The Indianapolis Colts who are 1-2 will start their 2016 AFC South schedule on this Sunday, and really early at that, 9:30 in the morning, since kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars who are 0-3, will be in London. Week Four features the yearly match taking place at Wembley Stadium in the UK.
How good will the match up be? Well for one, the Jacksonville Jaguars have not won a game since Week 14 of last season when strangely enough they blew out the Indianapolis Colts by 35 points. That’s probably not likely to happen today. Why, well after losing three straight games to start this season, statistically, yes even with 13 games left on the season, the odds of making it to the playoffs are think. Despite the odds, the Jaguars will get a great opportunity to halt their 0-3 start and try to get back on the winning side of things.
This exciting European version of NFL action will be the first of three NFL games in London this season, and there will be another game in Mexico City , all as part of the NFL’s International Series. The Jags are lucky enough to be playing in Wembley Stadium for the fourth consecutive year.
What could also be lucky is that the Jaguars are catching the Colts at a favorable time in London since the Colts have been struggling on defense. Quarterback Andrew Luck has not been playing like himself so far this season. Interestingly, over the past two weeks, Luck has thrown for a combined 528 yards and only two touchdowns. He’s also turned over the ball four times already.
But let’s put London aside for a second. Yes what else is favourable for the Jags is that this game is also about the challenges facing the Colts logistically, since they’ll be playing over 4,000 miles away from home. But they’ll also have to play 60 minutes of football on Sunday too, and that won’t be easy, even if the Jags are 0-3.
This AFC South divisional game is the first in a round of games coming at the Colts in rapid succession, with three such match ups coming in the next four weeks. The Colts will return from London next week to face the Bears at home, another under par team, but that doesn’t mean they should be underestimated. After Chicago, it’s back-to-back road divisional games against the Texans and Titans. Not an easy task to complete on the road.
But if they play well over the next four weeks, the picture of the AFC South could get a bit clearer for the Colts. That’s why Sunday’s game means a little bit more than an average game between teams that have a combined records of only 1-5.
“This game counts double,” said Colts T.Y. Hilton on facing the Jaguars this week. “For us, we know what’s at stake.” It was Jacksonville last year beating the Colts in Week 13 for Indy’s first divisional loss since December 2012.
The Colts have lost two AFC South games in the final month of the season, which kept them out of the playoffs for the first time under Chuck Pagano. This offseason, the Colts sat quietly and watched how the rest of the AFC South made headlines after making a variety of moves in free agency and the draft to improve rosters.
It cast a shadow over the Colts: Would fans see a changing of the guard in a division that has been dominated for so long by the Colts? Was it time for a rebuild? The Colts are hoping that answer is “no.” And to prove that to themselves and the world, they can take the first small step towards achieving that answer today in London.
But truly, it doesn’t matter Whether it’s London, Jacksonville, Australia or Indianapolis, this one game will have a serious impact in how the AFC South will begin to shake out, and where the teams will fall.
“We could go to London anytime for a vacation,” Jim Irsay says. “My mantra to our football team and our players and coaches is this is a road division game. A game that we got our butts kicked last year, badly, in a game against a divisional team that’s on the rise that’s used to playing there. It’s exciting to go to London, play the game, get the Horseshoe brand over in Europe. It’s something that’s good and where the league is headed, so we’re excited about going there. But we want to win the game, obviously.”
There will be some interesting match ups as well. Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles versus the Colts defense should be interesting since Bortles has really struggled to start 2016 off right. Bortles has six interceptions in three games. The Colts defense has really excelled in defending the pass the last two weeks. They will be a healthy starting unit too for Sunday’s game.
Colts running back Frank Gore versus the Jaguars front seven defense should also be fun to watch. The first half from last Sunday’s game was what the Colts have wanted out of their running game. Gore’s 70 rushing yards in the first two quarters kept San Diego’s defense on edge and uneasy for the rest of the game. It’s important for him to perform since Donte Moncrief is sidelined, so consistent production from Gore will go a long way for this offense to keep up its production.
Interesting points for today’s match up: Andrew Luck has won his past five starts against the Jaguars. In those games, Luck has thrown for 1,389 yards, 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Also with 88 rushing yards on Sunday, Frank Gore will pass four people to move into ninth place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. The Colts have six players who have played in London before: CB-Darius Butler, CB-Antonio Cromartie, RB-Frank Gore, DE-Kendall Langford, CB-Darryl Morris and RB-Jordan Todman, so it will be old-hat for them.
This game will also mark the fourth straight year the Jaguars have hosted a game at Wembley Stadium. Jaguars’ running backs T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory each had 100-yard rushing days in their respective games at Wembley Stadium. Yeldon (115 rushing yards) did it with the Jags. Ivory (166 rushing yards) did it with the Jets. So expect them to excel today. And Jaguars’ Pro Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson has 14 touchdown catches in his last 15 games. So expect the Jags to finally break through and get a win, even if they have to do it on the other side of the pond.