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Jaguars and Colts Trending In Opposite Directions

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The Indianapolis Colts have owned the AFC South since it’s inception back in 2002, as Indy has captured the crown for nine out of the 13 seasons.

The Colts had an offseason spending spree to try to make up the 38-point gap that made them the yearly whipping boys of the New England Patriots.  It appears that general manager Ryan Grigson could’ve spent more wisely.

Indy currently sits with a 3-5 record, still in first place in the AFC South after falling to the New Orleans Saints at home, 27-21.

A 3-5 start for the team that was supposed to legitimately challenge New England for the AFC title?

Something is broken.

It starts with head coach Chuck Pagano.

Pagano’s “fourth-and-dumb” fake punt last week is only one-upped by his post game comments this week.

“I’m damn proud of the way they responded at halftime and came out and played,” Pagano said. “We came up short, but they fought their butts off.”

What?

They were down 27-0 at home against a New Orleans Saints team that lost to the Bucs, only to eventually lose.

But at least Pagano is proud of their close loss.

The Colts players have taken Pagano’s message to heart.

“It shows the character of this team to come back like we did. We don’t quit,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson told the Indy Star.

With that attitude and the current state of the AFC South, perhaps the Colts will be raising another participation banner at Lucas Oil Stadium after this season’s playoff blowout?

Meanwhile in London, the fledgeling Jacksonville Jaguars snapped their four-game losing streak by blowing a 24-point lead against the Buffalo Bills, only to be led back to a victory by quarterback Blake Bortles.

You would think that the Jaguars would be enamored with the victory.  They’ve only had nine of them in the last three seasons combined.

You’d think Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley would have been spewing positivity, as he might be the most “glass half full” head coach in the NFL.

That wasn’t the case at all.

“No, no sigh of relief,” Bradley said after the game.  “We’ve got work to do and we’ve got to look at a lot of things that we can get better at and improve at, but we appreciate it.”

The Jaguars made plenty of mistakes and showed a lot of the losing intangibles that mired them into their four-game losing skid.

“We’ve got to go back and look at some things,” Bradley said.  “To have a lead like we did and not complete it like we wanted to.”

The Jaguars attitude is refreshing.  The Colts is revolting.  One team isn’t satisfied with simply winning ugly and the other couldn’t be much happier with dropping a home game to a sub-.500 team.

A team that was expected to make a legitimate Super Bowl run may not be any closer to the big game than the lowly Jaguars.

How is that?

Quarterback progression and quarterback regression.

Andrew Luck has been bad this season.  Perhaps his shoulder is hurt more than he’s letting on?  Maybe he’s just regressing and not the second coming of John Elway?

Either way, the numbers don’t lie.  Luck has 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions and he’s 1-4 as a starter this season.  If his name wasn’t “Andrew Luck” he would be getting destroyed nationally.  Especially when you consider his backup, Matt Hasselbeck looked like a more effective player with the same pieces around him.

Luck shouldn’t be benched or anything, but he shouldn’t be talked about as an elite quarterback.  At least not this season.  Sure, there’s plenty of time for him to turn things around, but right now he’s a below average quarterback.

Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles has elevated his offense into something respectable, not just in fantasy football, but reality football.

Does Bortles throw too many interceptions?

Absolutely.

He also makes plays and you have to take the bad with the very good.

Bortles has a trait that is unteachable.  He has supreme confidence and he shakes off mistakes as well as any young quarterback.  He’s had plenty of practice with his abysmal rookie season of 2014.

Perception is not always reality.

When most people think about Andrew Luck, they think about the great pedigree and his positives are accentuated.

Bortles name comes up and immediately the turnovers are brought up.

Due to the circumstances of Sunday’s game, Bortles was unable to get into a rhythm.  The Jaguars dropped a few passes to kill drives and the offense wasn’t on the field for longer than 30 minutes, due to E.J. Manuel’s transgressions.

It was difficult for the Jaguars to attack in the second half, as they leaned more heavily on the running game which was effective.

All of a sudden, some poor play calling, terrible coverage and one big mistake combined with a bad no-call forced a very cold Bortles to go from running out the clock to having to engineer a game winning drive.

That’s exactly what the second-year gunslinger from UCF did.

“I think what we’re seeing in Blake is he does keep his eyes downfield,” Bradley said of his quarterback that will likely determine he and general manager Dave Caldwell’s employment status.  “You’re seeing that.  You saw it a couple times, even early in the first quarter he did that, overthrew a pass, but his eyes are downfield, always looking for opportunities.  So I think he’s really grown in that area.”

It sounds crazy, but right now Blake Bortles is better than a lot of NFL quarterbacks, not just in fantasy, in reality.  Did anyone think two months ago that Bortles would be better than Luck or Peyton Manning?

That is the world we’re living in.

The Colts will likely rebound and win the AFC South, mostly by default.  Even if they do, their culture is broken and Luck has been playing poorly for too long for it to just be a fluke.

Both franchises might be bad, but one of which has the better quarterback and culture and it’s not the one with the horseshoe.

 


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.