The NFL schedule just might be the most deceiving thing in sports. The National Football League is the only professional sports organization where the schedule is so unbalanced that it could give teams a significant advantage over another.
When we looked at the Jaguars schedule at the beginning of training camp, a short road trip to Carolina and a home date against Cincinnati appeared as sure victories. Sunday’s trip to Indianapolis was seen as a “double-chinstrap” game with a high probability of losing.
What a difference a couple months make.
For the first time ever, the Jacksonville Jaguars are favorites headed up to Indianapolis. How many people saw that coming? How many people would have seen it coming that the Jags would be favorites on the road while sporting a 2-6 record?
With Indianapolis in the highly unfamiliar position of simply playing out the string at 0-9, they have seemingly lost faith and the will to compete.
“Got an 0-9 team and a 2-6 team, not much to talk about,” Colts Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne said.
It will be difficult for the coaches and television announcers to spin this into a big game in terms of anything that happens on the field this season.
“Now we’re playing for who is at the bottom of the barrel. It goes to show you how this league is,” Wayne added. “One year you can be on top, the next year you can be at the bottom. The thing about it is if the Jaguars win, they are going to be 3-6. If we win, we’re going to be 1-9 and we’ll still be at the bottom of the barrel.”
In all stories which a last place NFL team is involved, contractually we must utter the name Andrew Luck. The Indianapolis Colts are the only winless team in football and in the players heart of hearts they would like that to change, but at what cost? If the Colts remain winless or finish with the worst record in football, they will have the opportunity to select Andrew Luck in the draft.
Although the draft is always somewhat of an unknown, Luck is the best quarterback prospect since not Peyton Manning, but John Elway. If anyone knows how dangerous it is for the Colts to start a new era with a franchise quarterback, it’s the Jaguars.
When Peyton Manning entered the league, Jacksonville was a division champion- in the now defunct AFC Central. In Manning’s second season, the Jaguars were 14-2 on their way to the AFC title game and their window of opportunity was closing, even if nobody in Jacksonville knew it. The Colts were just beginning a run that would see them move to the AFC South along with Jacksonville and win seven division titles, have nine straight playoff appearances including two trips to the Super Bowl and one title. Over the same time the Jaguars made the playoffs twice, posting just one victory.
The main difference between the two teams or anybody in the AFC South is that the Colts had Peyton Manning and nobody else did. Now how scary would it be for the Jaguars if a guy who is a better prospect than Manning took over for him in the same city?
The Jaguars are going to travel to Indianapolis with the sole purpose of leaving Lucas Oil Stadium with a victory over the Colts. As poorly as the Jaguars have been playing, they’re more than likely to get the job done.
“That’s OK. We want to be at the top of the bottom of the barrel,” Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said.
It appears as if the Jaguars want to win this game and the Colts are pretty much indifferent. A Jacksonville victory only sends Indianapolis one game closer to the probability of selecting Andrew Luck. Peyton Manning has tortured the Jaguars for roughly 13 years and the Colts have won 15 of 20 meetings against the Jags.
As much as Jacksonville would like to exact revenge on a weakened opponent, it could lead to another decade of their own torture.