Jaguars-Colts Betting Preview: Will Fournette’s Return Spark Jacksonville?
Jonathan Dyer, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Leonard Fournette
Betting odds: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
- Spread: Colts -2.5
- Over/Under: 46.5
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: CBS
>> All odds as of Friday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets
Betting market: The Colts opened at -3 (-130) and soon moved to -3.5. However, the line and juice has moved in Jacksonville’s favor since then. Bets are split, but the Jags are getting more of the money and have moved to +2.5 (-103) at the time of writing.
Trends to know: The Jags and Colts are each coming off a bye week. Since 2003, when two teams with 13 or more days between games play, the favorite has gone 18-12 against the spread, per our Bet Labs data. — John Ewing
The Jaguars are falling — and falling fast. Coming off a bye, this is getting close to must-win time after losing four consecutive games straight up and ATS.
History suggests the Jags are in a good spot to bounce back. Since 2003, teams that made the postseason the previous season and are coming off a four-game straight-up and ATS losing streak are 31-12 ATS (72.1%). — Evan Abrams
Sneaky storyline: The Colts just had their first back-to-back 200 yard rushing games in more than 30 years. Their success on the ground can be attributed to a much-improved and healthy offensive line that ranks second in the NFL in adjusted sack rate. — Stuckey
Biggest mismatch: Jaguars short-passing attack vs. Colts secondary
Blake Bortles should look a lot better this weekend against a very poor Colts pass defense that ranks 25th overall DVOA.
I think he will have plenty of success in the short-passing game, set up by play-action, which should thrive with the return of running back Leonard Fournette. This whole offense was constructed with Fournette as the focal point.
Bortles has struggled against zones at times in his career, which is primarily what he should see vs. Indy, but he should move the ball down the field with short, easy passes after Jacksonville establishes the run. (See Jacksonville’s gameplan in playoff games against Pittsburgh and New England last season.)
The Colts have really struggled to defend short passes, ranking 26th, per Football Outsiders. Indy also doesn’t blitz much, which has caused problems for Bortles this season.
It all starts with the return of Fournette. — Stuckey
Which team is healthier? Jaguars
Colts players have missed a league-high 205 combined games this season. They risk being without safety Mike Mitchell (calf) and tight end Erik Swoope (knee) this week, while running back Marlon Mack (foot) and free safety Malik Hooker (hip) are banged up, as well.
As Stuckey mentioned, the Jaguars are expected to welcome back Fournette (hamstring), but the secondary could be without each of A.J. Bouye (calf, out) and D.J. Hayden (toe). Stud linebacker Telvin Smith (shoulder) should also be considered questionable after being downgraded to a limited participant in practice Thursday.
DFS edge: The Jaguars deployed Ramsey in shadow coverage against T.Y. Hilton in each of these games in 2017, and the Jaguars’ No. 1 corner even spent an average of seven snaps in the slot.
Hilton was largely held in check last season vs. Jacksonville with Jacoby Brissett under center, although he did slip away for a 40-yard touchdown.
- Hilton in Week 7 vs. Ramsey: 2 receptions, 27 yards, 0 TD (8 targets)
- Hilton in Week 13 vs. Ramsey: 3 receptions, 51 yards, 1 TD (6 targets)
The Colts offense is certainly light-years ahead of anything we saw last season, and the unit is set up well against a banged-up Jaguars’ secondary that could be without cornerbacks A.J. Bouye (calf), Tyler Patmon (neck) and D.J. Hayden (toe).
Bet to watch: Jaguars +3
This pick starts and ends with the Jaguars’ running game and the health of Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and Carlos Hyde, mixed with the (hopefully) smart play-calling of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
The Colts’ rush defense is right in the middle of the pack in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, but over the past two weeks, Indy has allowed 238 yards on the ground and 5.8 yards per carry to the Bills and Raiders. That includes nine rushes of 10-plus yards.
If the Jags get the running game going, they will open up the passing game through play-action, which has not worked in 2018 (6.4 yards per attempt) as well as it did in 2017 (9.2 yards per attempt) for Bortles.
It will also be important for Jacksonville to start fast and not get behind by too much early. Over the past two seasons, the Jaguars are 3-15 straight up (and have lost nine of their past 10) in games where they’ve trailed at any point.
Look for the Jags to control the clock and occasionally create some pressure against Andrew Luck with their talented pass-rush.
Be sure to shop around for the best number, as there were still +3s posted around the market at the time of writing. — Evan Abrams
Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.