Much at stake in Colts-Jaguars clash

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew looks to the sideline as he runs the ball in for a...

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew looks to the sideline as he runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Raiders in Jacksonville, Florida on December 12, 2010. (DARON DEAN/Reuters)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:01 PM ET

TORONTO - There are a whole bunch of big games this weekend involving playoff possibilities and team’s being able to clinch a playoff spot and all that.

But in Sunday’s Jacksonville at Indianapolis game it’s pretty simple — if the Jaguars win they will clinch the AFC South Division title and kick the Colts to the rear of the line as far as a possible post-season berth goes.

The Colts would be out of the playoffs altogether if they lose and both the Jets and Ravens win.

Jacksonville won the first meeting between the two on a last second 59-yard field goal so a win Sunday would give them the AFC South title. Even if they lost both of their final two games and the Colts won both of theirs, the Jags would be crowned kings.

If the Colts, however, beat the Jags and win their final three games, they would be division champs.

As far as the wise guys in Vegas go, they like the chances of the Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning coming out on top on their home turf. The Colts are favoured by five points.

It’s the smart play as Manning and the Colts have been hardened by their past success in big-time, post-season games.

But at 7-6, the Colts this season aren’t a team that scares anyone any more. Manning scares you, but that’s about all the Colts have got and this season he’s shown he can’t carry the team on his shoulders as far as he has in past campaigns.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, know they will have to play a lot better — especially on defence — than they did in last Sunday’s 38-31 shootout victory over Oakland.

If the Jags play that loose on defence this Sunday, Manning will shred them.

“I think it’s more exciting, more fun for the fans, as it should be,” Jags head coach Jack Del Rio said about the hype for Sunday’s game. “For us, it really boils down to the process. How are you going to get your guys in the best matchups possible? Preparation is what it’s all about for us, and then we go and let it rip on Sunday. Everybody else can enjoy all the hype surrounding the game. We’re just going to keep our head down and go to work. That is what we always do.”

The key for the Jags on Sunday will be how well they run on the Colts, especially Maurice Jones-Drew, who is second in the league in rushing.

In their victory over the Colts in October, the Jags rushed for 174 yards and that helped keep Manning off the field.

They’ll need more of the same in what is one of the biggest games in Jacksonville’s history.

Grin and Bear it

For a team that was embarrassed 36-7 on its own snowy field last Sunday, the Bears are unusually upbeat for their key matchup Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings.

Part of the reason for the soaring spirits in the Bears camp is the fact that their closest rival in the NFC North — the Green Bay Packers — may not have Aaron Rodgers available for their clutch game against the New England Patriots.

The Pats have destroyed both the Jets and Bears the past two weeks, winning by a combined score of 81-10 and are unbeatable on their home field.

So, with a Packers loss on Sunday, the Bears could clinch the division title by beating the homeless and quarterback-less Vikings.

The Bears, though, can’t take the game lightly as if they lose this one, they face the Jets and Packers in the final two and who knows what happens then?

The Bears say they are trying to learn from the pounding by the Pats. Learn and move on.

“It still hurts,” tight end Greg Olsen said of the loss. “We took a lot of pride in playing well, and it was a big stage for us, and we didn’t take advantage of it at all.

“But we have to move on. One loss could become two, and then you’re snowballing down the wrong path. We have to bounce back. We play the Vikings — a division game. Maybe a week from (today), we’ll be celebrating being NFC North champs. We’ll see.”

A win Monday would help erase the memory of last week’s game.

“As bad as things looked, we’re fortunate that we’re still in a position to achieve everything we wanted,” Olsen added. “Once everyone makes the playoffs it’s kind of a clean slate, so we have our future in our hands.”

Even better, the Packers have the Patriots.


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