It is finally here! Week One of the regular season for the National Football League. Come Sunday at 1:00pm ET, I’ll be more excited than a kid on Christmas. All season long I plan on bringing you all the Jacksonville Jaguars content you can handle. This week, the season kicks off with division rival Indianapolis Colts coming into town led by long time nemesis Philip Rivers. The two teams couldn’t be farther apart when it comes to national perception. The Jaguars enter the season the early favorite to be the worst team in the league while the Colts have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. So let’s break down this match up! Pssst- it’s not as lopsided as you think. As always, thanks for supporting me and the rest of NZI. Through the good, the bad, and The Jaguars, I’ve got you covered. If you don’t like it, the complaint box doesn’t exist so either drop a comment or fire that tweet, keyboard warriors! @HindenburgScout
Time, Location Etc..
The game is scheduled to be played at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida on Sunday, September 13th at 1pm ET. The weather looks to be what one would expect from a Florida September, with a forecasted high of 87 degrees and humidity nearing 80%. Florida heat is no joke, even for some of the most athletic men on the planet. Given the lack of reps and all things COVID, I can’t help but wonder (hope?) that the Jags will have an edge with conditioning.
Tale of the Tape
Indianapolis Colts: 7-9 in 2019. Added Philip Rivers, Johnathon Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. to what should be an explosive offense. Lead the All Time series with Jacksonville 24-14, including splitting the series in 2019. The Colts haven’t beaten Jacksonville on the road since 2014. Have a phenomenal offensive line led by Quenton Nelson, and an explosive backfield featuring former Wisconsin star Johnathon Taylor and Marlon Mack. T.Y. Hilton remains one of the most dangerous wideouts in the game today. Defensively, this team has studs at every level with DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard and Malik Hooker. The Colts have confidence, experience and an excellent infusion of talent from the offseason. In what should be a competitive division, the Colts are poised to have a postseason run.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 6-10 in 2019. Five straight home wins against the Colts. Added CJ Henderson, LaViska Shenault and Tyler Eifert to position groups that desperately needed upgrading. All in on Gardner Minshew this season, for better or worse. Should be noted Minshew played perhaps his best game to end last season against the Colts. DJ Chark proved he belonged in the conversation of best young wideouts in the league in 2019. Cam Robinson is looking to prove he is fully recovered from a 2018 ACL tear, and Jawaan Taylor is a stud at RT. Defensively have a lot to prove, but still emerging star Josh Allen, Myles Jack and Joe Schobert can change games with big plays. There is almost no one who believes this team is going to be any good, and that makes them dangerous.
Head to Head
Philip Rivers V. Todd Wash: In head to head comparisons, it really is a duel between quarterbacks and defensive coordinators. Philip Rivers has absolutely dominated the Jaguars over the span of his career, racking up over 2,000 yards and nearly 30 touchdowns, including during the Wash era. This isn’t even a question. Edge: Colts
Colts Offensive Line V Jaguars Defensive Line: I wish I could argue this is close, but it isn’t. Outside of Josh Allen, I’m not sure who on the Jags can be counted on to consistently win their match ups. Stopping the run is going to be critical, so someone is going to need to step up. Edge: Colts
Colts Skill Positions V Jaguars Coverage: This is hard to project due to the youth on both sides. Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell look to have increased roles for the Colts, while the Jaguars have CJ Henderson and likely Josh Jones moving into starting roles. I don’t know that either club has an advantage here. Edge: Even
Gardner Minshew V Matt Eberflus: The one universally praised trait of Minshew’s has been his football intelligence. He mastered Mike Leach’s air raid playbook in one offseason. Before going to Washington State he was set to join Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama following a year as a back up. He didn’t look lost as a rookie, and OC Jay Gruden has been thrilled with his grasp of the scheme. Edge: Jaguars
Jaguars Offensive Line V Colts Defensive Line: This is another one that is really difficult to give a nod either way. DeForest Buckner is a stud, but Brandon Linder is a top 5-8 center in the league. Both groups will have their moments, but neither should dictate the outcome of this game. Edge: Even
Jaguars Skill Positions V Colts Coverage: This is an area the Jaguars must take advantage of if they are to be competitive in the opener. DJ Chark, LaViska Shenault and Dede Westbrook should be able to create separation against Xavier Rhodes and Co. Tyler Eifert should be able to make an impact as well. Malik Hooker is a fantastic safety who Minshew cannot lose sight of, but he should have chances for big plays. Edge: Jaguars For those keeping score, that’s dead even in head to head match ups. I’m not going to sit here and say that the Jaguars are as good as or better of a team than the Colts. But the roster comparison doesn’t quite match up with national perception. Then again with The Jags it rarely ever does.
What Must Happen
- Stop the Run. If you own JT in fantasy, start him. What’s the rookie record for rushing yards in a game? He might break it. Until this team can prove it can stop the run, it can’t. In order to get a divisional win at home to start the 2020 season, they have to be stiffer against the run.
- Win the Turnover Battle. The defense is going to give up points. There is so much inexperience and new faces that it is inevitable. That’s fine. I accept that. Josh Allen, Myles Jack, Joe Schobert or DJ Hayden, one of the veteran leaders of this unit needs to step up and give the offense an extra possession. If you give the Colts extra chances to score and short fields, the defense is going to get gassed quick.
- Finish with Seven, not Three. I have a ton of admiration for the job Josh Lambo has done since joining Jacksonville. That said, the only times I want him kicking are extra points and kickoffs. This team simply was not very good in the red zone last year. If they want to be competitive, they cannot afford to leave 4 points on the field so often. Collin Johnson? Tyler Eifert? Doesn’t matter. Get it in the end zone.
- Play Smart. The Jaguars have developed a really ugly trend of being among the league worst when it comes to penalties. This team has continually hurt itself in this area. A disciplined team is a good one. Be a good one, please?
- Trust the Stache. This will likely always be included in these articles. No one in the national media expects this team to be any good. Most casual observers think Trevor Lawrence should already set his Zillow app to Duval County. Playing conservatively has no benefit. Be aggressive. Open the playbook. Let Minshew sling the ball all over the field. Trust the QB1 to make plays and elevate this team. That is the best chance this team has of having a surprise win, and season.
Key Match Ups
- DJ Chark vs Xavier Rhodes
- Marlon Mack/Johnathon Taylor vs Jaguars Run Defense
- CJ Henderson vs T.Y. Hilton
Every week throughout the season I will do my best to predict what the outcome will be. Not what I want it to be. Not what you want it to be. But a true and objective stab at predicting a game that is in and of itself, unpredictable. Philip Rivers has historically owned this team. I don’t trust this run defense until it proves that it can do it’s job. That said, I feel like this is a winnable game. I think Philip Rivers is going to struggle with Father Time. The heat will be a factor and benefit the defense. Josh Allen should be able to make a few plays. Offensively, I think Minshew and Chark have a big game. LaViska Shenault and Jay Gruden should have plays designed to get the rookie the ball in space, and he should have impact moments. Both teams are going to score some points, and Josh Lambo comes in clutch for a last second game winner. Official prediction: Jaguars win 34-31.