NFL Scout Jayson Braddock gives is thoughts on tonight’s AFC South battle
After starting the season 4-0, I’ve lost the last 2 weeks. I look to get back on track this week in this matchup of Andrew Luck and that kid, Sunshine from “Remember the Titans”. At the half way point, how odd is it if the playoffs started today, we would see Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning in the first round. What makes it extremely odd, is the fact that Manning and Luck both have exactly 2,404 yards. How does that happen?
Back to the Thursday night game. Don’t blame me for getting sidetracked, by the second half you will probably be wishing for a Manning / Luck match up over this AFC South “battle.” Let’s look at the game. It’s been a tale of two Lucks this season.
Home: Andrew Luck is 4-1 with 1,518 passing yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions and 3 rushing touchdowns.
Road: Andrew Luck is 1-2 with 886 passing yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions with no rushing touchdowns.
The Jaguars only win came on the road against these Colts. The Colts only road win came on the road against another AFC South divisional foe, in Tennessee. Jacksonville is 0-4 at home and the Colts could be looking for revenge and looking to go 2-0 against the AFC South on the road.
Both teams are banged up at the cornerback position. The problem for Jacksonville is that their quarterback doesn’t go down field enough to make these backups pay. Blaine Gabbert is averaging just 5.8 yards per pass attempt. In his most recent loss, he only threw for 220 yards, despite throwing the ball 38 times. Many may say that the Jags already beat the Colts once, why can’t they do it again? In that win, Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 177 yards and it still came down to Gabbert getting an 80 yard touchdown at the end of the game to scrape by. That 80 yard pass was more than the 75 yards that Sunshine had passed for the entire game, up until that point.
If we go by the Colts’ history in 2012, this should be a close game. Indy has won three games by 3 points, another one by 4, and one went to overtime before they scored a touchdown to finish the game off. The fear factor for the Colts is that they don’t have an opportunistic defense. The secondary has just interception on the year and the defense has a whole has just one fumble recovery. It’ll all be on Luck’s shoulders. Where Jacksonville matches up well with Indy, is in the middle of their defense. The linebackers for Jacksonville have tallied half of the team’s interceptions and are three of the team’s top 5 tacklers. Mid range throws are also where Luck struggles.
When I studied Luck coming out in the draft, my biggest concern was his inconsistency in throwing intermediate passes outside of the numbers. On passes of 11 to 20 yards this season, Andrew Luck has thrown 0 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He’ll have to protect the ball against these linebackers. This team doesn’t help him with turnovers and his running backs have combined for 1 run of 20 yards or more. He also has more rushing touchdowns than all of his running backs combined.
The team will win or lose based on Luck’s play. His rookie teammates, Dwayne Allen and T.Y. Hilton will chip in Thursday night and after watching that motivational speech from Chuck Pagano, I believe the young team can find the energy to overcome their tiredness of the short work week.
Indianapolis Colts (5-3-0) - 3.0 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7-0)
- Take the Colts -3.0.
- Possible surprise players: Mike Harris, Jerrell Freeman, T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, and Justin Blackmon.