Who would have ever thought the Colts would be sitting at the halfway point of the season staring at the cusp of the NFL playoffs?
With rookie QB Andrew Luck and the inspiration of coach Chuck Pagano leading the way, the Colts are 5-3, and surprising everyone in the NFL, the latest win last week vs the Dolphins at home 23-20.
That doesn’t mean they will overlook the Jags Thursday, as a 22-17 loss to to the Jags on Sept. 23 was the last time the Colts had to swallow a defeat. Since they they have won four in a row.
After beating Miami, the Colts got an emotional and inspiring postgame speech from Pagano, whose leukemia has gone into remission. It was Pagano’s first visit to Lucas Oil Stadium since being diagnosed with the disease Sept. 26.
“His presence is felt every day in the facility,” Luck said. “But to see him in the flesh, in the locker room, to hear him speak I think gave all the guys a boost.”
Despite a 79.0 passer rating, his 2,404 yards passing match the total of predecessor Peyton Manning. Sunday’s game was Luck’s fourth with at least 300 passing yards, tying Peyton Manning’s rookie record.
He’s also thrown one pick over the last three games after being intercepted seven times in the first five.
The Colts rank fourth in the league with 390.9 yards per game, a huge improvement from last season when they were 30th at 286.8.
“The kid, he continues to amaze,” said receiver Reggie Wayne, who has an NFL-leading 835 yards on 61 catches. “Hopefully I can help, you know, add on to his legacy that he’s about to build.”
For the Jags, 2012 is quickly turning into a disaster, as the team is 1-7, with the only win of the season being over the Colts.
They will miss leading running back Maurice Jones-Drew, as he’s out for the third straight with a foot injury. Jacksonville has not lost six in a row since a slide of that length spanning the 2002 and ’03 seasons.
The Jaguars managed 279 yards and didn’t score until the fourth quarter of a 31-14 home loss to Detroit on Sunday. They have been outscored 126-34 in going 0-4 in Jacksonville.
“I’m disappointed that we are where we’re at,” coach Mike Mularkey said. “I know the players are. I certainly know the fans are. I just want them to know how they feel, we feel the same way. We’re mad, too, very disappointed we’re in this position.
“But we have to get over that emotion and get ready for this next game and these next eight games and know that we are going to battle to try to get this thing right.”
That won’t be easy for a team that’s last in the NFL in total offense (254.4) and scoring (14.6). Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert had two interceptions and threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Lions with the game all but decided.
Gabbert has a 78.4 passer rating in 2012, but he’s 3-0 against the Colts despite completing 57.4 percent of his passes for an average of 121.7 yards. He threw a TD in each of those contests while being intercepted once overall.
Rashad Jennings has gained 148 yards on 50 carries in the last three games minus Jones-Drew.
Bottom line, the Colts are an almost different team since that loss to the Jags the first time around. Look for them to rebound in a big way with a big win led by Luck.
Indianapolis 27 Jacksonville 14