JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)The Indianapolis Colts are perfect on the road this season, having already notched wins at Houston and Baltimore.
Albeit a small sample size, that success away from home gives players and coaches a little extra confidence heading into what’s become the team’s toughest place to play.
The Colts (3-2) will turn to backup quarterback Gardner Minshew as they try to end an eight-game road skid to Jacksonville and take sole possession of first place in the AFC South.
The Jaguars haven’t dropped a home game in the series since 2014, winning seven in a row at EverBank Stadium and winning another at Wembley Stadium in London.
“It’s a new week, new situation, new team,” Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin said. “I don’t care about what it was. I only care about what it is.”
It is a chance for Indianapolis to catch the Jaguars (3-2) in a fog after spending 10 days in London and then several nights trying to recover from an overseas trip that rearranged body clocks and left coach Doug Pederson searching for ways to refresh his team.
Pederson and his players are admittedly weary about a “London hangover.” They played a home game after playing in London in 2022 and found themselves trailing 17-0 in the first 20 minutes to the Las Vegas Raiders. They stormed back to win, but the game has been a reminder – and a rallying point – this week.
“We can’t lose what we gained over in London,” receiver Christian Kirk said. “We have some momentum now.”
Jacksonville beat Atlanta 23-7 at Wembley and then moved across town and stunned red-hot Buffalo 25-20 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“Going away for 10 days was good for us, but we’ve got to bring that energy back,” Pederson said. “We can’t leave it in London. That’s a big part of this week but playing a divisional opponent can help that.”
The Colts, who put Anthony Richardson (shoulder) on injured reserve this week, expect to get running back Jonathan Taylor more involved after he carried just six times in his season debut last week. Taylor could help alleviate some pressure on Minshew, who is facing the team that drafted him for the first time.
He also could be key in ending one of the oddest current skids in the NFL. Indy has lost in Jacksonville in close games and blowouts, in warm weather and cold, in shootouts and low-scoring matchups.
The Jaguars have beaten quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck, Andrew Luck (twice), Jacoby Brissett (twice), Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan along the way.
Heck, Minshew has two wins and six TD passes in the series. They also shut out the Colts twice during the slide – Indy’s only goose eggs on the road since 1993 – and won as favorites and underdogs.
The Jaguars are 4 1/2-point favorites this week, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“I think you have to treat every week as a new week, and you’ve got to have the same preparation and the same mindset going into every week,” Colts coach Shane Steichen said. “No matter what’s happened in the past, it’s a new year, it’s a new game and we’ve got to be ready to go.”
Steichen intends to give Taylor a heavier workload than he did in his season debut (6 carries for 18 yards). But with Zack Moss ranked No. 3 among NFL rushers with 445 yards, the Colts might try a tag-team approach.
“You’ve got two really good backs,” Steichen said. “Obviously, Zack is running at a high level and getting JT back with his explosive ability – to use both those guys in the backfield will be good.”
Jacksonville might not be easy to run against even with Taylor back. The Jaguars rank fifth in the league in run defense, having allowed 408 yards on the ground in five games. Those numbers would be even better without long runs from Kansas City’s Isiah Pacheco (31 yards) in Week 2 and Atlanta’s Bijan Robinson (38 yards) in Week 4.
“We’re tackling better on the perimeter; there’s a sense of urgency there,” Pederson said. “Guys are flying around and making plays. … I just think there’s a confidence level with the defense right now that they pride themselves on that.”
With Richardson out and Minshew taking over, former Texas standout Sam Ehlinger becomes Indy’s backup. Ehlinger went 0-3 as the Colts starter last season. Indy also signed another college star, Kellen Mond, to the practice squad this week. Mond has previously played for Minnesota and Cleveland.
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot contributed from Indianapolis.
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