I'm fed up with picking an entire week of NFL games right after Monday Night Football so I decided to do a write up of the Thursday Night Game each week. The rest of my predictions (if you even care) will be up later in the week (probably Thursday or Friday).
The Colts are heading into Jacksonville 13-0, and for the second time season 2005 the Colts are attempting to get to 14-0. The last time the Colts tried, they lost a close one to Drew Brees and the San Diego Chargers. A few days later Tony Dungy would lose his son to suicide, the Colts would finish 14-2, and lose their first playoff game to eventual Super Bowl XL champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since 2006, the Jaguars have beaten the Colts twice, once in '06, and once in '08. However, that could be a little misleading. More intriguing would be the fact that since 2006, 5 of the 7 games the two teams have played have been decided by one score or less.
In other words, odds are this game is going to be close.
Jacksonville enter the game 7-6 and in control of their own wild card destiny. Currently, the Jaguars win a tiebreaker with the Ravens, Jets, and Dolphins, and if the Jaguars can win out, they'll likely be in the AFC playoffs.
The Colts enter the game 13-0, with an xyz next to their name in newspapers, meaning they've locked up a playoff berth, first round bye, and home field advantage.They have little to gain in this game, but everything to gain at the same time. Coach Jim Caldwell already proclaimed the starters are going to play, and Indianapolis are going to try for 14-0.
Think about it; you're telling me that Peyton Manning doesn't want to go for the most elusive record in NFL history? 19-0? The thing that Brady and Belichick couldn't pull off? The thing that Elway and Montana couldn't pull off? Peyton knows he needs ring #2 to be in the conversation for best ever, but he also knows that if he gets a perfect season he's #1 all time, and still writing his own legacy.
On top of that, what about Reggie Wayne, Gary Brackett, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Robert Mathis, and Dwight Freeney? They were all there for the last Super Bowl run, most of them were there in 2005, they know that a championship is all that matters, and they also know how important it is to be hot and healthy. That means playing the season through.
The key to this game is going to be the Colts pass offense getting in rhythm in staying in rhythm. If the Colts can do that they'll probably win this one.
The other key to this game, and maybe the bigger key, is going to be the Colts run defense. Traditionally, they've struggled with the Jaguars, in particular Maurice Jones-Drew. The Colts don't need to shut Jones-Drew down to win, they just can't let him control the clock and put up 6's.
This may be the last difficult game on the Colts schedule, but the Jaguars have been living on bought time all season. They're good, but not a playoff team. Similar to how the Colts buried fellow AFC South foes Houston and Tennessee in the past three weeks, I expect the Colts to take care of the Jaguars and end their 2009 playoff hopes.
I'm taking the Colts on the Road.