Colts need win to hold onto hopes of NFL playoffs

LEFT: Running back Jonathan Taylor #28 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball in the third quarter of their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 27, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Every game does count when you only get 16 guaranteed cracks at them in the National Football League.

Back on the opening weekend of the regular season, the Indianapolis Colts had a new quarterback, a talented returning nucleus and a legitimate hope of making a Super Bowl run. All of that got stunted in a somewhat shocking 27-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Fast forward four months and that one loss could end up being the one that sends Indianapolis home from a crowded AFC field unless they beat Jacksonville Sunday (4:25 p.m., CBS) at Lucas Oil Stadium and get some help from either Cleveland, Cincinnati or Buffalo to get into the tournament.

That win was the Jaguars only one of the season to this point. Jacksonville (1-14) has secured the top overall pick and the winning lottery ticket in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes for next April’s draft. But the ramifications for Indianapolis could be extraordinary.

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The sports betting information

On Sportsbook, Indianapolis is a 14 point home favorite with a money line of -900 (a $900 wager is needed to win $100.) The Jaguars are +600 with an over/under total of 49 ½ points

Against the spread, Indianapolis is 8-7 while Jacksonville is 6-9.

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The history

The Colts have a 24-15 advantage in the series which dates back to Jacksonville’s inclusion in the NFL back in 1994. However, the Jaguars have won seven of the last 10 games between the two teams. That includes the Sept. 13 win which saw Gardner Minshew III throw three touchdown passes while Colts quarterback Philip Rivers threw two interceptions.

The storylines to watch

Indianapolis had its playoff fate wrestled away from it last week, losing a 24-7 lead in the third quarter to fall 28-24 at Pittsburgh. Jonathan Taylor ran for two touchdowns for the Colts, who had three punts, an interception and a turnover on downs in its last five possessions of the second half. This is the type of game that the Colts brought Rivers into their building for- one that needs a veteran to keep a steady presence and not make the major mistake. If Indianapolis gets into the tournament, everyone agrees that they are going to be a tough out. The problem is they still have to get into an AFC field that could have an 11-5 team sitting home for the first round.

There’s not much to say about the Jaguars that hasn’t been said already. The three year collapse from AFC Championship game finalist and leading the Patriots at the half to the top overall pick will likely see Doug Marrone gone on Black Monday. Minshew could stick as a backup to Lawrence, but the challenge for Jacksonville now will be to surround their incoming quarterback with weapons. The challenge this week is to keep focus knowing the off-season is just 60 minutes away.

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