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Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Preview and Predictions 09-13-2020

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Will it be the old Philip Rivers or an old Philip Rivers?

The answer to that question might not become apparent Sunday when Rivers makes his first start for the Indianapolis Colts in their NFL opener with Jacksonville.

But Indianapolis really needs the former instead of the latter if it's to realize its goals of bouncing back from a disastrous second half of 2019 that cost the Colts an AFC playoff berth.

Rivers has been the ultimate gamer over the past 14 years, making 224 straight regular-season starts for the Chargers while often playing with injuries. In fact, he even answered the bell for the 2007 AFC title game in New England a week after tearing an ACL, a feat that probably never got the credit it deserved.

However, his 16th NFL season was a disappointment. Rivers threw 20 interceptions against only 23 touchdown passes for a team that was picked by some to win the Super Bowl and instead stumbled to last place in the AFC West.

Los Angeles waved goodbye to the 38-year-old and drafted Justin Herbert in the first round as his eventual successor. Rivers picked Indianapolis, coached by his old offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, as his landing spot to close a successful career that only lacks a Super Bowl.

And a major reason he did so was the Colts' offensive line. There were times as a Charger when Rivers was basically reduced to playing chuck and duck behind an inconsistent front wall. The likes of Anthony Castonzo and Quenton Nelson should keep him upright far more often.

"The fact that these guys played every game last year together and certainly have been together now for a handful of years ... I think that's huge," Rivers said. "It makes you feel good as a quarterback."

So should Indianapolis' running game. Marlon Mack rushed for a career-high 1,091 yards last year and seems to be a worthwhile fantasy play this week against a Jacksonville defense that some would say has been stripped and sold for parts.

Since logging its second straight last-place finish in the AFC South, Jacksonville traded defensive ends Calais Campbell (Baltimore) and Yannick Ngakoue (Minnesota), as well as cornerback A.J. Bouye (Denver).

And even with those guys around last year, the Jaguars were vulnerable to good running games. Mack and Jonathan Williams each piled up over 100 yards on the ground in a 33-13 win in Week 11.

But Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone, who starts his fourth full year with a franchise roundly expected to have the worst record in the league, is expecting good things.

"I really think this team can be special," he said. "I really do. We've got to go out there and win games, and I'm confident this football team will be able to do that."

If that's the case, second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew will likely have a lot to do with it. He is the Jaguars' guy for the long run, even if their offense might not have much run to it after letting top rusher Leonard Fournette go recently.

In fact, Minshew, who posted a nice 21-6 touchdown-interception ratio last year and went 6-6 as a starter, has been named a team captain.

"That's one of the highest honors you can have," he said. "It means everything."

Castonzo and center Ryan Kelly were limited in practice Wednesday for the Colts and are questionable for Sunday's opener.

Jacksonville will allow just under 17,000 fans to attend this game -- about 25 percent of TIAA Bank Field's capacity.

--Field Level Media

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Key Players to Watch

Stadium

EverBank Field
Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
Capacity: 67,246

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Last Injuries

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • C.J. Board

    Concussion
    day-to-day | questionable

    Board sat out the previous game with a concussion, and it is unknown if he will be cleared in time for Week 8 versus the Buccaneers.

  • Carl Davis Jr.

    Concussion
    day-to-day | questionable

    Davis Jr. sat out the previous game while going through the concussion protocol, and it is unknown if he will be cleared for Week 8 versus the Bills.

  • Jarrod Wilson

    Hamstring
    day-to-day | questionable

    Wilson was absent from the last game due to a hamstring injury, and it is unclear if he will suit up Week 9 against the Texans.

  • Chris Thompson

    Illness
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    Thompson has landed on the Injured Reserve/COVID-19 list, and it is unknown how long it will take for the symptoms to subside.

  • Sidney Jones

    Back
    day-to-day | questionable

    Jones exited the previous game with a back injury, and it is undetermined if he will face the Texans in Week 9.

  • Dede Westbrook

    Knee
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    Westbrook has been shuttled to the injured reserve list with a knee injury, and team officials have yet to provide an exact return date.

  • Devine Ozigbo

    Hamstring
    day-to-day | questionable

    Ozigbo sustained a hamstring injury in the last game, leaving his status against the Texans in Week 9 hazy.

  • Abry Jones

    Ankle
    Out indefinitely | I-R

    Jones has landed on the injured reserve list with injuries to his ankle and hamstring. It remains to be seen when the team will take him off the IR.

Indianapolis Colts

  • Jordan Wilkins

    Calf
    Ques Week 8 | questionable

    Wilkins is bothered by a calf injury, leaving his availability against the Lions in Week 8 up in the air.

  • Darius Leonard

    Groin
    Ques Week 8 | questionable

    Leonard has been absent from the previous two games with a groin injury, and it is unclear if he will suit up Week 8 versus the Lions.

  • Mo Alie-Cox

    Knee
    Ques Week 8 | questionable

    Alie-Cox was absent from the last contest due to a knee injury, and it is undetermined if he will play Week 8 against the Lions.

  • Chaz Green

    Back
    Ques Week 8 | questionable

    Green missed the last game with a back injury, and it is unknown if he will take the field against the Lions in Week 8.

  • Justin Houston

    Hip
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Houston is nursing a hip injury, and it is unknown if he will be available against the Bengals on Sunday.

  • Jordan Wilkins

    Calf
    Prob Sun | probable

    Wilkins was confined to a limited role in practice due to a calf injury, but he will be active Sunday versus the Bengals.

  • Julian Blackmon

    Groin
    Prob Sun | probable

    Blackmon exited the last game with a groin injury, but he is likely to face the Bengals on Sunday.

  • Sheldon Day

    Knee
    Ques Sun | questionable

    Day has been activated from the Injured Reserve/Designated for Return list after recuperating from a knee injury. It is unclear if he will return to the field against the Bengals on Sunday.