Free NFL Pick: Jacksonville at Indianapolis 12-19-2010

December 18, 2010


Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts

Sunday December 19th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Indianapolis -5


Who would have believed that the Colts would be fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive in Week 15? At 7-6, the Colts are a game out of first place. If they drop another game, they will move two games out of first place and the coffin will be all but closed on their season. They have lost three of their last four games, but have a chance to redeem themselves with a big victory this week.

They take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have had an unexpectedly solid season.  They have won five of their last six games and are one of the hottest teams in the entire league. The Jaguars and Colts are both in a position to control their own destiny. The Jaguars were referred to as the Colts’, “little brother”, by Dominic Rhodes, which probably doesn’t sit well with Jacksonville. With both teams treating this game like a playoff game, this should be exciting.

Keys to the Game:

  • Maurice Jones-Drew is unstoppable. He has hit the 100 yard mark six games in a row. Teams have obviously game planned against him and tried to load up the box, but the Jaguars have done a solid job at keeping defenses somewhat honest. Jones-Drew is of small stature, yet he handles the dirty work for the Jags. The Jaguars usually manage to allow him to be effective with under 25 carries a game. It appears he will continue to perform and carry on his streak against one of the worst rushing defenses in the league this season, the same one he posted 105 on earlier in the season.
  • Peyton Manning dictates whether his team has a chance to win or not. While that is true for many players, like the aforementioned Maurice Jones- Drew, it is most true for Peyton Manning. The Colts have one of the most battered and lack luster rosters in the entire league. Aside from four or five guys, they lack talent on both sides of the ball. With no solid option at running back and a banged up wide receiving corp, the Colts rely heavily on Manning to do everything. Manning went through a slump and ‘experts’ began questioning his dominance. Peyton Manning is a first ballot Hall-of-Famer and a string of lack luster games certainly does not mean he should be seen as a struggling QB, by the Jaguars or anyone else.
  • It’s odd that teams lose Marcedes Lewis in coverage when the Jaguars get within striking distance. He has nine touchdowns this season, including one which he scored last week and one he put up on the Colts in their last meeting. While Jones-Drew is incredible at eating up yardage, the Jaguars are far more likely to go to Lewis in the red zone. The Colts have to keep an eye on Lewis at all times. The Jaguars love to hit Lewis more than any other receiver when they are looking for six.
  • Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis can’t get caught up in Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew is going to get his yardage, but when teams abandon pass coverage, the Jaguars take advantage. Mathis and Freeney are the best tandem of pass rushing defensive ends in the NFL. Their focus needs to be on flattening David Garrard and causing problems in the passing game. Once the Jaguars revert back to their one dimensional offense, they become much more manageable.

Key Matchup:

David Garrard Vs. Colts’ Pass Defense

  • Maurice Jones-Drew makes the entire offense go, but if there is one guy the Colts need to keep under control, it’s David Garrard. Garrard is a game manager. That term is used too loosely, but it is warranted in this case. He rarely throws for over 200 yards in a game, yet he manages the offense and is able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. If Jones-Drew gets going, teams take notice and write off Garrard’s ability to make something happen.
  • The Colts will probably over compensate for the run and fail to stop any form of the Jaguars’ offense. It has happened for six consecutive games and given the make up of the Colts’ defense, it doesn’t look like that streak will end. They are terrible at stopping the run and much better at stopping the pass. By pulling away from the strength of their offense to aide a struggling pass defense, the Colts would make themselves ineffective at everything.

Wrap Up:

The Jaguars are peaking and the Colts have hit rock bottom. It is difficult for me to consider a two point win over a flawed Titans team a turning point. The Colts can’t run the ball and while this is a must win game for both teams, they haven’t shown that they can succeed consistently with all of the injuries that have taken place.

I like the Jaguars in this one. It’s hard for me to go against Peyton Manning in this situation, but with debacles like the route mix up with Blair White in their end zone, the Colts show just how big of an impact the injuries are having on them. Not to mention, I think the Jags want it more.

Free NFL Pick: Jacksonville +5

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