The Indianapolis Colts will try to match their 2011 season total in wins when they play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Jags became the first AFC South team to sweep the Colts last season. Here are five keys to the Colts' regaining the edge this year:
The usual problem of Maurice Jones-Drew
Jones-Drew was passed over by the Colts in the 2006 draft and they've been paying for it ever since. He's averaging 101 yards per game over 12 career games against Indianapolis. The Colts' change to a 3-4 defense could spell some changes in their approach, but the same problem exists: They have to find a way to bring Jones-Drew down before he can break away.
More growth from Andrew Luck
The Colts rookie quarterback went from four turnovers (three picks, one fumble) against the Bears to zero against the Vikings. The difference between a loss and a win might not solely rest on that factor, but it's certainly a huge help. It's uncertain whether Austin Collie will return to give Luck another weapon, but Donnie Avery's emergence (nine catches, 111 yards vs. Vikings) was a nice bonus. Luck still needs to continue to work on knowing when to throw the ball away and also how to slide effectively.
Offensive line chemistry
It's still uncertain where the Colts line will stand come Sunday. Joe Reitz is apparently out while Samson Satele and Winston Justice seem likely to return to some action, but that can change. The good news is Trai Essex has had another week's worth of practice within the system. Mike McGlynn, who filled in for Satele during the Vikings game, reminded media that he played center for a season with the Eagles. So he's comfortable there.
Bringing a little pressure
There's no question Robert Mathis has adjusted well to his new role as a stand-up outside linebacker. Despite the change of position, he has three sacks and 16 tackles. He has also joined with Cory Redding as the demonstrative, aggressive personality of the defense. Gabbert has been hobbled by an injury, and was 7-for-19 passing for 53 yards against Houston last week. Mathis will be riled up.
Special teams deluxe
Nothing tops a 53-yard game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri, but there's no discounting the value of punter Pat McAfee. McAfee has been using his “Boomstick,” as he nicknamed his leg, to great effect so far. McAfee has 10 punts for a 52.5 yards per punt average and has been effective at kickoffs, too. As he demonstrated last season and again this year, he's not afraid to make a tackle, either.