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FFL: Playoff Week 8 | NFL: Superbowl

Jaguars face 'must-win' battle with Colts

Wed Nov 7 10:32 pm

At the highest point of their quarterback careers, the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck and Jacksonville Jaguars' Blake Bortles advanced their respective teams to AFC Championship Game losses at New England.

But aside from both being first-round draft picks who are bringing 3-5 teams coming off a bye into an AFC South Division game Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, that's about where the similarities end.

Luck, after missing 2017 due to shoulder surgery, is having a career year and the Colts are coming off back-to-back wins for the first time since 2016. He's on pace for career bests in most major passing categories, proof that he's better than when he led the team to a 41-7 loss to the Patriots just one step away from the Super Bowl in the 2014 postseason.

Bortles, who had one of his best games in a 24-20 AFC title game loss to the Patriots in January, is at the helm of a sputtering offense that is 30th in points scored and largely to blame for a four-game losing streak. The Jaguars have been outscored 114-46 during that span.

Neither team can afford a loss, considering division leader Houston (6-3) is on a six-game winning streak, so this game takes on added importance. Not that at least one Colts player wants to look at it that way.

"Not make or break," said Colts four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. "We know what we need to do and how to get there. We've just got to win."

Indianapolis could find itself right back in the hunt of the AFC South title despite winning just once in their first six games. The Colts have won back-to-back games and play their next three games in the confines of Lucas Oil Stadium.

Bortles knows the margin for error is very small for the Jaguars the rest of the season.

"I think they are all must-wins for me from here on out," Bortles said. "I think we have to win them all. Maybe you get lucky and lose a couple and find a way to still make it, but I think you have to win them all and for sure starting with the first one."

Bortles, whose 81.4 passer rating ranks 31st among quarterbacks who have started multiple games, is also dealing with a left, non-throwing shoulder injury. He says he'll be OK, but he's faced continual scrutiny for an offense that has averaged just 10.5 points in its five losses. He has just 10 touchdown passes with eight interceptions, has lost three of five fumbles and taken 18 sacks.

Luck, whose 96.2 passer rating ranks 15th, is directing an offense that has scored 30 or more points in three consecutive games, the first time that's happened for the franchise since 2010. And his 23 TD passes are the most in his career for the first eight games and second most in team history, trailing only Peyton Manning's 26 in 2004.

Whereas Bortles will be facing an inconsistent Colts defense that, among other negatives, is 25th in points allowed at 26.6 per game, Luck is facing the NFL's No. 1 pass defense. The Jaguars allow just 190 passing yards per game. And they're also second in fewest total yards allowed at 313.2 per game.

"They have really good players all over," Luck said Wednesday of the Jaguars. "They've got guys who can cover, they've got really, really good linebackers, they've got a really stout, strong defensive line and they play the system really well. So it's a combination of a lot of factors. At the end of the day, this game is about the players on the field and they have a lot of good ones."

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has been particularly impressed with how the Colts have protected Luck. A reshuffled offensive line that has used 11 different starters has kept Luck from being sacked on 156 consecutive pass attempts. Couple that with a resurgent rushing game that has amassed more than 200 yards in the last two wins and it's no secret why the Colts offense has been clicking at a high level.

"It's a really, really good group and honestly right now collectively, I would have to say when you look at them on film they're probably the best offensive line that we have seen this year," Marrone said.

Bortles, the third overall pick in 2014, concedes his offense needs to vastly improve come Sunday.

"If I knew, if anybody knew," Bortles said of the issues, "we'd fix it in a heartbeat."

Colts first-year head coach Frank Reich is confident his fixed offensive line will be able to block a strong Jaguars defensive front, but admits the opponent poses the "toughest test" for his offense this season.

"It is having really good cover guys," Reich said, "but really I think it starts up front with the pressure that they get on the quarterback. That combination is obviously a really good combination to have. The good secondary play they are getting -- sometimes you get good secondary play just because you get good pressure and you could have average corners and good pressure and it looks good in the back end. This team is good up front, but they are also good on the back end as well."

The Colts must contend with a 4-3 scheme that relies on a front four led by pass-rushing ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, who each have a team-high five sacks. Because the Jaguars can count on standout cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in man-to-man coverage, that frees up linebackers to blitz and speed up the internal clock of opposing passers.

The Jaguars appear to have good news on the horizon. Running back Leonard Fournette practiced for the second time this week and while still showing up on the injury report, all indications are that he'll be in the starting lineup come Sunday. That's a plus. The Jaguars are 2-0 in the two games he's played in this season. Without him, they are 1-5.

If Fournette is in the starting lineup on Sunday, the Jaguars will not hold back on using him. Marrone made that crystal clear on Sunday, when he was asked if the Jaguars would limit his carries to any degree.

"You're asking me if he is able to play, are we going to kind of hold back or just kind of work him into it? We are full-boring everybody," Marrone said. "Once a guy is ready to play, that has to be our expectation."

"Another guy we got to fight, defend and stop," Colts defensive tackle Al Woods said of Fournette. "So it's going to be interesting, it's going to be a dog fight. Can't wait."

Player Notes
Albert Wilson Jan 23 8:10pm ET

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (hip) has progressed in his rehab without setbacks since suffering a hip injury in October, according to a league source. Doctors have ruled out surgery once and for all for Wilson and has raised hope that he will be able to get back on the field this spring. The belief is that Wilson will be ready for the start of the offseason program in April. Wilson ranked third on the team in touchdowns (four receiving and one passing) despite missing nine games, and his yards-per-catch average (15.0) led the team. Although Miami's quarterback situation is up in the air, Wilson should have a prominent place in the team's offense next year regardless.

From RotoBaller

Sam Darnold Jan 23 8:10pm ET

The New York Jets officially hired Dowell Loggains as their next offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach on Wednesday. Loggains has worked under head coach Adam Gase in both Chicago and Miami. With Gase likely running the show on offense, Loggains' main task will be to continue the development of quarterback Sam Darnold, who was very up and down in his rookie season. The Jets ranked 29th in yards per game (299.2), 25th in passing yards (197.8), 26th in rushing yards (101.4) and 23rd in the league in points per game (20.8) in 2018.

From RotoBaller

Larry Fitzgerald Jan 23 12:10pm ET

The Arizona Cardinals signed veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to a one-year deal on Wednesday so that he can return for a 16th season. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Fitzgerald will turn 36 at the end of August but will remain the No. 1 wideout on the team because of his experience. His numbers took a hit in one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2018, but he still led the team in receptions (69), receiving yards (734) and touchdowns (six). While Fitz can still make an impact on the field, he'll be returning to his third head coach in three years, but the addition of Kliff Kingsbury could improve the offense moving forward. We won't say for sure that Fitzgerald will return to the 1,000-yard mark, but he should be a serviceable WR3 at the very least.

From RotoBaller

Greg Schiano Jan 23 10:53am ET

Former Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is expected to land with the New England Patriots in a top defensive role when linebackers coach Brian Flores heading to the Miami Dolphins.

Steve Spagnuolo Jan 23 10:43am ET

Former New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has emerged as the favorite to be hired as Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator, according to sources.

Larry Fitzgerald Jan 23 9:43am ET

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald announced Wednesday, Jan. 23, that he'll return for the 2019 season.

Fantasy Spin: Fitz had a 69-734-6 season, which was well below the 100-catch, 1,000-yard seasons the three years previously. The rookie quarterback was part of the problem, but he doesn't have much more upside next season. He's still a PPR asset, but he'll be a mid-round option as a WR3.

Larry Fitzgerald Jan 23 9:43am ET

Updating an earlier report, Arizona Cardinals impending free-agent WR Larry Fitzgerald re-signed with the Cardinals on a one-year deal. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

Albert Wilson Jan 23 2:13am ET

Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson (hip) is on schedule with his recovery from an October hip injury that landed him on IR and could be at full speed when the team's offseason workout program begins in April.

Fantasy Spin: After four largely nondescript seasons in Kansas City, Wilson flashed some playmaking ability before getting injured against the Lions. There are far too many variables in Miami for an accurate read on Wilson's fantasy prospects for 2019, but he did enough last year to warrant your attention.

Nick Foles Jan 23 1:53am ET

Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles would be eligible to be franchise or transition tagged and then traded if the team decides not to pick up his option, which ESPN's Chris Mortensen believes is a possibility as doing so would allow the Eagles to influence Foles' destination.

Fantasy Spin: Mortensen indicates such a move would prevent Foles from going to a division rival, but it's all speculation at this point. While it's far from a sure thing, Foles could have some fantasy value in the right situation.

Daryl Worley Jan 23 1:03am ET

Oakland Raiders CB Daryl Worley (shoulder) had successful surgery on his ailing shoulder last week, according to head coach Jon Gruden.

Michael Crabtree Jan 22 11:53pm ET

Baltimore Ravens WR Michael Crabtree is likely to be released in the offseason, according to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.

Cole Beasley Jan 22 5:23pm ET

Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent WR Cole Beasley claimed Tuesday, Jan. 22, that the Dallas front office encourages the coaching staff to get the football to certain players. 'I haven't been a huge priority in that regard. Maybe that will change but I'm not sure,' Beasley said.

Fantasy Spin: Beasley's frustrations are evident and understandable, although Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Gallup are all bigger, more talented threats with the ball. Beasley does have a role to play and put together his second best season from a statistical standpoint. That being said, he's only a mid- to late-round PPR flier if he stays in Dallas.

Alex Smith Jan 22 4:50pm ET

Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said the team is "optimistic" that quarterback Alex Smith (leg) will be ready for the start of the 2019 season, but he also said "we'll see." In his first year with Washington, Smith was a disappointment, throwing for 2,108 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions with an 85.7 QB rating in 10 games before his gruesome leg injury. He'll be heading into his age-35 season and is unlikely to be ready for training camp or the regular season, so he's one to avoid for fantasy purposes. The 'Skins are in dire need of a long-term quarterback.

From RotoBaller

Chris Jones Jan 22 4:30pm ET

The Kansas City Chiefs relieved defensive coordinator Bob Sutton of his duties on Tuesday. Sutton was head coach Andy Reid's defensive coordinator for all six of his years in KC, but the Chiefs defense continued to trend downward in 2018 and was their Achilles heel in the AFC Championship loss to the Patriots last weekend. Defensive end Chris Jones -- third in the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2018 -- and linebacker Dee Ford are the linchpins of this defense, but they must improve their talent in the secondary. The Chiefs ranked 31st in yards allowed per game (405.5), 31st in passing yards allowed (273.4), 27th in rushing yards allowed (132.1), 24th in points allowed (26.3) and tied for eighth in takeaways (27) in 2018.

From RotoBaller

Jared Cook Jan 22 2:13pm ET

Oakland Raiders impending free-agent TE Jared Cook will be re-signed if head coach Jon Gruden has his way, but Gruden admitted that Cook will be a popular name on the free-agent market.

Fantasy Spin: Cook was one of the few bright spots for the Raiders this season, and maybe the lone bright spot. He's a top-five fantasy tight end candidate now after finishing 2018 as the TE5.

Julio Jones Jan 22 2:03pm ET

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones led all receivers with 24 receptions for first downs on 30 third-down targets this past season.

Fantasy Spin: Despite a slow start in the TD department (none in his first seven games) Jones also wound up leading the league in receiving yards (1,677) for the second time in the last four seasons. And even with Jones turning 30 this offseason (on Super Bowl Sunday), he remains an elite WR1 in all fantasy formats.

Marshawn Lynch Jan 22 2:00pm ET

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said the team is unsure if impending free-agent running back Marshawn Lynch plans to play in 2019. Gruden said "we'd love to have him back" if he decides to play another season. Beast Mode will turn 33 in April and is coming off a season in which he played in just six games due to injury. Lynch ran 90 times for 376 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and three scores. Even if Lynch returns, he'd be more of a low-upside, injury-risk RB2 for Oakland that is more attractive in standard-scoring leagues.

From RotoBaller

Jared Cook Jan 22 2:00pm ET

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said the team would like to re-sign impending free-agent tight end Jared Cook, but he knows the market for his services will be competitive. He'll be in high demand after he set career highs across the board in catches (68), targets (101), yards (896) and touchdowns (six) for the Raiders. Given the sad state of the tight end position in fantasy, Cook was a strong TE1 this year and will likely be drafted as one again this year, depending on where he lands. Staying in Oakland might be the best for his value.

From RotoBaller

Andy Dalton Jan 22 1:50pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals are hiring former Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan as their next offensive coordinator. Callahan has never been an offensive coordinator in the NFL but has been a QBs coach since 2015. He'll oversee an offense that could easily bounce back after serious injuries to quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green derailed them in 2018. Cincinnati finished 26th in yards per game (310.8), 24th in passing yards per game (205.6), 21st in rushing yards per game (105.1) and 17th in points per game (23.0) in 2018.

From RotoBaller

Marshawn Lynch Jan 22 1:43pm ET

Oakland Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch, an impending free agent this offseason, hasn't announced whether he plans on playing in 2019, but if he does, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Tuesday, Jan. 22, that 'we'd love to have him back.'

Fantasy Spin: Lynch will be 33 by the time next season rolls around, but he'd still be a fantasy RB2 consideration if were to be projected to be the primary RB in Oakland.