The Colts (2-4) will try to remain in the mix for first place in the AFC South when the two teams meet Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Here’s a look at several key areas of focus for the Colts:
T.Y. Hilton vs. Jacksonville’s secondary: The Jaguars (3-3) have arguably the NFL’s best cornerback duo in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the latter of whom they signed in free agency during the offseason.
“They’re extremely competitive, No. 1,” Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. “They’re big corners. They’re strong. They can move. They can run. Probably the best thing is they have great ball skills. Balls that are thrown their way better be perfect and on target or they have just as much a chance as intercepting or catching the ball as the other guys do. That’s why they lead the league in turnovers, creating turnovers.”
Ramsey and Bouye each have two interceptions, and Jacksonville has an NFL-high 10 picks this season. The Jaguars are third in passing yards allowed at 166 per game.
That means Hilton, who is coming off a one-catch game at Tennessee, will have his hands full trying to get open. Hilton has 14 receptions for 330 yards and a touchdown in the Colts’ two victories this season. He only has 11 receptions for 155 yards with a fumble lost in their defeats.
“T.Y. is critically important to us,” Chudzinski said. “He’s on the forefront of all our thought processes as we’re putting things together. The tough thing from a receiver standpoint is there’s a lot of factors that go into getting a guy the ball. Some of [it is] what the defense does from a coverage standpoint. We’ll continue to try to find ways to do that and do a better job of doing that.”
Run the ball, run the ball: For as good as the Jaguars are with their pass defense, they’re equally bad when it comes to stopping the run. They’re 31st in the NFL, giving up 145.7 yards per game on the ground.
The Colts need to be able to establish the running game to help take some of the workload off quarterback Jacoby Brissett's shoulders. They’ll have to do it without running back Robert Turbin, who was placed on injured reserve Friday.
Frank Gore will continue to be the primary back, but the Colts will need more than just two carries out of rookie Marlon Mack if they hope to keep the 34-year-old Gore fresh. Mack’s first run against Tennessee in Week 6 went for 22 yards. He had only one other carry, for minus-4 yards, the rest of the game.
“We’ve got to get him the ball more. It’s on me,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Yeah, and if it doesn’t [add up], then blame the coach. I screwed that up. Everything runs right through this dude right here.”
Finish games: You’re not really surprised this is on the list, right? It’s been the same story with the Colts in the second half of every game this season. They’ve have been outscored 136-44 in the second half of games, including 95-22 in the fourth quarter. The Jags have outscored their opponents 80-61 in the second half this season.
“Technique, fundamentals, block better, tackle better, catch better,” Pagano said. “Focus, focus, focus. Details. Don’t turn the ball over. Eliminate penalties. You’ve got to do it for 60 minutes. Pretty simple. Hard, but simple. Really no explanation needed. You watch the game. You can figure it out.”