It’ll be a battle of teams headed in opposite directions at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
The Indianapolis Colts want to have momentum heading into the playoffs. They also need the victory to have a shot at moving up from the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars are simply playing out the season before vacation starts following the game.
The Colts easily beat the Jaguars 37-3 in Week 4.
ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco discuss the rematch:
Wells: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew has been a fixture in the organization for eight years. Will Sunday be the last time he wears a Jaguars uniform?
DiRocco: My gut feeling is that he’ll be back, but it’s certainly not a slam dunk. Jones-Drew said after Sunday’s loss to Tennessee that he wants to be back in Jacksonville, but he has a price and contract length in mind. So does general manager David Caldwell, so I expect this to be a deal that’s going to take some negotiating to get done. Jones-Drew may still want to test the free-agent market to see what kind of money is out there, but he’ll probably find that there isn’t a lot of demand for a 29-year-old running back who has battled injuries the past two seasons. It really would be best for both sides to have Jones-Drew finish his career in Jacksonville. Jones-Drew wouldn’t have to prove himself all over again and he would help bridge the gap between the past five terrible seasons and the new regime.
Since we’re talking about running backs, was the Trent Richardson trade the worst move of the NFL season? What does it mean going forward for both the Colts and Richardson?
Wells: The trade obviously hasn’t worked out the way the Colts envisioned -- Richardson isn't even starting -- but the front office is nowhere near ready to ball up a white towel and throw it in on the second-year running back. They still believe he’s a huge part of the team’s future. The Colts believe a full offseason of organized team activities and training camp will help Richardson’s development. Richardson has shown some flashes -- he ran for 51 yards on seven carries in the fourth quarter against Houston on Dec. 15 -- but the Colts don’t want flashes. They want consistency out of him, and believe that will come.
I know I asked you about Sunday possibly being Jones-Drew’s final game with the Jaguars, but what about the coaching situation down there? Do you think you’ll be covering a coaching search in the offseason?
DiRocco: It may look to outsiders that Gus Bradley should be on the hot seat after a 4-11 season that included an 0-8 start, but he’s just as secure in his job as Bill Belichick, Andy Reid and Pete Carroll are theirs. Owner Shad Khan knew this was going to be a rough season because he, Caldwell and Bradley agreed to essentially blow things up and start over. The Jaguars’ roster is the least talented in the league, and it’s also one of the youngest. Caldwell is committed to building through the draft (the Jags have 10 picks in the 2014 draft) and Bradley is on board with that. The first priority is finding a quarterback, which likely will be done in May. Now, if the Jaguars are still only able to manage single-digit victories three seasons from now, Bradley would be in trouble.
Wells: The Colts put a heavy emphasis on being a power-running team this season. Any thought of that happening basically ended when Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the season with a neck injury after the Week 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Colts became a team that simply wanted to be able to run the football, and they weren’t going to let anybody stop them from trying to do it. They’ve gained at least 104 yards in 10 games this season, with the idea of helping ease the burden on Luck’s shoulders. Luck’s passing yards are down from his rookie season, but he has had a better overall second year. His completion percentage is up and his interceptions are down. It didn’t seem that would happen after Wayne was lost for the season and there wasn’t much continuity with the rest of the receiving group outside of T.Y. Hilton. Have you ever heard of Da'Rick Rogers? But Luck’s faith and trust with his receivers has improved each week because he has put in the time with them in practice.
The quarterback situation in Jacksonville is still a mess. Will the Jags look to upgrade the position in the offseason or will Blaine Gabbert get another shot?
DiRocco: I mentioned it briefly above, but finding a franchise quarterback is the No. 1 priority and I believe the Jaguars will select one with their first-round pick. ESPN Insider Todd McShay’s first mock draft had them selecting Johnny Manziel, which would certainly make them relevant nationally and bring some excitement to the franchise. Teddy Bridgewater is still an option, too, depending on how the draft plays out. The Jaguars also could opt to go defense in the first round and take a QB in the second. Regardless of their approach, I’d be stunned if the team doesn’t draft a quarterback. Gabbert’s days in Jacksonville are done.
Denver isn’t a lock to win the AFC, by any means. How do you break down the Colts’ chances in the playoffs?
Wells: Health, continued improvement from the receivers, the defense forcing turnovers and having a running game are the biggest keys for the Colts in the playoffs. I believe it’s a two-team race between Denver and New England in the AFC, but both teams have their flaws and are beatable. The Colts are in a situation where they could finish anywhere from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed. They’ve been able to overcome the loss of Wayne to be in the position to possibly match their win total of 11 games from last season, but I think it’s in the playoffs -- possibly in the second round if they get there -- that the Colts will miss Wayne’s talent and experience.