Colts face Jags hoping new coach, new quarterback end opening day skid


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SERIES RECORD: Colts lead 27-17.

LAST MEETING: Colts beat Jaguars 34-27 on Oct. 16, 2022, in Indianapolis.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Jaguars plus-5; Colts minus-13.

JAGUARS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Calvin Ridley. Everyone saw what QB Trevor Lawrence, RB Travis Etienne Jr., TE Evan Engram and WRs Christian Kirk and Zay Jones could do last season. Now Ridley, a 2018 first-round draft pick, could make this offense more potent. He was suspended all of last season for violating the league’s gambling policy and hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 24, 2021.

COLTS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Anthony Richardson. The No. 4 overall draft pick makes his NFL debut. It’s the seventh straight season Indy has started a new QB in Week 1 — a streak they hope Richardson ends next September. And the former prep star from Gainesville, Florida, who played collegiately at Florida will face a team he’s watched many times — the nearby Jags. The question: Can he perform as well on game day at Lucas Oil Stadium as he did at the NFL scouting combine?

KEY MATCHUP: Lawrence vs. Colts secondary. The Jaguars QB has bigger goals after leading the Jags to the 2022 AFC South title. He’s 2-2 in four games against the Colts with a completion rate of 70.6% — his best against a division foe. It could go even higher if the Colts’ young, largely untested Colts secondary doesn’t improve significantly from its preseason struggles.

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KEY INJURIES: Jacksonville only listed two players on its first injury report, safety Antonio Johnson (hamstring) and defensive lineman Tyler Lacy (hip). Lacy was limited in Wednesday’s workout while Johnson sat out. ... New coach Shane Steichen will use a backfield by committee if his top two RBs don’t play. Jonathan Taylor (ankle) remains mired in a contract dispute and on the physically unable to perform list. It’s also unclear if Zack Moss (broken right arm) can play after returning to practice Wednesday. Three-time All-Pro LB Shaquille Leonard cleared concussion protocol on Thursday.

SERIES NOTES: Indy and Jacksonville meet in the season opener for the second time in four years. They also played in Week 2 last season. The Colts have won five straight home games in the series, but have lost eight straight at Jacksonville including the 2021 playoff-eliminating season finale. Colts rookie TE Will Mallory attended high school in Jacksonville while his father, Mike, was a Jags assistant. New Colts offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was on the Jags staff last season.

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STATS AND STUFF: Jacksonville won seven of its last nine regular-season games in 2022 before rallying from a 27-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Chargers to reach the divisional round. It was the third-largest comeback in NFL playoff history. ... Lawrence, WR Christian Kirk and RB Travis Etienne Jr. became the first trio in franchise history to top 4,000 yards passing, 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards rushing in the same season. ... Evan Engram tied for third in receptions (73) and fourth in yards receiving (766) among tight ends last season. ... While LB Josh Allen has 27 1/2 sacks in 57 games, LB Foye Oluokun returns as the NFL’s top tackler (184) last season. ... Indy snapped an eight-game losing streak in season openers with last season’s tie in Houston. Its most recent opening day win: 21-17 over the then-Oakland Raiders in 2013. ... Steichen makes his head coaching debut after winning two straight at Lucas Oil Stadium — last fall as an Eagles assistant and last month’s preseason win over Chicago. ... The 21-year-old Richardson will be the youngest starting QB in franchise history and the third youngest in league history. ... Greg Shaw was the previous Colts rookie QB to win on opening day. That came in 1955... Despite allowing 60 sacks, second most in the NFL last season, Indy’s total since 2018 (163) is the sixth-lowest total in the league. ... Indy tied for fourth in fumble recoveries (11) and tied for 10th in sacks (44) in 2022. ... P Rigoberto Sanchez returns after missing all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon. K Matt Gay also will make his Indy debut.

FANTASY TIP: Kirk and Jones. A year ago, they were Lawrence’s top targets, and they figure to retain those roles in 2023. Lawrence may be the safest fantasy bet given Indy’s situation in the secondary but either Kirk or Jones — or maybe both — could produce more points.

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