The Indianapolis Colts are thrilled with how Andrew Luck looks just two games into his NFL career.
The Jacksonville Jaguars can't afford for Blaine Gabbert's second season in the league to look like his first.
Luck will try to help the Colts match last season's win total Sunday when the visiting Jaguars try to rebound from one of the worst performances in team history.
Picked No. 1 overall in this year's draft as the replacement for Peyton Manning, Luck already has delivered the Colts (1-1) a victory, throwing for 224 yards and two touchdowns in last Sunday's home-opening 23-20 win over Minnesota.
The former Stanford star drove the team 45 yards in 23 seconds to set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning 53-yard field goal with 8 seconds left. Luck did not commit a turnover after throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble in his NFL debut, a 41-21 loss at Chicago on Sept. 9.
"It's just amazing that the guy's able to go out there and do the things he does as a rookie," first-year coach Chuck Pagano said.
Gabbert did not fare as well last Sunday, finishing with 53 yards passing - his fewest as a starter - in a 27-7 loss to Houston.
Jacksonville (0-2) totaled a franchise-low 117 yards. It was not what Gabbert, or the Jaguars, expected after the second-year signal-caller showed positive signs in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Vikings in Week 1, throwing for a career-best 260 yards and two TDs.
"We killed ourselves," said Gabbert, the league's lowest-rated passer in 2011 at 65.4. "We were 0 for 9 on third down, just a lack of execution. Had a bunch of mental mistakes. We just shot ourselves in the foot. And you can't win football games in the NFL by doing that."
Gabbert was replaced by Chad Henne in the fourth quarter last Sunday due to a glute injury, but he didn't miss a snap in practice and will make the start Sunday.
Cornerback Derek Cox also is expected to start after missing the first two games.
Gabbert will be playing in front of a banged-up offensive line, as left guard Eben Britton has been ruled out and right tackle Cam Bradfield is listed as questionable. Herb Taylor, Mike Brewster and Guy Whimper should get plenty of snaps if both players can't go.
That group will face a Colts defense that could be without Dwight Freeney for a second consecutive week. He's day-to-day with a sprained left ankle.
Fellow star pass rusher Robert Mathis, who along with Freeney has moved from defensive end to linebacker as part of the Colts' new 3-4 scheme, has stepped up with a team-high three sacks. Plus, Indianapolis has done a respectable job against the run, holding Chicago's Matt Forte and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson to a combined 140 yards.
Reigning rushing champ Maurice Jones-Drew may see even more than his usual workload because backup Rashad Jennings could miss a second straight game with a knee injury. Jones-Drew, the Jaguars' only non-quarterback with a rushing attempt last Sunday, has averaged 15.5 carries and 68.5 yards after holding out all of training camp and the preseason.
Jones-Drew has faced the Colts 12 times, rushing for 101.0 yards per game with nine TDs. He ran for 283 yards and a score in 2011 when the Jaguars swept this AFC South series for the first time.
While protecting Luck is a priority - he's been sacked five times - the Colts want to do a better job opening up a running attack that's averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. Donald Brown could be more effective against a Jaguars run defense that's given up 339 yards.
Indianapolis, though, needs to shore up an offensive line that was without right tackle Winston Justice (concussion) and left guard Joe Reitz (knee) last week. Those two are questionable Sunday, and it's uncertain if center Samson Satele will play after suffering a knee injury in Week 2.
Colts receiver Austin Collie's status is day-to-day as he's yet to see game action following a concussion last month.
Reggie Wayne has been targeted a team-high 25 times and leads the Colts with 206 receiving yards, but the Jaguars' secondary needs to keep an eye on Donnie Avery. The first-year Colt caught nine passes - tying a career high - for a team-best 111 yards in Week 2.
Indianapolis, winner of three straight at home, didn't post its second victory in 2011 until Dec. 22.
The Colts were denied a three-game win streak to end last season with a 19-13 defeat at Jacksonville on New Year's Day.
- Indianapolis Colts
- Blaine Gabbert
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Andrew Luck