College of Sports Media Game of the Night:
Big game tonight in the NFL Thursday night-er. The Indianapolis Colts (13-0) take their perfect record into Jacksonville to take on the division rival Jaguars (7-6). Earlier these two teams met in Indy and obviously the Colts won that contest, squeaking by with a 14-12 win. The Colts have won four of the last five meetings between the two teams and hold an overall 13-4 edge in the series. Just don’t count out the Jaguars just yet. Out of all the teams that in the Indy’s division Jacksonville gives them the most problems and the games typically come down to the last minute. Offensively the Jags are led by quarterback David Garrard and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Garrard is having an average season by his own standards. He’s close to 3000 yards passing and would need only just over 600 yards over the next three weeks to eclipse his own personal best. Whats impressive about his stats is that he has a very young receiving core and is still building that bound between QB and wide out. For Jones-Drew, this is the first season he has been the feature back in the Jags attack. One time starter Fred Taylor was released in the off season and was picked up by the New England Patriots. Jones-Drew has thrived with the new role. He’s already set a career high in rushing yards (1136) and touchdowns (14). For the Colts the big question is whether or not to sit players and start resting up for the play offs. Indy has already secured the top spot in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the post season. Indy struggles with it’s running game (30th in the league) so a lot of the offensive load has been on the shoulders of quarterback Peyton Manning. Which isn’t a problem for the 12 year vet. He leads the league in passing yards (3905), attempts per game (38.6), yards per game (300.4) and trails only Drew Brees in touchdowns thrown (Manning has 29). Manning may attempt the most throws but he is also well protected. He’s only been sacked 10 times. Manning too has dealt with receiver turnover. 13 year Colt Marvin Harrison was let go and he was replaced by second year man Pierre Garcon and rookie Austin Collie. Along with Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark they make up a formidable receiving core.
There’s a thought process out there that sitting players for the play offs is a mistake. In fact Indy has first hand experience. There have been at least two seasons when the team sat players in preparation for the post season and were knocked out early. The year the Colts had to player their starters until the end of the season they went on to win the Super Bowl. It will be interesting to see what philosophy rookie coach Jim Caldwell follows.