The Indianapolis Colts have suffered a couple of ugly losses in a row to fall to 5-4 on the season. Now, they have gone from legitimate AFC contenders to finding themselves in desperate need of a win when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Of course, there are many factors at play in the Colts’ recent struggles.
Their offense has been ravaged by injuries, whether it’s Jacoby Brissett or T.Y. Hilton or even Devin Funchess, who has been sidelined since Week 1 with a collarbone injury. Rookie wide out Parris Campbell is also out.
As a result, it’s going to become tougher and tougher for Indianapolis to win games the rest of the way, and in a tight AFC South division where just about everyone appears evenly matched, injuries are a recipe for disaster.
Nevertheless, the Colts will need to adopt a “next man up” mentality for their Week 11 clash with the Jaguars.
Here are two X-factors for Indy this weekend:
A Potential Big Game from Zach Pascal
Hilton is out. Funchess is out. Campbell is out.
That leaves second-year wide out Zach Pascal as Brissett’s No. 1 target as far as wide receivers go, and while that is certainly not something Colts fans want to hear, Pascal has shown some promise this season.
In nine games, Pascal has logged 21 catches for 347 yards and four touchdowns, including a 106-yard, two-score outburst in a win over the Houston Texans back on Oct. 20.
Two weeks ago, Pascal tallied five grabs for 76 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, so he is certainly capable of being productive.
However, he is not used to having this type of role.
The good news for Pascal is that the Jaguars’ secondary is not nearly as lethal as it once was, as Jalen Ramsey is gone, and Jacksonville’s defense in general has lost a lot of its luster.
But even with that, the Jags aren’t scrubs, and they are surely going to be ready for Pascal, fully understanding that he will get a lot of targets with so many Colts receivers sidelined.
Production from the Tight Ends
Last season, Eric Ebron was one of the best tight ends in football, and with Jack Doyle coming back from injury this season, Indianapolis was widely expected to have the most lethal tight end duo in the NFL.
Unfortunately for Frank Reich and Co., it hasn’t really panned out that way.
Ebron and Doyle have combined for just 54 catches and seven touchdowns this season, and while that isn’t terrible, it is simply not what people expected from the tandem, nor is it even close to the types of numbers Ebron put up a year ago.
But now, with Indy so short-handed in its passing game, Ebron and Doyle don’t really have much of a choice to do anything other than come up with big performances.
Obviously, the Jaguars will be expecting Brissett to be targeting both of them regularly, but that shouldn’t stop the two tight ends from making an impact.