Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) at Indianapolis Colts (10-5)
If you look at the season as a whole, the Jaguars are the worst team in the NFL. Their -182 point differential is worst in the NFL. Only Houston at -146 even comes close. Their 4-11 record is actually buoyed by a 4-2 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, as they’ve been blown out by double digits in 9 of their 11 losses. DVOA definitely takes this into account as they remain dead last in the NFL by the Football Outsiders’ standard.
Rate of moving the chains differential also takes this into account. They move the chains at a league worst 64.02% rate and their defense doesn’t help matters, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 75.81% rate, a differential of -11.79%. Only Oakland even comes close, with a differential of -6.72%. That’s a massive gap. The Colts actually only rank 17th, moving the chains at a 71.90% rate, as opposed to 71.83% for their opponents, a differential of 0.07%. However, even that suggests this line should be closer to 15 instead of 11.5, given how bad Jacksonville has been on the season.
Of course, that’s just on the season. The Jaguars have been playing better football since the bye. In 7 games since the bye, they are 4-3 with just one loss by double digits. There’s a reason why they are 30th in weighted DVOA instead of dead last. Of course, those 4 wins have come by a combined 20 points, while their one double digit loss came by 13 and at home against the only even decent team they faced in that stretch, Arizona. The Cardinals stick out like a sore thumb out of a group that features Buffalo, Cleveland, Tennessee twice, and Houston twice. So would Indianapolis, at least you would think.
Indianapolis might be the toughest team in the NFL to get a read on. There’s a reason they have DVOA’s 4th highest variance (Philadelphia actually has the highest). Last season, they were nowhere near as good as their 11-5 record, as that was powered by 7 wins by 7 points or fewer against teams that finished 7-9 or worse. They started out looking like that team, barely beating Oakland and losing to Miami in back-to-back home games. However, then they went on a roll over a 6 game stretch that included wins over good teams (Denver, Seattle, San Francisco) and blowout wins (34 point win in Jacksonville) that their 2012 season just didn’t have.
However, then after the bye they came out and looked like their 2012 team or even worse, with 3 point wins over Tennessee and Houston and then an 8 point win over Tennessee, but also a 29 point loss against Arizona, a 14 point loss against Cincinnati, and a 30 point loss against St. Louis. They had a -59 point differential over a 6 game stretch in which they got blown out by every decent team they faced and barely beat mediocre football teams. It reeked of 2012. However, since then, they’ve blown out the Texans by 22 and then went into Kansas City and won convincingly by 16 against a good football team.
Overall on the season, they’re not as good as their 10-5 record, as they have a 5-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and unsustainable +11 turnover margin, which is why they are 17th in rate of moving the chains differential. However, they are definitely better than they were last season and they should be able to blow out the Jaguars here at home. I’m just concerned with how inconsistent the Colts are and that the Jaguars have been playing a little better of late. It’s a no confidence pick.
Indianapolis Colts 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 10
Pick against spread: Indianapolis -11.5