Colts take on Jaguars on Thursday Night NFL action

Updated: November 8, 2012

Week 10 of the NFL kicks off in Jacksonville tonight in the big AFC South clash between the Colts and the Jaguars.

Despite beating the Colts in Week 3, the Jaguars are the underdogs for their Week 10 matchup against Andrew Luck and the Colts on Thursday Night Football at EverBank Field.

The Jaguars led the Colts in Week 3 for about three and a half minutes before a 40-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to Hilton put the home team ahead, 7-3. While the Jaguars trailed for the majority of the game, the Colts racked up 23 first downs to the Jaguars’ 15. They accumulated 437 yards of offense while the Jaguars earned only 333.

Yet it was the Jaguars that earned the win after Blaine Gabbert found Cecil Shorts III in the middle of the field and the second year receiver ran for an 80-yard touchdown to put the Jaguars ahead 22-17 with 45 seconds left. In the six weeks that followed, the Colts won four of their next five games, while the Jaguars haven’t won since.

The all-time series between the two teams was long dominated by the Colts with Peyton Manning at the helm, although the Jaguars consistently kept the matchup a close one. In 19 games against Manning’s Colts, the Jaguars won just five times, but they have won the last three times they’ve faced the Manning-less Colts. In fact, three of the last four wins for the Jaguars came against the Colts.

While the Jaguars haven’t been particularly stellar at any point during the season, they have been a truly atrocious football team at home. The Mike Mularkey-era of Jaguars football has featured four home losses with 17 being the closest margin of defeat. In the four losses at EverBank Field, the Jaguars have lost by a combined score of 126-34.

The biggest struggle for the Jaguars has been the ability to put points on the board, that has only been compounded by the loss of Maurice Jones-Drew to a foot sprain. While the team appeared somewhat competent without Jones-Drew against the Packers, they returned to their floundering form at home against the Lions. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been statistically better than he was in his rookie year in virtually every passing category, but with his quarterback rating improving from 65.4 to just 78.4, the difference hasn’t been nearly significant enough to inspire true hope in the second year passer.

Defensively, the Jaguars have had a disappointing season as their unit that ranked No. 6 in the NFL has dropped all the way to No. 27 at stopping opposing offenses. Much of that was due to a slew of injuries early in the season that left the Jaguars without any threat of a pass rush and devoid of perhaps their best defensive player, linebacker Daryl Smith. With the return of pass rushers like Austen Lane, George Selvie and John Chick to the lineup, the Jaguars defense has improved, but it still lacks the ability to single-handedly make up for the struggling offense.

The 2010 Colts finished the season with the No. 4 offense as Peyton Manning led the Colts to a 10-6 record and an AFC South title before the team witnessed just how valuable the quarterback was as he missed the 2011 season and the team plummeted to 2-14 with the league’s No. 30 offense. Eight games into the 2012 season and they’re suddenly No. 4 in total offense again, but with a new signal-caller at the helm.

The No. 1 selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, has been worth his weight in gold as has led the team to an improbable 5-3 start. While his stats aren’t astronomical and actually compare closely in several passing categories with his Thursday counterpart, Blaine Gabbert, he has led the Colts to an improbable 5-3 record with clutch, calm and poise despite playing behind a subpar offensive line. Where the Indianapolis offense has struggled, though, is with scoring points to match their offensive yardage. With the NFL’s No. 4 offense, they should rank No. 23 in points scored.

Much of that is because of a defense that has not given them many opportunities to score on a short field. In a new 3-4 system, the Colts defense has improved from its performance in 2011 and ranks No. 18 in the NFL. However, they have forced just three turnovers and none in each of the last four weeks, making them dead last at forced turnovers.