JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The NFL season mercifully ends in Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon. It has been the most eventful season in the franchise’s 27-year history, and, for all the wrong reasons.
Jacksonville is looking at another reset, with a new coaching staff set to clean up the Urban Meyer mess and start anew. But there’s still one more game and it comes at home against the Colts. Despite Jacksonville’s 2-14 record and Indianapolis bound for the playoffs with a win, this one could very well be a surprise.
The Colts (9-7) haven’t won a game in Jacksonville since the 2014 season. And the Jaguars are 7-4 against Indy since 2015. What do the Jaguars have to do to pull off the upset in a game they’re a 15.5-point underdog in?
Keep Trevor comfortable
The stats haven’t shown rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s progress, but the coaching staff has been upbeat on his strides in a year that could easily have lasting damage on his psyche. Lawrence ended a touchdown-less drought last week that dated back to the Falcons game on Nov. 28.
And he did it in a game where three starting offensive linemen were out due to COVID-19 protocols and injury. Starting tight end James O’Shaughnessy is out, but the regular linemen are all slated to play this week. Lawrence will be protected by his regulars this week. After what he’s gone through this season, that’s a positive. See if he can go out strong.
Stop Jonathan Taylor
The running back and MVP candidate demolished the Jaguars in the opening half when the team’s met last November, a 23-17 Colts win. He rushed for 107 of his 116 yards in the opening half. Jacksonville fell into a 17-0 deficit just 13 minutes into the game, largely on the punishing runs of Taylor.
Whatever adjustments defensive coordinator Joe Cullen made at halftime worked and Jacksonville was excellent after the break. Employ that strategy the full game. Make Carson Wentz beat Jacksonville.
See what the young players have
This likely the last game for quite a few Jacksonville players and likely its entire coaching staff. If you’re interim head coach Darrell Bevell, empty the playbook. See what draftees like Jordan Smith (active last week for the first time) and Jay Tufele (active in three games) have. Keep starting Andre Cisco. Keep getting the ball to Laquon Treadwell. There’s value there. Get the younger guys meaningful snaps in what is actually a high-stakes game.
When all else fails, hope for the best
There are a lot of scenarios involved in this game, and a win by Jacksonville will cause upheaval across the playoff landscape.
The Colts can miss the playoffs with a loss, so this game is vital. The Jaguars have shown potential at times. They have nothing to lose, except draft pick position. The Colts have everything to lose.
For the Jaguars, a win (and a Lions’ loss) will give Detroit the No. 1 draft pick and lock Jacksonville into the No. 2 spot. It also holds significant playoff ramifications, which NFL.com details in full here.