Can Jags pull off upset?
The Jacksonville Jaguars may be the NFL's best team that no one is talking about. Everyone will be if they win this week.
A four-game winning streak has failed to get the Jaguars mentioned among the league's elite teams, but a victory over the unbeaten defending Super Bowl champions should do the trick. That's the opportunity presented to the Jaguars, and it comes in front of a nationally televised audience, when they host the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night.
"We've been flying under the radar," Jaguars quarterback David Garrard said. "Now we want a little bit of that national spotlight."
This matchup is far tougher than anything Jacksonville (4-1) has faced - none of its victories have been against teams with winning records - and the Colts (5-0) are considered to be battling New England for the title as the NFL's best team. The Jaguars might have to be put in that class Monday if they win to move into a tie with Indianapolis for the AFC South lead.
"We know if we win next week, we'll be in first place," Jacksonville linebacker Mike Peterson said. "But we want to approach it the same way - not pressing, not tensed up."
The Colts have the benefit of coming off a bye, a week during which many feel the Patriots moved ahead of them on the ladder of NFL supremacy with their 48-27 win over previously unbeaten Dallas.
"We've got goals we want to reach and we still have got to stay focused," Colts defensive tackle Raheem Brock said. "It's a big game for us and we've got to be professionals about it."
Though the Jaguars have not exactly been dominant, their margin of victory has gone up each week since a season-opening loss to Tennessee. They are coming off their most lopsided win - 37-17 over Houston last Sunday.
Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Indianapolis -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 44.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on Indianapolis -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
The Colts rolled to home wins over Denver and Tampa Bay in their last two games by a combined 71-34 score, but their two road games this season were not nearly as one-sided. They held off Tennessee 22-20 in Week 2, and edged Houston 30-24 the following week.
One of Indianapolis' worst losses during the Peyton Manning era came in the team's most recent trip to Jacksonville. While Manning failed to throw a TD pass and completed just 25 of 50 passes, the Jaguars ran for 375 yards in a 44-17 victory over the Colts on Dec. 10.
"You do learn from that and we will go back in and watch that film to try and prevent what happened," said Colts safety Bob Sanders, who missed that game with an injury. "It will be a big week for us, to see how this defense stands up against another good team."
The Jaguars rushing attack has been outstanding lately, averaging 195.3 yards over the last three games. Maurice Jones-Drew has fought off a slow start to run for 207 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries over the last two weeks, and he had a career-high 166 rushing yards with two TDs in the Dec. 10 rout of the Colts.
Indianapolis did hold Tampa Bay to 17 rushing yards in its most recent game, but that was against a team missing its top two running backs. The previous week against Denver, the Colts allowed 223 rushing yards.
Overall, though, the Indianapolis defense has been solid, giving up 278.2 yards and 17.6 points per game to rank among the league's top seven in both categories.
The Jaguars have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 17 points. They've forced seven turnovers over the last three games, and have held teams below 100 rushing yards in each of their four wins.
The Colts have run for 373 yards over the last two games, including 121 by rookie Kenton Keith against Tampa Bay as he started for the injured Joseph Addai (shoulder).
The bye week has given Addai, who has two 100-yard games this year, enough recovery time to get him back in the lineup this week along with Marvin Harrison, who sat out most of the last two games with a knee injury. Also expected to return for Indianapolis after missing one game is Sanders (ribs), the Pro Bowler who may be the Colts' best defensive player.
Sanders leads a unit looking to become the first to pick off Garrard this season.
The first five games have shown Jacksonville made a good decision by giving Garrard the starting job and releasing Byron Leftwich during the preseason. Garrard joins Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia as the only quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts to have not thrown an interception - even Manning has two - and he is fourth in the league with a 104.7 passer rating.
That's one spot behind Manning (108.6), who just continues to pick apart opposing defenses. He's completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and thrown for 10 touchdowns, and Manning will only be more dangerous with a healthy Harrison back in action.
"We hope we have a long run from here on out," Manning said during the bye week. "We're trying to get ready and stay charged up."
The Colts, who have committed a league-low three turnovers, are looking to go 6-0 for the third straight year. The only other teams to do it were St. Louis from 1999-2001 and Green Bay from 1929-31.
However, their only post-bye loss in the last five seasons came against Jacksonville in 2004, 27-24.
"We'd rather be that underdog," Peterson said. "We talk about it all the time in the locker room, being the bad guy. I'm a guy that always pulls for the bad guy in the movies. I want the bad guy to get away."
By: AP Staff Writers - Email Us
More NFL Football coverage from theSpread.com
- Las Vegas Hilton Contest
- NFL public betting chart
- NFL teams
- NFL standings
- NFL schedule
- NFL injuries
- NFL matchups
- NFL stats
- NFL odds
- NFL news wire
- NFL top stories
- Accuscore NFL predictions
- NFL scoreboard
- Expert NFL Picks
- NFL trends
- Comments and discussion
- Signup for theSpread.com daily newsletter
- NFL Home