Thursday, December 17, 2009 by Online Sportsbook
The undefeated Indianapolis Colts (13-0) have a chance to take one more step towards greatness Thursday when they travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars (7-6). For the home underdog, the win is equally important, but for a different set of reasons; like making the playoffs.

NFL Odds:
Line: Colts -3
Over/Under: 41.5

Jacksonville missed the post-season party last year and was labelled as one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments. When Sportsbook Online posted win totals and odds for the Jags to improve this season the projections were much more modest and the team has responded positively.

Following a 41-0 loss at Seattle in Week 6 the Jags have played their best football since 2007, going 5-3 SU and at least putting themselves in position to make a charge at one of two AFC Wild Card spots. The Jaguars will make the playoffs as a wild-card team if they beat the Colts, New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns in their final three games.

Okay, if the first two teams on that list suddenly made you cross the Jags off your playoff party invite list, consider that Indianapolis has one of the longest injury reports in the entire league right now. HC Jim Caldwell has publicly announced that he is treating this game just like any of the first 13 Indy has won this year, but keep in mind, the guy is a rookie. What else can he possibly say?

QB Peyton Manning and all of his receivers will take the field for the final Thursday night game of the year but there is no guarantee they will be out there for the full 60 minutes. On defense we can expect to see DE Dwight Freeney and LBs Clint Sessions and Gary Brackett along with safety Antoine Bethea for much of the first-half but Caldwell has been with the Colts through all of their success the past decade and knows that being healthy for a run to the Super Bowl is far more important than a perfect regular season record.

As for the Patriots and Browns, well, Jacksonville better concentrate on taking this one day at a time. The drama coming out of New England right now is already serving as a big enough distraction for Tom Brady and his crew.

The Jaguars need to be focused on cutting down the number of mental mistakes that were so common last week against the Dolphins because there is little margin for error available. Dropped passes and penalties are what cost the Tennessee Titans in Week 13 at Indy and even if Manning doesn’t plan to finish the game, it doesn’t take him long to capitalize on a mistake.

Jacksonville is the least penalized defense in the NFL and playing in their final home game of the season, which also happens to be their third straight at home, the opportunity for betting on the Jags to keep their playoff hopes alive still exists.

Sportsbook Online is reporting balanced action on this game, with 56% of the volume on the road favorite Colts. This would be higher if the speculation wasn’t about a short game for some of the key Indy players. Hard to be on a team when you don’t know if Manning, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, etc. will be on the bench in the 4th quarter.
The Over/Under has come down a point or two since opening at 43, as again, the sports betting public feel the Colts might rest key players. The betting trends show that all five Thursday Night Football games this season so far have stayed under the posted total.

I look at this game and like the home underdog. I think if they limit mistakes, they can stay close and have a great shot at the upset win. So I’m playing a unit on the Jaguars.

Good luck and enjoy the game.