JAX-IND Matchup Report
Indianapolis, IN - Tony Dungy's remarkable career with the Indianapolis Colts included a Super Bowl title and playoff berths in each of his seven seasons as coach.
Following Dungy's retirement, Jim Caldwell assumes the task of keeping the Colts on their impressive run - something that seems very possible with reigning league MVP Peyton Manning running the offense.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made the Colts – 7 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on the Colts -6 (View NFL bet percentages).
Manning looks to help Caldwell earn his first NFL win Sunday when the Colts open the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are coming off a disappointing 2008.
The Colts won their final nine games last season to finish 12-4, their NFL-record sixth straight year with at least 12 wins. However, they lost 23-17 to San Diego in a wild-card game and one week later, Dungy announced his retirement and named Caldwell his successor.
For Indianapolis, it's a big change.
Though Caldwell spent the past eight seasons working under Dungy and was associate head coach last season, the two aren't necessarily similar. While Dungy was soft-spoken, the sometimes brash Caldwell has sent a few messages to players through the media in hopes of getting better results.
"We have no time to look back,'' Manning said. "There is no question that he is going to coach from coach Dungy's book in a lot of ways. At the same time he has some things that are unique to his style, and the team is learning those as we move forward.''
Doing that with Manning under center should help ease the transition. He earned his third league MVP award last season after throwing for 4,002 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, topping the 4,000-yard mark for the ninth time in his 11 seasons.
A win Sunday would give Manning 118 in his career, matching Johnny Unitas for the franchise record.
The Colts split their two games against Jacksonville last season, with each team winning on the road.
The Jaguars defeated Indianapolis 23-21 in Week 3 on Josh Scobee's 51-yard field goal with four seconds remaining. In the rematch in Jacksonville on Dec. 18, the Colts scored 17 unanswered fourth-quarter points to rally for a 31-24 victory.
Manning passed for 580 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in those contests.
This will be Manning's first season without Marvin Harrison, but there won't necessarily be a dropoff in production with Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark returning. Wayne led the Colts with 82 receptions for 1,145 yards and Clark was not far behind, making 77 catches for 848 yards.
While Indianapolis' offense appears to be set, the team hopes safety Bob Sanders will be ready to play soon.
Sanders, the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, is recovering from offseason knee surgery. Caldwell, though, has not officially ruled him out of the opener.
"Obviously, there's a difference with Bob not being out there,'' said middle linebacker Gary Brackett, the defensive captain. "But our motto has always been 'Next guy up.'''
The Jaguars expect to have several new people making contributions this season with four rookies projected to start the opener.
Jacksonville went 11-5 and made the playoffs in 2007, but went through a personnel overhaul during this past offseason after losing six of its final seven games to finish 5-11.
"Last year was a tough year for everybody,'' linebacker Clint Ingram said. "That wasn't us. I could sit up here and say what went wrong all across the board, but basically what it all boils down to is we got a fresh year, a fresh start. Every year, a team surprises everybody. We won't be surprising anybody except the outside world because we know what we can do.''
To get back to the playoffs, the Jaguars need running back Maurice Jones-Drew to carry an offense built on its ground attack.
Jones-Drew, who finished with 824 yards rushing, 565 receiving and 14 touchdowns last season, is expected to play Sunday despite bruising his right shin in the final preseason game.
Jones-Drew and quarterback David Garrard should benefit from a healthy offensive line.
With the line banged up last season, Garrard threw for 3,620 yards, 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while being sacked 42 times, third most in the league. He passed for 496 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the two games against the Colts.
Jones-Drew rushed for 198 yards with one TD and added 130 receiving yards in those contests.
"That's in the past,'' said Jones-Drew, who has six touchdowns in six career games versus Indianapolis. "Every year is different. They've changed up their defense a little bit. We're starting to study how they hit and tackle. It's going to be a little different, but you just have to adjust and go out there and execute. When everybody executes, we all make plays and we all do well.''
Posted: 9/9/09 7:09PM ET