JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — For the Indianapolis Colts to make the playoffs for the third time in four years, they need to do something they haven’t done since 2014: win in Jacksonville.
It’s hardly a daunting task considering the woeful Jaguars have allowed opponents to end skids almost weekly.
Jacksonville’s last six opponents have halted multi-game losing streaks against the clawless and often clueless Jaguars (2-14). Although the Colts (9-7) don’t fall into that category – they lost to Las Vegas last week after winning six of seven – they can snap a lengthy road skid against Jacksonville on Sunday.
“I don’t want to overstate it, but the facts are the facts,” said Colts coach Frank Reich, who brought up the road skid during a team meeting Wednesday. “I think it was important to note.”
Indianapolis has dropped five straight in Jacksonville as well as another road game against the Jags in London in 2016.
It’s an odd streak given how dysfunctional Jacksonville has been in recent years. Just look at fellow AFC South teams Houston and Tennessee, both of whom have dominated the Jags of late. The Texans have won eight straight in the series and 14 of 16; the Titans have won five in a row and nine of 10.
The Colts, meanwhile, have lost seven of the last 12 meetings.
“It’s something that we acknowledge as a team,” safety Khari Willis said. “We acknowledge it. Our head guy acknowledges that we haven’t won down there since they’ve been here. That’s a big deal for us, and we’re pretty sure it’s a big deal for them. It’s one of those things. It’s the elephant in the room. ...
“So we accept the challenge, we take it personal and we’re going down there to try to take care of business.”
If the Colts win or tie, they would give the AFC South two playoff teams for the fifth consecutive season – the longest current streak for any NFL division. Indy could still reach the postseason with a loss, but would need help from others.
Jacksonville has nothing at stake aside from securing the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft for the second straight year. The Jaguars have lost eight in a row and already have begun interviewing candidates for their next head coach, a list that included Indy defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
The process has been far from smooth so far, and the finale will feature a “Klown out” in the stands as part of a protest. Hundreds, if not thousands, of disgruntled Jags fans are planning to wear clown attire – red noses, colorful wigs, face paint — in hopes of persuading owner Shad Khan to fire general manager Trent Baalke, whose draft picks have been underwhelming and his free-agent class less than impactful.
Baalke's presence also appears to be hindering the coaching search.
“We want to do everything we can to win for this city, for these fans and obviously we haven’t had much success this year,” rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “That’s frustrating for us as well, so I understand from a fan’s perspective.
“Would I do that personally? No, I wouldn’t do that. But fans feel how they feel and it’s hard. Like I said, this year’s been disappointing for all of us. We wanted to win a lot more games, so I get the frustration.”
Colts running back Jonathan Taylor has been running away with the NFL’s rushing title for weeks. It will become official Sunday.
He leads the next closest challenger, Cincinnati's Joe Mixon, by 529 yards. Taylor’s sensational second season already includes breaking Hall of Famer Edgerrin James’ single-season franchise record for yards rushing. He could break two more notable franchise marks against Jacksonville.
Taylor is tied with James for the most 100-yard games in a season (10) and is tied with another Hall of Famer, Lenny Moore, for the most total touchdowns in one season (20).
“We know we’ve got the best in the business back there to turn around and give it to,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “So we’ve got to be able to capitalize in the pass game off of the play-actions, the movements, those types of things.”
Both teams are recovering from COVID issues. The Colts and Jaguars resumed somewhat normal routines this week after being mostly virtual for a week or more. Indy has no players remaining on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and Jacksonville expects to get most of its guys on there back before Sunday.
“We're on the downside of it,” Reich said.
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