While there are talented quarterbacks throughout the entire NFL, most of the star signal callers are concentrated in the AFC. Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen get most of the hype, but the AFC South should still garner some attention. Consider the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts game this Sunday as an example of that.
On one sideline, there’s Trevor Lawrence, who looked like the real deal during the 2022 campaign. On the other, Anthony Richardson will start his NFL odyssey as a first-round pick with the weight of a franchise on his shoulders.
What should we expect from those QBs? And what about the respective teams? Here’s your guide to the action.
How to Watch Jaguars vs. Colts
Given the status of the AFC South, the division probably sat near the bottom of the pecking order when the NFL broadcast schedule came together. That can be seen in Week 1, when the Jaguars and Colts game, which starts at 1 p.m. ET, is broadcast to a relatively small audience.
While some games can be seen across wide swaths of the country, this divisional showdown can be seen only on local Fox stations in northern Florida and the area around Indiana. If you’re outside of those markets and want to tune in, you’ll need to rely on streaming, whether that’s NFL+ or NFL Sunday Ticket through YouTube TV.
Can Lawrence Stand Tall Behind an Iffy Line?
Last year, head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Lawrence proved to be a dynamic duo. The Jaguars’ offense rolled, averaging up to 23 points per game, and carried the club into the postseason.
At first glance, things should only improve. Lawrence has another year of NFL experience under his belt, and both the quarterback and his teammates should be used to Pederson’s system. Calvin Ridley has also arrived, providing an upgrade at receiver. Travis Etienne Jr. will also be looking to build on a strong 2022 campaign. His ability out of the backfield will help keep defenses honest, giving Lawrence room to work.
So what can go wrong? Potentially the offensive line. While there is optimism around the unit’s collective progress, players don’t always live up to the hype. Anton Harrison is a highly regarded prospect, but adjusting to the NFL can test any player. Luke Fortner can stand to improve his run blocking, and Cam Robinson’s suspension will keep him sidelined to start the season.
Lawrence is undeniably talented, but playing behind a questionable line can stretch even the best signal caller. Remember how bad Patrick Mahomes looked when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chased him off the spot during Super Bowl LV?
Will Lawrence have enough protection to keep the Jaguars trending in the right direction? Or is there enough of a weak point in the trenches to confine Jacksonville to “best of the rest” status? Week 1 could provide an early indication.
Can Richardson Survive if Not Thrive During Week 1?
With all due respect to the Indianapolis Colts, the team probably won’t be competing for the Super Bowl title this season. Instead, the main objective is helping to nurture Richardson.
The quarterback, who was selected with the fourth overall pick, steps into a less than ideal situation. Jonathan Taylor may still be on the Colts’ roster, but he’s on the physically unable to perform list, nursing an injury. The receiving corps is also a bit thin, with things falling off after Michael Pittman Jr.
So while that’s certainly not ideal, the situation could somewhat play into Richardson’s hands. The former Florida Gator is an elite athlete, capable of avoiding the pass rush and making things happen while on the run. At the same time, though, having your rookie quarterback running for his life in his regular-season debut probably isn’t ideal.
And that’s where the rub lies for the Colts. While Richardson can’t be kept in Bubble Wrap, there’s no use in allowing his confidence to be destroyed. There’s a fine line to walk, and Indianapolis will have to hope to strike that balance between development and protection.
The future of the franchise could depend on it.
Betting Line, Over/Under for Jaguars vs. Colts
On paper, the Jaguars vs. Colts contest seems like something of a one-sided affair. The oddsmakers, however, are expecting a closer game.
As of Wednesday, FanDuel Sportsbook lists the Jaguars as a 4.5-point favorite. The game’s over/under is also set at 45.5 points.