When the NFL schedule came out this game jumped out as easily the worst prime time games of the season, and perhaps one of the worst games period. While it’s still far from must-see TV, it has become a considerably more interesting game than it could have been. All of the credit for that belongs to the Colts. They have won four of five, and are — shockingly — in the midst of playoff race. In fact, if the playoffs started today they would be a wild card team. Of course, that’s at least partly due to the generally pathetic performance of the AFC in the first half of the season. That aside, though, the Colts have been surprisingly solid — and even more fun to watch.
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Jacksonville, on the other hand, can’t be called fun to watch. They have scored 16 fewer points than any other team in the league and far less than half as many as the league-leading Patriots have scored (117 to 262). They have lost five in a row, and despite two overtime losses that mean that the team isn’t quite as bad as their record suggests they are a long way from competitive — and a long way to go to get there. There is no pretending this is a good team.
The question, though, is whether they are good enough to be competitive here. The one wrinkle that makes this one more interesting than it could be, though, is that the only game Jacksonville did win was in Indianapolis. In fact, they have just six wins in their last 27, but half of those wins are against the Colts.
Colts at Jaguars Betting Storylines
The big story in this game — at least on the field — is obviously Andrew Luck. The rookie quarterback was impossibly hyped coming into the season, but he has lived up to — or even exceeded — every expectation for him. He set a load of single-game records last week, and he is on track to set a bunch of season-long ones as well. The comparisons to Peyton Manning are inevitable, and so far he has had a better rookie season than Manning in almost every way. What’s so impressive about the guy is the maturity he’s showing. He’s running a more complex offense that Manning did, and he’s getting better and more comfortable with it each game. The second half of Manning’s rookie season was when he really hit his stride, so the rest of this season — starting with this game against a defense that is ranked 25th against the pass and 27th overall — could be very fun to watch.
Of course, the reputation heading into the season, the strong play so far, and the intense coverage he’s getting have drawn the public to the Colts increasingly with each game. Beyond Luck, the incredibly touching story of coach Chuck Pagano and his struggles with leukemia, and the stellar play of the Colts since that affliction, mean that the Colts are a very public team right now — especially against a very anonymous team like the Jaguars. Nearly 85 percent of bets on this game have been on the Colts so far in this one, and that’s not surprising. Given that, it’s going to be important in this game, and in all games beyond this one as long as Luck and the Colts keep winning, to be very aware of how the public is betting and what effect that has on how the lines are set, how they move, and what that means for the search for value.
I’m generally an optimist, so I like to look for the bright side of even the worst of teams. With the Jaguars, though, that’s a real challenge. They simply aren’t doing anything particularly well right now. Offensively they are dead last in points scored, passing yards, and total yards, and 28th in rushing yards. Defensively they are 26th in points allowed and that bad or worse in most key categories. The Jaguars have just one win and two overtime losses, and there is no mistaking one clear fact — this is not a very good team right now.
Injuries have hit both teams reasonably hard this year. From a public perspective, though, the biggest story is Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s the only household name on the Jags, but a foot injury continues to keep him out of the lineup. It’s a huge hole for the team — one they have really struggled to fill.
Colts at Jaguars NFL Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the visiting Colts favored by a field goal. Support has been intense for them at that level. The books have stuck at that level as long as they can, but they are starting to move it to 3.5 points, and it may even go a little higher. It’s simple, then — if you like the Colts you should probably bet sooner rather than later to get the best price, while for Jaguars’ backers there is no reason to hurry. The total opened at 42.5, and has been stable at that level to date.
The Colts are just 1-4 ATS in their last five against the Jaguars. The road team has covered eight of the last 11 meetings between the teams. The Colts have gone “under” the total in all nine of their most recent games against the AFC South
NFL Picks: Colts at Jaguars Betting Predictions
As a general rule, I don’t like being on the same side as an overwhelming majority of the public bettors, but I don’t see how to avoid it here. The Colts are finding their stride offensively, and it’s going to be a struggle for the Jags to contain them — or to keep up. I really like the Colts at -3, but I’d take them at -3.5 to get the better price as well. There is a solid chance that this one isn’t close. I’ll put it this way — if the Colts want us to believe that they really are the team they have appeared to be the last month then this is a game they need to win convincingly.
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