JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ Sunday meeting with the Jaguars in Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field:

The basics:

  • Kickoff: 1 p.m.
  • Broadcast: CBS4
  • Spread: Colts by 3

History lesson, Part I:

We’ll keep this short because we hate piling on. The Colts have lost seven straight road games to the Jaguars, including in 2016 when they crossed the Atlantic Ocean and were whipped in London’s Wembley Stadium. The latest was the most impactful – 26-11 on Jan. 9 when they were uncompetitive and saw their once-strong playoff hopes extinguished.

In case you’ve forgotten, the last win in Jacksonville was 44-17 Sept 21, 2014. Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne and Trent Richardson were key offensive components.

History lesson, Part II:

Matt Ryan can’t relate to the Jacksonville Jinx (or whatever you prefer to call it). He’s 4-0 against the Jaguars and has won twice in Jacksonville.

History lesson, Part III:

Jonathan Taylor already has done a lot in a short period of time, and that includes eclipsing Edgerrin James’ franchise records for rushing yards in a season (1,811) and in a game (253). The latter came in the final game of his rookie season in 2020. Against Jacksonville. Taylor rushed 30 times for 253 yards and two TDs. His record-breaking day included runs of 56, 29 and 20 yards, and a 45-yard TD with 3:44 remaining that sealed the 28-14 victory.

Taylor’s NFL debut came in Jacksonville when he was Marlon Mack’s backup. Mack’s season ended when he tore his right Achilles in the second quarter. Taylor stepped into the feature back role and the 2nd-round draft pick finished with 22 yards on nine carries.

In his last three meetings with the Jaguars, Taylor has averaged 22 carries and 148.7 yards per game.

With the Colts’ receiver situation (see next segment), Taylor should anticipate another heavy workload.

Receivers in spotlight:

Taylor has handled at least 30 rushes four times in 33 career games, including 31 for 161 yards in the opening tie at Houston.  It’s worth wondering how the Colts’ receiving predicament impacts that.

Two of Ryan’s top three wideouts are out. That would be Michael Pittman Jr. (quad) and rookie Alec Pierce (concussion). Ryan’s receiving corps at Jacksonville: Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan, Dezmon Patmon and Keke Coutee.

At Houston, Ryan was 9-of-13 for 121 yards and one TD when targeting Pittman. That’s a 124.2 passer rating. He was 8-of-14 for 119 when targeting the other wideouts. That’s an 85.1 rating. Pierce dropped one TD and Dulin another, which was aided by a nice play by the DB. Coutee wasn’t active.

So, who picks up most of the slack? Campbell seems the most likely option, but this should be an excellent opportunity for Frank Reich to use Nyheim Hines more as a receiver than a running back.

Yes, Taylor will have to carry a heavier load than maybe was anticipated. But the Jaguars will be expecting that and probably will crowd the line.

The passing game – that includes the tight ends – has got to keep ‘em honest.

Reich and general manager Chris Ballard have spent the last several months vouching for the depth at the position. This is the first opportunity for the depth to reinforce that trust.

Dealing with Trevor Lawrence:

For at least one week during his rookie season, Trevor Lawrence looked every bit the part of 1st overall pick in the draft. The Colts’ defense was as flat as the rest of the team in week 18 of last season and Lawrence made ‘em pay. He passed for 223 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 26-11 victory.

Now, Lawrence has 18 starts under his belt and actually has an NFL-caliber coach (Doug Pederson is a major upgrade over Urban Meyer) showing him the way. He passed for 275 yards with one TD and one interception last Sunday at Washington and had Jacksonville in front 22-14 in the fourth quarter before Carson Wentz (remember him?) passed for two TDs in the final 10 minutes.

The game plan against Lawrence is similar with any young QB: pressure him early and often. Get in his face, make him operate out of a chaotic pocket. The Commanders sacked him twice and got to him for eight other hits.

Kwity Paye had a pair of sacks in overtime last Sunday at Houston and E.J. Speed had another. But the catalyst needs to be Yannick Ngakoue and he should be extra motivated. Ngakoue was a 3rd-round pick of Jacksonville in 2016 and spent his first four season with the team.

Ngakoue downplayed his return to Jacksonville when talking with the media this week.

“It’s special because that’s the place that allowed me to play my first snaps in the NFL,’’ he said. “But it’s just another game for me.’’

He might have given a more honest peek into his mindset with a Tweet early this week.

“This week feels little different,’’ he posted. “Sunday can’t come soon enough!’’

Ngakoue faced his former team for the first time in 2020 when he was with the Baltimore Ravens. He had 2 sacks and another hit on Gardner Minshew II in the Ravens’ 40-14 win in Baltimore.

Sunday is Ngakoue’s first game in Jacksonville since they traded him to Minnesota in August 2020.

Dealing with the run game:

In order to turn up the pressure on Lawrence, Gus Bradley’s defense first must deal with Jacksonville’s run game. And that means dealing with James Robinson and Travis Etienne. They combined to average 7.5 yards on 15 carries in the opener.

Robinson and Etienne are feel-good stories. Robinson tore his left Achilles Dec. 26 against the New York Jets while Etienne, the 25th overall pick in the 2021 draft, saw his rookie season end when he suffered a foot injury in a preseason game in August.

Dealing with the heat:

No, we’re not talking about the weather in Jacksonville. But now that we mentioned it, the forecast calls for a high of 84 and thunderstorms.

We’re talking about limiting the effectiveness of Jacksonville’s linebacker tandem of Josh Allen and Travon Walker. Allen was the 7th overall pick in 2019 and Walker the 1st overall pick in April. They lifted up to their lofty draft status last week. Walker debuted with 1 sack, one interception and a tackle for loss. Allen added two tackles for loss, one QB hit and one forced fumble. In 41 career games, Allen has 20.5 sacks, including 3.5 in five games against Indy. He had 2 sacks of Wentz in January.

Kicking issue:

If a drive stalls and a field goal is needed – early, late, whenever – it’ll be Chase McLaughlin. The team opted for the veteran over rookie Lucas Havrisik.

The kicking game failed the Colts in the opening tie at Houston. It needs to do its job in week 2.

And the winner is: Jaguars 23, Colts 20.

This reminds us of the week 16 trip to Arizona last season. COVID-19 sidelined eight front-line players and Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly was out for personal reasons. No one gave the Colts much of a chance against the Kyler Murray-led Cardinals, so they went out and whacked ‘em 22-16 on Christmas Night.

Being without All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard (back), Pittman and Pierce isn’t as severe, obviously, but Kenny Moore II (hip) and DeForest Buckner (hip) probably won’t be 100%. And did we mention there’s a new kicker in town?

It won’t surprise us in the least if Matt Ryan is the calming influence and JT hammers away at the Jaguars. But after stumbling out of the gate at Houston, these guys need to prove it before we climb on board.

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You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.