Jacksonville Jags—Another Big Test This Week

Monday night, September 18, 2006, was a night of firsts. It was the first time a defending Super Bowl champ was shut out. It was also the only time less than a total of 10 points were scored in a Monday Night football game, making the 9 zip tally the lowest score ever on that program. It was also the first time a NFL football player—namely Big Ben Roethlisberger– came back to play only 15 days after undergoing an appendectomy.

The Spartan in-your-face performance by the Jacksonville Jags defense against Pittsburgh has many asking—“Is this Jags club the real thing?� In other words—have they arrived and will they stay?

Let’s not get too giddy about the Jags. At least, not yet.

True, they beat Dallas 24-17 in the first week and surprised Pittsburgh in the second week. But it’s a long, unforgiving season and one of the team’s toughest tests is on the horizon—the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, September 24 at 1 pm ET.

Here are a few things to consider.

In the first two games, the Jags offense has outperformed opponent offenses by almost 100 more yards (a full third more offense) and almost two to one on the ground. They’ve outscored them 33 to 17, again almost two to one.

However, the Colts passing game with Peyton Manning has been tough to stop thus far. They’ve averaged 331 yards per game in the air and the team has an average of 421 yards of total offense each contest. This is much more offense (183 yards more per game) than has been generated by the teams the Jags have played thus far. The Jags have an average of 334.5 yards of offense in each game and 240.5 passing yards per game.

The Colts are first in the AFC in passing yards while the Jaguars are third. On total yards, Indy is first and Jacksonville sixth. So, it should be a blowout by the Colts, right?

No so fast. On defense the Jags are third in points allowed and yards allowed and second in rushing yards allowed. The Colts rank thirteenth in each of these areas. On defending the pass, Jacksonville is good, being ranked sixth, while Indianapolis is eleventh.

Here’s a big stat—overall the Jags have allowed 8.5 ppg, while the Colts have given up 22.5 ppg. One other big stat is Jacksonville’s 5 interceptions, second in the league. The Colts have one. Leading the AFC in interceptions is Jacksonville corner Rashean Mathis with three.

Problematic injuries for the Colts include DE Jevon Kearse (knee ligaments) and kicker Adam Vinatieri (groin). Either may or may not play on Sunday. These could be key in the outcome of this game.

Last season despite beating both Seattle and Pittsburgh in the regular season, Jacksonville lost twice to division rival Indianapolis. But the Jags have a sound “D� in every area. If they can stop any semblance of a run, which they should be able to do, and can then get into Peyton Manning’s face and head, that will result in a big day for the team from Jacksonville.

The Colts are seven point favorites at home. If the Jacksonville defense can play it’s game and the offense perform well (not brilliantly, but well) it should be closer than that. If it is close, a healthy Vinatieri could be the difference.

With both teams at 2-0, it will be a fight for early first place bragging rights in the AFC South. This game will also say a lot about how real this Jags team is.

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