Jags, Colts meet in Indianapolis for first of two divisional matchups
The Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars play in Indianapolis on Sunday in the first of two meetings. These two had close games last year, with the home team winning both affairs. Last November, the Colts won 29-26 as Andrew Luck threw three touchdown passes in the victory. Less then a month later, the Jags held serve, picking up a 6-0 win behind two Josh Lambo field goals. Cody Kessler started for Jacksonville, which played ball control on its way to a victory.
The Jaguars sit at 4-5 entering the matchup after their Week 10 bye. Jacksonville has lost three of its last five games, the most recent in London, a 26-3 loss to the Texans. The big news is that Nick Foles could be back as the team moves away from Gardner Minshew. Foles got hurt back in Week 1 and is finally available to practice. For the most part, this is a really healthy squad.
Indy is 5-4 but is currently on a two-game losing streak. Last time out, Brian Hoyer struggled mightily against the lowly Dolphins in a 16-12 home loss. It'll be important to see if Jacoby Brissett can get healthy enough to start, and if his No. 1 receiver, T.Y. Hilton, will be available. The Colts' defense has held each of its last five opponents to 24 points or fewer.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Indianapolis -3.5
Three Things to Watch
The Jaguars should be rested and ready for this one as they come off their bye week. They have played just four true road games and the one contest overseas. Jacksonville can't really afford to look ahead in this tight AFC South race, even if a road trip to Tennessee is coming up next. Meanwhile, the Colts are closing out a stretch of four of their last five at home with this one. Indy has gone 2-2 since their Week 6 bye and should be really focused after losing to the Dolphins. Next up for Indianapolis is a road trip to Houston on a Thursday night, so we could see if that affects this team in the fourth quarter if they are winning or losing by a lot.
2. Signal-caller question marks
If all goes according to plan, Nick Foles will be back under center for Jacksonville. He's thrown just eight regular-season passes this year, with five completions including one touchdown. The veteran is a calming presence in the huddle and should be able to get a lot done. It's interesting that the team is going to him after Gardner Minshew completed 61.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Minshew has really only had one or two rough games this season, although one of them came against Houston last time out. I wonder how much patience they will have with the Super Bowl champion Foles and if the offense will continue to click with him in there. Indy has the 10th-ranked defense and is better against the pass than against the run.
Brian Hoyer of the Colts is a veteran quarterback, but he was pretty brutal last Sunday vs. Miami. The signal-caller was 18-of-39 for 204 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. It's a far cry from the effort he had in Pittsburgh with three touchdown passes and a near comeback victory. Indy has played much better under Jacoby Brissett, who has completed almost 65 percent of his passes and has only three interceptions in 236 attempts. It would be a huge help if T.Y. Hilton were available because without him this offense is devoid of playmakers. Devin Funchess is working his way back, and that will help, but they need more.
3. Special teams
It has been very tough to watch Adam Vinatieri this season as he continues to struggle in the clutch for the Colts. He's missed five FGs and six extra points with some of those coming at the most inopportune times. Vinatieri has not missed more than five FGs since 2012, when he had seven misses. He's been particularly mediocre between 40-49 yards, where he is 3-for-6. Josh Lambo has been almost perfect for the Jags, hitting all 22 of his three-pointers and 12 of his 13 extra points. It's probably not a great sign that they've settled for so many field goals, but at least they are making them.
The line is cheap here because Vegas is hedging against Jacoby Brissett playing. They saw the difference in this team with Brian Hoyer under center, and they didn't like what they saw. I'm going to guess that Brissett starts but is not at 100 percent. I think the home team comes out on top here as Foles is rusty in the offense and Darius Leonard leads the defense to a solid victory on Sunday.
Prediction: Colts 23, Jaguars 17
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.