Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) at Indianapolis Colts (3-5)
The Colts are high on my underrated list coming out of their bye. They are just 3-5, but they are positive in both point differential (+18) and first down rate differential (+0.91%), despite being arguably the most injury plagued team in the league in the first half of the season. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo, running back Marlon Mack, tight end Jack Doyle, wide receivers TY Hilton and Ryan Grant, safeties Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers, cornerbacks Nate Hairston and Kenny Moore, defensive linemen Margus Hunt, Denico Autry, and Tyquan Lewis, and linebacker Darius Leonard have all missed time with injury so far this season, but this week the only player of note on the Colts’ injury report is Mike Mitchell, who is no longer needed with Geathers healthy. As long as they stay healthy, this is a playoff caliber team and should play like one for the second half of the season, even if they ultimately end up not being able to make it into the playoff picture after a slow start.
On the other side, the Jaguars have had an incredibly disappointing season, given their pre-season expectations. Some expect their offense to be noticeably improved with running back Leonard Fournette finally returning from injury, but the running game hasn’t been their problem (4.25 yards per carry on the season). Blake Bortles has regressed after a decent season in 2017 and he gets little help from his receiving corps and offensive line, the latter of which has struggled mightily to pass protect with their 3rd string left tackle forced into action due to injury. Their defense has still played well, but not as well as last season and they are missing cornerback AJ Bouye and possibly linebacker Telvin Smith for this one, after being one of the healthiest defenses in the league in 2017.
The Jaguars are a significant step below the Colts right now, but this line is not indicative of that, as the general public hasn’t paid much attention to the Colts’ rapidly improving injury situation. After opening at -3.5, this line has dropped to -3 and even -2.5 in some places. Three is an incredibly key number (about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal), so 2.5 is a much more valuable line, even if you have to pay a little extra juice. Even at -3, the Colts are a smart pick this week, as they should be favored by at least a touchdown here at home.
Indianapolis Colts 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 16
Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -2.5