INDIANAPOLIS – With so much at stake in Week 17 for the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL moved their game against the 1-win Jaguars into the 4:25 PM timeslot.
For the Colts to have a chance at the playoffs in 2020, they need to beat (or tie) the 1-15 Jaguars inside of Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 17.
Here are 7 things to watch for as the Colts (10-5) play their season finale on Sunday at 4:25 PM:
1. Give No Hope
The Jaguars are 3-20 since November last season, with 14 of those losses by double-digits.
Multiple front-line Jags are on injured reserve as they have lost 14 straight games since beating the Colts in the season opener.
You cannot give the worst team in the NFL hope by allowing short fields, committing costly turnovers/penalties, or having a busted coverage allowing a huge chunk.
2. Protect Philip
It’s been the most consistent aspect to the Colts offense in 2020, and that’s been vital to the unit having pretty decent success.
But with Braden Smith (COVID-19 list) and Anthony Castonzo (ankle injury last Thursday) missing last week’s loss to the Steelers, Philip Rivers was sacked a season-high 5 times. It was easily the worst day protecting Rivers all season long.
Obviously, the Jaguars front isn’t the Steelers, but the Colts are now without Castonzo for the rest of the season. Quenton Nelson at left tackle? New signee Jared Veldheer?
3. Hilton’s Last Dance?
Sadly, this is the reality of Week 17 in the NFL when the playoffs are no guarantee.
And that means Sunday could be T.Y. Hilton’s final home game as a Colt, or even ‘game’ itself.
Hilton and the Colts continuing this very successful marriage should happen, but you never know how things will play out. Nonetheless, Hilton has had an incredible 9-year career with the Colts and that needs to be stated, just in case Sunday is the final act.
4. No Quick Rhythm
While the Jacksonville quarterback is different from when these teams met in Week 1 (Gardner Minshew then, Mike Glennon now), the overall theme remains the same for the Colts.
This defense has struggled big time down the stretch in defending opposing passing offenses.
Back in Week 1, Minshew completed an astonishing 19-of-20 passes (95 percent). That is unacceptable. Any short/quick rhythm passing game must be disrupted for an offense ranking 31st in the league in points per game this year.
5. Play With Payback
While there’s absolutely zero reason that ‘payback’ should be motivation this week—given what’s at stake playoff wise—the Colts have lost back-to-back games against the Jaguars.
It’s because of that season-opening loss to the worst team in the NFL that the Colts are in this position of needing help in Week 17.
The Colts should be pissed off by their effort and execution back in Week 1. They need to send a message on Sunday to the team drafting No. 1 overall in April.
6. Secondary Depth
We probably didn’t give this enough attention in the immediate after of Sunday’s loss to the Steelers.
The Colts lost Khari Willis to a concussion on a third-quarter punt coverage play, when the score was 24-7. Without Willis, the Steelers scored on the very next snap and the pass defense fell apart down the stretch.
Secondary wise, we know the Colts have lost Malik Hooker, have issues at No. 2 cornerback with Rock Ya-Sin (who is also in concussion protocol) and now Willis might be out for a must-have game in Week 17.
7. Rivers Final Outing?
This is another storyline, similar to the mention of T.Y. Hilton above.
In 2021, the Colts have many notable free agents, and that includes the team’s starting quarterback.
Will Sunday be it for Philip Rivers with the Colts? Will it be Rivers’ final game in the NFL?
Bowen’s Prediction: Colts 30-17. Currently, the Colts are favored by 14 points on Sunday—the 7th biggest favorite in franchise history (biggest since 2009). There is absolutely zero reason for the Colts to lose this football game. Yes, Indianapolis has some key injury situations, but so do the Jaguars. This Colts team must pound Jonathan Taylor and establish that aspect of the game to dictate the tempo against the two-touchdown underdog. To me, the question is not of ‘Will the Colts win in Week 17?’ It is, ‘Will they get the necessary help to get into the postseason?’