NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - INSIDE SLANT
The NFL schedules division games the final week of the season in the hopes that the matchups will have a lot on the line.
That worked with the Dallas-Philadelphia and Chicago-Green Bay matchups with the division title on the line in both games.
But not much will be on the line when the Jacksonville Jaguars go to Indianapolis to play the Colts.
The Jaguars are out of the playoffs and the Colts are in regardless of what happens Sunday. The only thing at stake for the Jaguars is where they end up in the draft order. And the only thing at stake for the Colts is which seed they will get.
The Jaguars have the No. 3 pick in the draft going into the game but would probably fall back if they upset the Colts. The Colts can wind up anywhere from the second to the fourth seed.
If Baltimore beats Cincinnati and Buffalo beats New England, which would both be upsets, they'd enter the playoffs as the second seed with a first-round bye.
They will be the third seed if New England beats Buffalo and Cincinnati loses to Baltimore or Cincinnati wins and New England loses.
The Colts will be the fourth seed if they lose or if New England and Cincinnati win if the Colts win and Cincinnati beats Buffalo.
Still, coach Gus Bradley is looking at this game against the Colts as an opportunity for them.
"We talked about the opportunity that's ahead of us. It's a great opportunity going to Indy and playing a team of that caliber is going to help us where we're at. The guys have a great attitude, really looking forward to it," he said.
Bradley says the Jaguars haven't talked about spoiling the Colts' bid to get a better seed.
"It's just another opportunity for us to go grow and challenge guys. We really saw good growth from these guys that have been playing that are new to getting game reps. I've spent a lot of lot of time on these younger guys like the Kerry Taylors, the Josh Evans through the year and said you've got to keep yourself in the zone," he said.
On it being the last game, Bradley said, "I'm sure those thoughts are in their mind. I know as a coaching staff we don't look at it that way, and I feel like if we don't talk and give it any emphasis at all, then they won't."
The offense was held to three points in a 37-3 home loss to Indianapolis on Sept. 29, but offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch says the Jaguars have improved since then.
"I think we're better than we were last time, as a full team, we're a little bit more experienced and have a little bit better understanding of what we can do and we can't do," Fisch said.
The Jaguars find out Sunday how much improvement they have made.
SERIES HISTORY: 26th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 17-8, and won the first meeting this year by a 37-3 margin on Sept. 29 at Jacksonville. Blaine Gabbert threw three interceptions in the loss and Maurice Jones-Drew was held to 23 yards on 13 carries as the Colts jumped to a 20-3 halftime lead and then added 16 more points in the third quarter. The Colts are going for a sweep for the fifth time in the series. They did it in 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2009. The Jaguars' only sweep came in 2011 when Peyton Manning was injured.
NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - NOTES, QUOTES
--One of the subplots is that this may be the last game as a Jaguar for Maurice Jones-Drew, who's been the face of this losing franchise for the last several years. Jones-Drew's contract expires at the end of the season and he will become a free agent if the two sides don't reach a deal.
The Jaguars have said they'd like to have him back and he would like to stay. But he also said a week ago that he has a number in mind of what his worth is.
It remains to be seen if the Jaguars have the same number in their mind.
If the two sides don't reach a deal, Jones-Drew will be looking for a new team.
"I know what I have left and I feel like it's a lot. That's not really up to me anymore, though. I'm done talking. I'm going to go home and relax and hope things work out for the best."
Of course, it's up to him. He could take whatever the Jaguars offered, but he's indicated he is not going to do that. He wants what he thinks he's worth and the Jaguars may not agree with that number.
Jones-Drew said this is an important offseason for him now that it's been a year since he had Lisfrac surgery.
"It's been a long ride since then. My off seasons are very important to my ability to play during the season. This offseason is going to be one that's going to be crucial to where I get back to where I play at a high level," he said.
Jones-Drew likes the direction the team is going.
"We've built a ton the second half of the season from an offensive standpoint and as a team. You want to continue that going forward. Guys are starting to get experience, which is going to be key for the next couple of years. From there, we just want to continue what Gus (Bradley) is preaching, which is getting better. Then I think we'll be alright," he said.
--Quarterback Chad Henne will also become a free agent at the end of the year.
Unless another team is willing to offer him a shot at a starting quarterback job, Henne will have to decide if he stays with the Jaguars at their price to mentor the quarterback they will likely take in the first round.
Henne is one of the better backups in the league. He is the first Jaguars quarterback to throw two touchdown passes in four games in a row in franchise history.
Still, he does not appear to be a franchise type quarterback. So he has to decide if he wants to go to a contending team as a backup or stay with the Jaguars.
--The Jaguars' run defense has been shredded two weeks in a row and they could have trouble stopping the run with two tackles, Roy Miller and Brandon Deaderick, on the injured reserve list. Jordan Miller, signed off the practice squad, will likely start alongside Sen'Derrick Marks. They also signed veteran defensive tackles Kyle Love and Drake Nevis on Monday. Love spent training camp with the Jaguars before being released and he played one game with Kansas City. He is familiar with the system so may see some action against the Colts.
Another reason the run defense may have problem is that they are thin at linebacker. Russell Allen is on injured reserve and Geno Hayes won't play for the second consecutive week. Coach Gus Bradley said he needs arthroscopic surgery on his knee. With Allen and Hayes out, J.T. Thomas and John Lotulelei will start with rookie LaRoy Reynolds, who recently came off a four-game suspension for violating the performance enhancing drug policy, seeing backup duty.
And the Colts have rushed for at least 135 yards line each of the last two games so they could have another big day rushing against the Jaguars.
--The Jaguars defensive line also may have trouble getting to Andrew Luck, who has been sacked twice in the last three games. The Colts gave up 22 sacks in the first nine games but only nine since then with five coming against Tennessee on Dec. 1.
They've done this even though they've had instability in the interior of the line although they've been solid at tackle where Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus have started every game.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 - The number of field goals that Josh Scobee has missed this year. He's made 22 of 24.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'll try to look at 20, 25 quarterbacks, something like that." -- Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on the number of quarterbacks he'll look at in this year's draft. The Jaguars are expected to draft a quarterback in the first round of the draft.
NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Jaguars have ruled out linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle) for the Indianapolis game and their season is over but coach Gus Bradley said they won't be placed on the injured reserve list. They will be inactive for the game.
--WR Kerry Taylor, who started last week because Cecil Shorts is on the injured reserve list and Justin Blackmon is suspended, wasn't signed by the team until Nov. 4, and has only 11 catches for 114 yards and an average of 8.0 yards a catch.
--OT Cameron Bradfield didn't practice Thursday with a high ankle sprain, but hopes to play Sunday.
--CB Dwayne Gratz didn't practice Thursday with a high ankle sprain and won't play in the season finale.
--LB Geno Hayes didn't practice Thursday with a knee injury and won't play in the season finale. He will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery.
--RB Maurice Jones-Drew was limited Thursday with a hamstring injury but is expected to play Sunday.
--CB Alan Ball was limited Thursday with ankle/shoulder injuries but is expected to play Sunday.
--S Jonathan Cyprien was limited Thursday with thigh/foot injuries, but is expected to play Sunday.
--S Josh Evans was limited Thursday with a shoulder injury but is expected to play Sunday.
--DT Jordan Miller was limited Thursday with a shoulder injury but is expected to play Sunday.
--LB Paul Posluszny was limited Thursday with a groin injury but is expected to play Sunday.
--WR Ace Sanders practiced with a finger play and will play Sunday.
The Jaguars are putting a lot of emphasis on running the ball against the Colts. They couldn't do it in the first game against the Colts when Maurice Jones-Drew was held to 23 yards on 13 carries. And they had problems running against the Titans last week as Jones-Drew was held to 45 yards on 13 carries. If they're to upset the Colts, they have to run the ball.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Jaguars LT Cameron Bradfield vs. Colts DE Robert Mathis -- Although Bradfield has a high ankle sprain, he is going to try to play Sunday and if he does, he faces a tough task in dueling Mathis, who has a career high 17.5 sacks to set a career high. Bradfield has allowed a team high five sacks and 22 hurries this year.
--Jaguars DEs Jason Babin and Andre Branch vs. Colts Ts Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus -- Babin and Branch lead the Jaguars with 6.5 and 5.0 sacks and the Jaguars need them to put some heat on Andrew Luck.