next spring…). But there are a couple of interesting areas for the last game as well. The Jaguars never played against Dan Orlovsky, it will be interesting to see how the suddenly red-hot fresh father(congratulation to the triplets) can do with his receivers, and 2 of them (Wayne and Garcon) as upcoming free agents are auditioning for 2012. But the Jaguars know all the Colts play makers. Except maybe they will be new for the Jaguars secondary, which losing every week at least one starter now. At least Morgan Trent will know them, the most likely starter CB for the Jaguars was a Colts player for a brief time in ’11. Another area which could be interesting is Dwight Freeney maybe will face rookie Cameron Bradfield, and Robert Mathis (who will be a free agent after the game) against Guy Whimper (also without a contract yet for 2012) at the lines. And of course the Blaine Gabberft watch will also continue. A found a bit ironic, that everybody starting to call him a bust in the same time he slowly and quietly progressing. That is for me proving what a big mistake was the ‘Mike Sheppard QB coach’ experiment. Almost as big as ‘Johnny Cox WR coach… Indianapolis’s corners are not that good, just like the Jaguars CBs, so Mike Thomas (who became the ‘Invisible Man’ since he was extended) and Jarrett Dillard (also Osgood – free ageny after the game-, Taylor Price and Chastin West can make their case for themselves before the big clean up at the position next year.
But I think every player except 1 will be just the supporting cast for the final game. The headlines are mostly will be off the field. The Weavers and Andrew Luck. And 1 will be on the field – Maurice Jones-Drew. I can’t praise what he done in 2011. He most likely will be the 1st Jaguars player who will win the rushing title (have a 128-yard lead on Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy) in an offense which is dead least in passing and total offense. He is also 136 yard away to break his mentor and good friend’s record. Fred Taylor challenged this weak Maurice, to try break his record. That, plus Maurice Jones Drew’s passion towards the Colts(read Peter King’s Friday column to understand what I talking about) will made him the most likely main role on the field. With this season Jones-Drew finally showed me, trhat he is a 16 game feature back. I hope at least 2 or 3 season like that are left in his legs.
But even his beig achivments will be shadowed by Andrew Luck. He makes this game more important in the long term then a showdown for the playoffs between the Cowboys and the Giants. I think at both organizations many people thinking about him. What if he the Colts lose the opportunity to get the perfect successor for Peyton Manning? What if the the Jaguars will help out their biggest rival with him? I think we cant foul ourselves how both Bill Polian and Gene Smith can think right now about this. But I hope it will be a fair game, and both team will play for winning it. And both current head coaches (whose faith is totally uncertain at this point) put together a game plan for the win. Even if that is totally opposite from their long term interests. By the way, I read many Jaguars fans and fellow blogers who said: “‘Lose this game. Don’t want to face Andrew Luck twice in the next decade. Plus the Jaguars will draft in a higher position when they lose”. My opinion is – you must always play for win. Even that is so against your interest as now. The Jaguars have plenty of reason to win this game. Since 2005 they always lost their last regular season game, in ’09 they lost the last 4, in ’10 the last 3 games. Right now they have a 2 game losing streak. It’s high time to end a season in a positive note. Also with a victory they would be the 1st team to defeat back to back the Colts since 2002, when the Titans managed to do that. That would be very nice, especially since the two better teams of this season, the divisional champion Texans and the Titans failed to do that. And of course the biggest reason of them all. For the Weavers.
Wayne Weaver and his partners managed the unexpected in 1993. They brought an NFL franchise to the city. No matter what he did or didn’t do as an owner the city should be very thankful for that major success. With this move he put Jacksonville to the international stage. Now even guys who lived thousands of miles away from North Florida (like myself) knew about this city. About this team. At least the Jaguars should give them a nice farewell gift with the victory. And let new owner Shadid Khan deal with Andrew Luck and the future. If Khan and his people will be good at what they doing, they will find an answer to that challenge (starting with finding a new great head coach). I hope although the stakes will be high for the long term future everybody on and off the field will focus 100% to do their best possible jobs to win the game(and I mean here about both teams). Because that and not all the noise (as John Oesher wrote greatly about the talk outside the field)makes this game and the NFL so grewat for us fans, to cheer even when nothing or everything is on the line.
Final Prediction: Jaguars 21 – Colts 20