INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (5-3)
at JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-7)
Kickoff: Thursday, 8:20 p.m. EDT
Line: Indianapolis -3, Total: 42.5
The surging Colts seek their fourth straight victory (SU and ATS) when they take on the slumping Jaguars, losers of five in a row, on Thursday night.
Despite the current slide, the Jags have beaten Indy three straight times, including a stunner at Indianapolis in Week 3. The Colts took a 17-16 lead with less than a minute to go, only to have Blaine Gabbert throw an 80-yard TD to Cecil Shorts on the next play, accounting for more than half of Gabbert’s passing yards. The Colts outgained Jacksonville 437-333 in that game. Rookie QB Andrew Luck is on fire right now, throwing for an NFL rookie record 433 yards in last week’s home win over Miami. The Jaguars have numerous injuries in their defensive backfield. The Jags also have the worst offense in the NFL, and will likely be without RB Maurice Jones-Drew again because of his foot injury.
Can the Colts extend their winning streak in this divisional road game? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL game throughout the 2012 season and playoffs.
Luck is coming off an NFL rookie record for passing yards, but he has not been sharp in his three road games this year, posting a 63.3 passer rating due to a completion rate of 55.9% with just 2 TD and 6 INT. However, Jacksonville will be the weakest defense Luck will have faced on the road, as the Jags allow 256 passing YPG (25th in NFL). The league's leading receiver Reggie Wayne (835 rec yds) has faced them 21 times in his career, producing 125 catches for 1,760 yards and 6 TD. In his past six trips to Jacksonville, Wayne has 52 catches for 750 yards and a pair of scores. With No. 2 wideout Donnie Avery questionable (hip) and TE Coby Fleener out indefinitely (shoulder), Wayne will garner a lot of attention from the Jags secondary. That could free up backup TE Dwayne Allen for a big game too. But Indy hasn't just been a pass-happy offense, as the ground game is kicking into high gear with 139 rushing YPG during the three-game win streak. However, top RB Donald Brown who missed two games with a knee injury this year, injured his hip last week and will likely be a game-time decision. If he can't go, rookie Vick Ballard has performed admirably with a heavier workload, gaining 199 yards on 48 carries (4.1 YPC) in his past three games. He could have an even bigger day against Jacksonville's 27th-ranked run defense (137 YPG). Indy knows it needs to protect the football better, considering the team has nine giveaways in its two road losses in 2012.
With Jones-Drew doubtful to return to action, Rashad Jennings will continue to be Jacksonville's main ball carrier. But Jennings has averaged a paltry 49 rushing YPG and 3.0 YPC in the past three games. And after gaining more than 50 receiving yards in two straight games, he caught just three passes for seven yards in last week's 31-14 loss to Detroit. Jacksonville has failed to rush for even 70 yards in any of its past five games, a span in which they have a meager 13.0 PPG. Second-year QB Blaine Gabbert is improving though, tossing 9 TD and just 5 INT this year. As a rookie, he threw for 12 TD and 11 INT, while completing just 50.8% of his passes. And in three career meetings with the Colts, he has thrown for a mere 365 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT. Indy's defense has defended the pass much more efficiently (222 YPG, 11th in NFL) than the run this year (131 YPG, 25th in nation). However, the Colts have not forced a single turnover in any of their past four games, totaling just three takeaways for the entire season.