After being named not only the week one starter but also a team captain, Anthony Richardson will lead the Indianapolis Colts in his pro debut as they host the reigning division champ Jacksonville Jaguars for their season opener. Let’s take a look at the odds for this AFC South matchup, where my prediction is a Jaguars cover with a spread of 5 points.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Indianapolis Colts Prediction
After a remarkable in-season turnaround, the Jags will look to build on the momentum they had at the end of last year and go even further in a tough AFC. It looked like year two of the Trevor Lawrence era was a lost season, as the team owned a 2-6 record following a five-game losing streak. From that point on, they won seven of their last nine regular season games, including the final five, culminating with a win over the Tennessee Titans to secure the division crown.
Their first playoff game was a microcosm of their season overall; Lawrence tossed four interceptions as Jacksonville fell behind 27-0 to the Los Angeles Chargers, but he racked up four touchdowns as part of a historic comeback. The Jags then lost a close one to the eventual champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, but they did more than enough to create some optimism going forward. With head coach Doug Pederson entering year two, Lawrence coming into his third season, and stud wide receiver Calvin Ridley returning from a year-long gambling suspension, the sky’s the limit for this Jacksonville offense in a terrible AFC South.
Conversely, the Colts probably aren’t going to accomplish much this season in terms of wins and a playoff spot. Rather, they are building for the future, but in that vein, they would surely love to get some early confidence wins under Richardson’s belt. In what I did not consider a great QB draft class, Richardson was my favorite prospect in this year’s NFL draft, but with a lackluster offensive skill group around him, getting him up to his full potential might be a long-term project. Getting running back Jonathan Taylor back could prove to be a boost but until he comes back, wideout Michael Pittman is the only Colts skill player with much of an NFL track record.
Incredibly, in this twice-annual series, the road team hasn’t won a single game since the Jags won in Indy in October of 2017. This streak includes a season where the home win over Indy was Jacksonville’s only win of the entire season. That’s quite the trend to snap, but with the experience and talent differentials between these squads, the Jags should have absolutely no issue doing so and winning by a bundle. As for the total, it’s a slightly tougher call at a number like 45.5, but with a head coach and quarterback both making their NFL debuts, it’s hard to invest in the Colts to do their part in terms of the scoring load, so I’ll take the under.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Indianapolis Colts Betting Odds
The 5-point spread favoring Jacksonville is a strange, non-football number, while the total of 45.5 is more standard. The two sides of either number are more or less evenly priced.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Indianapolis Colts Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Jacksonville Jaguars vs Indianapolis Colts below.
Colts Offensive Line vs Jaguars Defensive Front
When you have a young quarterback learning the ropes in the NFL, you absolutely have to protect him, and that truth is even truer for Richardson. For all of his strengths, Richardson was a terrible passer at Florida when he was pressured, completing just 38% of his passes in those scenarios last year. He’ll be behind a Colts line that was below-average in pass protection last year, but will enjoy a bunch of continuity, and likely some positive regression, especially from superstar guard Quenton Nelson who had a down year in 2022, but at age 27, should bounce right back.
Pass rush was a strength for Jacksonville last year, as they ranked sixth in PFF’s grading, but curiously enough ranked near the bottom of the league with 35 sacks; some positive regression could be in the cards there as well. Josh Allen is of course the biggest name in that group, although his health is a slight variable; he should play, but is listed as questionable right now. Dawuane had a nice year off of the other edge, and could put up some good numbers if he’s rushing opposite a healthy Allen for most of the season.
Jaguars Pass Catchers vs. Colts Secondary
The Colts pass rush, one of the worst in the league a year ago, has essentially no chance to bring the heat against Lawrence, so it will be up to Indy’s much stronger secondary to limit the Jaguars’ air game. Safety Rodney McLeod and corner duo Isaiah Rodgers and Stephon Gilmore were the top contributors last year, but they all departed this offseason, leaving the Colts with very little defensive back talent.
That could be problematic as they go up against not only the clinically precise Lawrence, but one of the more talented offensive skill groups they’ll face all year. The headliner is Calvin Ridley, who racked up almost 1,400 yards in his last full season of action back in 2020. He’s missed time since then with injuries, mental health struggles, and a year-long gambling suspension for placing crazy parlays just like the rest of us, but he’s ready to go. Evan Engram bounced back nicely this year and could be a tough cover for Indy, while Christian Kirk just picked up over 1,100 yards a season ago; it’s going to be a long day for the Colts defense.