5 things to watch, Colts vs. Jaguars: AFC playoff scenarios and seeding, Jonathan Taylor, Darius Leonard, Carson Wentz

5 things to watch, Colts vs. Jaguars: AFC playoff scenarios and seeding, Jonathan Taylor, Darius Leonard, Carson Wentz

1. The Colts will not take the Jaguars lightly.

Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton summed it up best after the Colts’ Week 17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

“We don’t play well down there,” Hilton said. “So we better find a way, or we’re going to be out.”

Hilton played in all six of the Colts’ last six road games against the Jacksonville Jaguars – all of which his team lost. It doesn’t matter how good the Jaguars are or aren’t, or how good the Colts are or aren’t. The Jaguars haven’t lost to the Colts in Jacksonville since 2014.

You can debate exactly how relevant that streak is to Sunday’s game, but the Colts are treating it like it matters. The Jaguars have given their best effort in hosting the Colts in six years, and the Colts are expecting more of the same in Week 18.

Even if the Jaguars are 2-14 in one loss since landing the No. 1 pick. 1 in the 2022 NFL Draft.

“We’ve been hearing it all week, you know, they’re 2-14, and this and that,” defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said. “But when the Colts go down in Jacksonville, (the Jaguars are) 6-0. They get for the Colts.”

If the Colts’ practice this week is any indication, they are on track to be ready for the Jaguars’ best effort.

“I think yesterday’s practice was a lot better than last week’s practice,” linebacker Darius Leonard said Thursday. “I feel like last week was lacking, she wasn’t focused and I think this week is here, we’re locked in. I felt defensively, we played with energy yesterday, we had a lot of turnovers. hopefully if that we can do it in practice, that we can transfer it to the game and come out of this thing with a W and let us make a run in the playoffs.”

2. Jonathan Taylor can set more records – and make his final case for MVP.

Taylor is a legitimate MVP candidate – an incredible feat for a 2020s running back – who has already set new Colts records for rushing yards (1,734 and counting) and rushing yards (18 and counting) in a single season.

But Taylor can set a few more franchise records as he closes out the regular season:

Putting Leonard’s 2021 season (115 tackles, 8 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries) into some perspective…

What we’ve seen Leonard do not only this year, but since he entered the league in 2018, it’s been special. And with a spot in the playoffs on the line, look for Leonard to lead the charge on the Colts’ defense this weekend not only from the field, but from a leadership standpoint, as well.

“I tell them all the time, don’t be satisfied with what you’ve done. We haven’t done anything,” Leonard said. “We don’t have a playoff spot. For the four years we’ve been here, we haven’t made it past the second round. So, I don’t want guys to fall into the trap when we were 1-4, everybody talked us down. Then, when when we went on that run, everyone started praising us. I think people felt like, they had achieved and we did something. It’s not worth it.

“So I told them you get one chance. It’s hard to get into the playoffs and it’s hard to win in this league. So we got to make sure we can control what we can control. That’s just playing good, sound football. In all three phases and just dominating and being the best team out there on the field.”

4. Fun fact about Carson Wentz.

The Colts are 5-2 on the road this season, and Wentz’s ability to take care of the football and make plays when he needs to is a big reason why. Wentz enters Week 18 completing 65 percent of his passes on the road with 7.3 yards per attempt, 10 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 103.4.

Reich on Wednesday reflected on Wentz’s first season with the Colts — not just what he’s done on the road.

“I think it’s done well,” Reich said. “I think we’ve made great progress. I think he’s handled the offense very well. When you consider where we were starting from again, going back with a very limited training camp and that whole story, which we all know, I think it’s done. very well.

“I think he has offense when JT (Jonathan Taylor) got hot and he’s very run-centric. He wasn’t asked to throw it 35, 40 times a game and win a game like that, but I think he done. good job. I think we can all get better in general in the passing game, as an offense continues to grow in the passing game.

The Colts again have a simple goal for Sunday: A win ensures a spot in the playoffs. By around 4ish Sunday afternoon, we should know if the Colts are in the dance or need some help in the door – or if that help won’t materialize at all.

If you’re feeling nervous on Sunday afternoon, tune in to the Ravens-Steelers game that starts at 1 p.m. If the Steelers win, the Colts can’t make the playoffs if they lose. If the Ravens win and the Colts lose, then dig into your closet and see if you have any Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders gear – a Colts loss, along with losses by the Steelers, Patriots and Chargers, would be the Colts into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. 7 with a 9-8 record.

If the Colts win, we’ll know they’re in – but we won’t know what their seed will be until late Sunday night. The results of the Jets-Bills, Patriots-Dolphins and Chargers-Raiders games will determine the No. 1 seed. The Colts are 5, 6 or 7:

And then, of course, there’s the question of who the Colts might play in the wild card round. It could be the Titans, Chiefs, Bengals, Bills or Patriots depending on how those teams’ games go on Saturday and Sunday.

Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Frank Reich

Can Colts make playoffs with loss to Jags?

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