NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - INSIDE SLANT


Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles makes his first start for the Jacksonville Jaguars against Andrew Luck and the Colts Sunday.

The Jaguars hope that he'll continue to duel Luck for the next decade. There's no doubt that, barring injury, Luck will be facing the Jaguars twice a year for at least the next decade. Only in his third season, he's already a franchise quarterback.

The Jaguars are hoping that Bortles will be their franchise quarterback of the future but the jury is still out on him because he has struggled in seven and one-half games of action.

He's thrown only eight touchdown passes compared to 14 interceptions and has just one victory although he also doesn't have a strong supporting case around him.

In the third game of the season, Chad Henne was pulled for Bortles with the Colts leading 30-0 at halftime.

Bortles completed 14 of 24 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. But since the Colts had a 30-point lead when he came in, it wasn't a true test. Now he'll face the Colts from the opening whistle.

"It's kind of cool," Bortles said of his second appearance against the Colts. "I've never done it before and (it's great) to have the opportunity to play them again. You get to go back and watch the first game we played against them, go back and watch the games in between and see how they changed, what they did differently and you have the opportunity to play against the same guys that you've seen once already. It's definitely a neat opportunity."

The Jaguars are coming off the bye and Bortles said he went back to Orlando for a long weekend of seeing friends and family.

Of what he has to do over the final six games to get momentum for the offseason, he said, "I think to continue to try and execute. I think we've seen some glimpses of the running game and the passing game try to put the whole thing together. I think to continue to learn from things that haven't gone right and continue to try to improve the things that have. I think that's the biggest part of it, to try and limit mistakes and definitely learn from them."

Of what he would consider a successful last six games, he said, "I think it's more than that (winning). Obviously the culture here is more than just winning. (Head coach) Gus (Bradley) talks about that all the time. Obviously that's a big part of it, but I think it's about continuing to get better, whatever it be. We talk about victory all the time and achieving that."

Achieving victory against the Colts will be a tall order.

It never seems to be a good time for the Jaguars to play the Colts and Luck. Playing them after a loss is an even a more difficult task. Luck has suffered 13 regular-season losses in his three years as the Colts quarterback, including the 42-20 defeat to New England last Sunday night.

Luck is 11-1 the week after those losses in his first three seasons, including a 44-17 victory over the Jaguars in the third game of the season after losing to the Eagles in the second game, 30-27. The only time he lost two in a row was the first two games of this year. He's 6-2 since.

For Luck, any time seems to be a good time to play the Jaguars. He's won four in a row against them since a 22-17 loss in his rookie season in the third game of Mike Mularkey's only season as the team's head coach.

He avenged that loss with 27-10 victory in the second game and then won the last three games the past two seasons against Bradley when the Colts won 37-3, 30-10 and 44-17.

He's also has thrown for 300 yards passing in his last eight games, to tie the record owned by Drew Brees. He can set the record with another 300-yard game against the Jaguars.

And Luck feasts on struggling teams. The six teams they beat are 25-35-1. The four teams they lost to are 28-12.

The Jaguars are the biggest underdog on the board this weekend at 13.5 points.