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Colts-Jaguars Preview


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Colts-Jaguars Preview

By Associated Press

GAME: Indianapolis Colts (12-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (9-3).

TIME: Sunday, 1 p.m. EST.

Maybe the Indianapolis Colts shouldn't be too concerned their lowest point total of 2005 came in their first meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their offense has come alive since then.

Looking to become the fourth team in NFL history to go 13-0, the Colts try to lock up the AFC South title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage for the playoffs when they visit the Jaguars.

Indianapolis' typically potent offense was stagnant at the start of the season but its defense picked up the slack. That unit allowed a total of 16 points over the first three games while the Colts scored an average of just 15.7, including their season low in a 10-3 home win over Jacksonville on Sept. 18.

In nine games since, the Indy offense has resembled that of recent seasons with a 35.4 scoring average, including three wins in which they hit 40, and an average margin of victory of just under 20 points.

After clinching a playoff berth for the fourth straight year with a 35-3 rout of Tennessee last Sunday, the Colts can lock up their third consecutive division crown with a win over the Jaguars. A victory also would give them a bye for the first week of the postseason and the benefit of playing all of their AFC playoff games at the RCA Dome.

``We definitely want that bye because that's not something we've had since I've been here,'' said Tony Dungy, in his fourth season as Colts coach. ``Those are big things for us, things we started thinking about before the season began.''

To become the first 13-0 squad since Denver in 1998, Indy must avoid splitting its season series with Jacksonville for a third straight year. The Colts haven't lost a division game since falling to the Jaguars 27-24 on Oct. 24, 2004.

Six of the last seven meetings have been decided by seven points or less.

Jacksonville is riding its first five-game winning streak since 1999 after a 20-14 victory at Cleveland last Sunday.

The Jaguars have played come-from-behind football during the win streak, scoring 96 second-half points in those five games after totaling 30 in the first half.

``They've played us as well as anybody in the division, and they're as hot as anybody,'' said Dungy, who won his 100th career game last Sunday. ``We always play close games, so we're expecting a great game with a lot of intensity. It should be great for the NFL.''

The game would be a lot better with Byron Leftwich taking the snaps for the Jaguars, but the third-year quarterback has been sidelined with a broken bone in his ankle and backup David Garrard will have to contend with possibly the best defensive line in the NFL.

Titans quarterback Steve McNair can attest to that after he was knocked out of Sunday's game for four plays in the third quarter with a bruised right shin. McNair and backup Billy Volek were each sacked twice and Tennessee gained just 40 yards on the ground.

Peyton Manning completed 13 of 17 passes for 187 yards, three touchdowns and a near-perfect passer-rating of 151.2. Edgerrin James carried 28 times for 107 yards, topping 9,000 in his career, and Marvin Harrison had four catches for 61 yards and a touchdown to reach 12,000 career receiving yards.

``If they continue to stay healthy, with what they do on offense and with the speed they have on defense, they're going to have a chance,'' Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of a possible 16-0 season.

With Leftwich out at least another three weeks, the Jags have put their hopes of earning a wild-card spot in the hands of Garrard, a four-year veteran with no big-game experience in the NFL.

But Garrard played well enough for Jacksonville in only his fourth career start Sunday, completing 11 of 20 passes for 116 yards and two second-half touchdowns. He also made a crucial scramble for a first down in the final minutes.

``He's got an opportunity to play big-time for us right now,'' said Jags coach Jack Del Rio. ``He's getting an opportunity to lead this team.''

STANDINGS: Colts - 1st place, AFC South. Jaguars - 2nd place, AFC South.

COLTS LEADERS: Offense - Manning, 2,966 passing yards and 25 passing TDs; James, 1,347 rushing yards and 12 rushing TDs; Reggie Wayne, 67 receptions and 862 receiving yards; Harrison, 10 receiving TDs. Defense - Robert Mathis, 10 1/2 sacks; Cato June, 5 INTs.

JAGUARS LEADERS: Offense - Leftwich, 2,123 passing yards and 15 passing TDs; Fred Taylor, 606 rushing yards; Greg Jones, 4 rushing TDs; Jimmy Smith, 47 receptions and 734 receiving yards; Smith and Ernest Wilford, 5 receiving TDs. Defense - Paul Spicer, 7 1/2 sacks; Rashean Mathis, 4 INTs.

COLTS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 127.2 yards per game (9th in NFL); Passing Offense - 244.3 ypg (6th); Total Offense - 371.4 ypg (3rd). Rushing Defense - 97.3 ypg (9th); Passing Defense - 185.3 ypg (9th); Total Defense - 282.6 ypg (3rd).

JAGUARS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 122.5 yards per game (11th); Passing Offense - 186.3 ypg (24th); Total Offense - 308.8 ypg (21st). Rushing Defense - 107.8 ypg (14th); Passing Defense - 175.4 ypg (4th); Total Defense - 283.3 ypg (5th).

LAST MEETING: Sept. 18; Colts, 10-3. At Indianapolis, James rushed for 128 yards but Ran Carthon, who was released last week, ran for the game's only TD with 8:27 to play. Manning went 13-of-28 for 122 yards and the Colts were outgained 303-268.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Colts - With 34 more yards passing, Manning will reach 3,000 for the eighth consecutive season. He's already thrown at least 25 TD passes in an NFL-record eight straight years. ... The only three games this season in which James was held under 100 rushing yards all came on the road. ... The Colts are looking to match the franchise record for consecutive road wins at seven, set in 1968. Jaguars - Jacksonville is tied with Cincinnati and Denver for the NFL's fewest turnovers (13). ... WR Smith, who has a TD catch in three of the past four meetings with the Colts, needs two receiving yards to follow Harrison and become the 13th player to reach 12,000. ... The Jaguars have outscored opponents 93-30 in the third quarter this season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Colts - 6-0 on the road; Jaguars - 4-1 at home.

INJURIES: Colts - OUT: S Joseph Jefferson (knee). QUESTIONABLE: CB Nick Harper (groin); LB June (groin/knee/ankle). PROBABLE: T Tarik Glenn (knee); DE Robert Mathis (wrist); DT Corey Simon (thigh); K Mike Vanderjagt (right groin/right calf). Jaguars - OUT: QB Leftwich (ankle). DOUBTFUL: C Brad Meester (biceps). PROBABLE: CB Rashean Mathis (finger); RB Taylor (ankle).

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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