Two years ago, Carson Wentz quarterbacked his team in a win-and-in regular season finale on the road against a divisional opponent with double-digit losses. Wentz’s Philadelphia Eagles rolled past the 4-12 New York Giants, 34-17, to earn a spot in the 2019 postseason.
“That seems like an eternity ago, my goodness,” Wentz said, “in my life, my career, everything.”
But there are some lessons Wentz can take from the first time he prepared for and played in a do-or-die, win-and-in game to end a season against a downtrodden team with seemingly little to play for.
“It’s the same mindset every week no matter who the opponent is,” Wentz said. “I mean, we feel like around here we’ve had our backs against the wall for a while, especially with the slow start this season. So we try to not make it a bigger thing or a bigger deal or any of that.
“We know where we’re at. We know what’s at stake. We know what’s on the line. And we’re going to get their best shot.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars are 2-14 and, with a loss at home to the Colts on Sunday, will clinch the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Jaguars are 0-3 since Urban Meyer was fired and are coming off a 40-point loss to the New England Patriots. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, hasn’t thrown more than one touchdown in a game since Week 1. The Jaguars have allowed fewer than 21 points just once in their last eight games – and that came in a 20-0 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
For the Colts, though, none of that matters as much as this: The Jaguars haven’t lost to the Colts at home (or in London) since 2014.
“We’re gonna be hearing it all week, you know, they’re 2-14, and this and that,” defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “But when the Colts go down in Jacksonville, (the Jaguars are) 6-0. They get up for the Colts.”
Or, as T.Y. Hilton – who played in all six of those consecutive losses – bluntly put it after the Colts’ Week 17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders: “We don’t play good down there. So we better find a way, or we’re going to be out.”
Those losses have come when the Jaguars were on their way to the AFC Championship or No. 1 overall pick. While only Hilton and Jack Doyle were here for all six, the message to every player on the Colts is that the Jaguars bring their best when the Colts are in town.
“It’s one of those things, it’s the elephant in the room, we address it and we prepare,” safety Khari Willis said. “It’s not something we go around talking about all day in our meetings or anything like that, but it’s something we acknowledge. Like, yo, let’s remember, we haven’t won down there versus them. So regardless of what their record has been, it’s been a while since our organization has won. We accept the challenge, we take it personally, we’re going to go down there to try to take care of business.”
The Colts also know how this year’s Jaguars can be a challenge to face – it wasn’t even two months ago that they needed a Dayo Odeyingbo strip-sack to close out a 23-17 win over Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“They came up here last game and it was down to the wire,” Wentz said. “So we know we got to come out ready to go ready to execute with a lot of energy and emotion and go get this.”