After a season is over, my staff and I review every National Football League result and in almost all cases the outcomes are logically explained by talent, situation or motivation. It can be a humbling experience. Every year there are some games where we made a pick that we can see with hindsight information how far off the mark we were.
Still, the exercise is designed to learn from mistakes in order to make fewer in the future along with finding new edges that can be capitalized on in coming seasons.
When we go through that process this year, I’m still not sure what logical evidence we are going to uncover to explain the Indianapolis Colts opening day loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now, we didn’t have the game for our clients, an opening day road favorite with a new quarterback is one of the reasons we skipped the game, but we certainly expected the Colts to win in Florida.
By all results since, that assumption should have been realized 16 weeks ago. Since the Colts were beaten in Jacksonville on opening day, 27-20, they have gone on to be on the cusp of winning the AFC South Division. Indianapolis enters the final week of play tied with the Tennessee Titans in games won and lost. The Jaguars, conversely, haven’t won a game since their opening day victory. With a loss in their season finale on Sunday they will match the futility of the 2001 Carolina Panthers, who also won on opening day and then lost 15 straight games.
You might assume that the Panthers 1-15 record, which was the worst in the league that season, would have earned them the top pick in the upcoming NFL draft. But, through no fault of their own, they hadn’t traded away the selection, the Panthers didn’t get the first pick the following spring. That went to the Houston Texans, who were an expansion team in 2002 and awarded the first pick in the draft.
Fortunately, after the Texans whiffed on the top pick in the draft, taking quarterback David Carr, the Panthers scored with their choice. Carolina selected Julius Peppers, a defensive stud that would be critical in leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl only two years later.
This year, the Jaguars 14 straight losses and whatever happens on Sunday will earn them the top pick in this year’s draft, and unless Trevor Lawrence surprises everyone by staying for his senior year at Clemson, he will be their choice in this year’s draft. It is a match made to order, the Jaguars are in desperate need for a quarterback and Lawrence comes out of college with scouting report credentials that match other “can’t miss” prospects like John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
While the Jaguars, who clinched the top pick in the draft with last week’s loss to the Chicago Bears, clear out locker space for Lawrence, what is on tap for their final game of the season?
Well, here are the Colts. The same team that started the year with that unexplained loss in Jacksonville hosting the Jaguars with a chance to win their division with a victory coupled with a Titans loss at Houston. The Colts need to finish a full game ahead of the Titans to win the AFC South Division because Tennessee has the tiebreaker advantage.
In other words, the Colts may well lose the division title and a home playoff game because they lost to the Jaguars on opening day.
That's gotta' sting.
But, what it offers us this week is a better team, at home, needing a win and help to win their division title. If the Colts only needed to beat the Jaguars on Sunday to clinch their division, the motivation takes a dicey turn. But, when they both need a win and help, that is a loss by Tennessee, well this is a spot I’m confident we will look back at during our season end review with all evidence necessary to deem the Colts a great pick.
The books can’t give Jacksonville enough points to take this lopsided Indianapolis victory off the point spread win column. Oh, actually, they could, but 14 isn’t it.
Qoxhi Picks: Indianapolis Colts (-14) over Jacksonville Jaguars