JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are taking part in their third consecutive home opener.
They’d really like to win this one.
The Jaguars return home after road debacles at Philadelphia and Washington and host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, a game in which the loser drops to 0-3.
Since the NFL expanded its playoff format in 1990, only three teams — San Diego in 1992, Detroit in 1995 and Buffalo in 1998 — started 0-3 and made the postseason.
Between Indy and Jacksonville, only one of them (hint: it’s not the Jaguars) looks like it would be able to claw its way out of such a deep hole. Regardless, the Colts would rather not be in that position.
“Obviously you don’t envision yourself going 0-2,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. “I’m not surprised that if you make mistakes, you’re not going to win football games. I know that. I’ve learned that in my couple years in the NFL. I guess the fact that we’ve lost and made mistakes doesn’t surprise me.
“If you’d asked me before the season what we would be, like everybody, I’d probably say 2-0. Everybody wants their team to be 2-0, but they’re not and that’s the reality and that’s all that matters. We know we have to get back in the win column.”
The Jaguars seemed about as far from winning as possible in their first two games.
They blew a 17-0 halftime lead at Philadelphia in the season opener, looking like two completely different teams before and after the break. Things got worse in Washington, where Jacksonville gave up a franchise-record 10 sacks, managed a whopping 148 yards and allowed 449 in a 41-10 loss. Coach Gus Bradley benched four starters during the drubbing and parted ways with one of them for good two days later.
Now, he’s trying to get his players to forget about that and play considerably better against the AFC South rival Colts.
“To go in front of our team and show panic and go completely away from our philosophy, I think that would show panic,” Bradley said. “We compete and we’re competing to be our best, and when we’re not at our best, everybody is challenged. That’s not panic. That’s who we are.”
Bradley responded by making two personnel changes Wednesday, but opted to stick with quarterback Chad Henne over rookie Blake Bortles.
Henne has completed 54 percent of his passes for 459 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. The 13 sacks have raised eyebrows, but the coaches believe Henne provides the most stable environment for an offense that will start two rookies on the line, one at receiver and maybe a fourth at tight end.
“At times, I’m doing as much as I can,” Henne said. “I’m not saying that I’m playing overly great out there. I would say I’m playing better than I have in the past and doing some really good things, and audibling and getting in the right plays and making plays out there. But there’s always room for improvement like I always say.
“I put more pressure on myself than anybody else as I’ve said before, and the biggest thing is we need to win.”
Here are some things to know about the Colts and Jaguars heading into Sunday’s game:
STADIUM UPGRADES: Although the Jaguars played two preseason games at home, this will mark the regular-season debut of $63 million in upgrades to EverBank Field. Billionaire owner Shad Khan, with significant financial help from the city, funded the world’s largest scoreboards, two pools that overlook the field and several high-priced cabanas. Khan is hoping to improve the game-day experience and make the stadium more unique to the Sunshine State.
SEARCHING FOR D: The Colts and Jaguars share this after two games: neither is pleased with its defense. Indy allowed 24 points over the final 20 minutes against Philadelphia on Monday night and still hasn’t found a replacement for the suspended/injured pass rusher Robert Mathis. Jacksonville’s defense, meanwhile, has given up 68 points in the last six quarters and can’t get off the field on third down.
WAYNE’S WORLD: Reggie Wayne’s last eight games in Jacksonville equate to what many receivers would consider a good season. Wayne has 65 receptions for 946 yards and three touchdowns, beating just about anyone the Jaguars put in front of him.
WR WOES: The Jaguars already have ruled out WR Marqise Lee (hamstring), adding to the team’s woes at the position. Ace Sanders is suspended two more games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Starter Cecil Shorts III (hamstring) missed the first two games, and rookie Allen Hurns (ankle) hasn’t practiced all week.
STREAKING: The Colts have won three in a row in the series, all by at least 17 points. Jacksonville was feeling pretty good about itself after winning four of five down the stretch last season, and then lost 30-10 at home to Indy. Now, after the terrible start, the Jaguars have dropped 20 of their last 34 games by double digits.