The Indianapolis Colts are giving out a free t-shirt to every fan that shows up Sunday. Yes, it’s kind of that desperate.
The Colts are eliminated from the playoffs and some analysts are expecting a sparse crowd to show up as a form of protest or apathy toward the team’s 7-8 season. For those who do show up, and for those who watch at home, there are some side stories to fall back on.
Here are five things to watch as the Colts play the Jacksonville Jaguars at 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium:
1. Gore’s 1,000-yard chase
Gore could become the first running back age 33 or older to rush for more than 1,000 yards since John Riggins in 1984. Gore needs 37 yards to reach 1,000. It would give Gore his ninth 1,000-yard season and would be the first for a Colts running back since Joseph Addai rushed for 1,072 yards in 2007. Sunday’s game will mark Gore’s 92nd consecutive start. The next-closest active running backs have 20 straight.
2. Hilton’s bid for receiving title
T.Y. Hilton has 1,353 receiving yards, 30 more than the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham and 40 more than Atlanta’s Julio Jones. Hilton has already set career highs in receptions (85) and yards. If he captures the receiving title, he would join these Colts players as receiving champs: Raymong Berry (1957, 1959, 1960), Roger Carr (1976), Marvin Harrison (1999, 2002) and Reggie Wayne (2007).
“If we play good football, good team football, like we are capable of playing, then I think the rest of that takes care of itself,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said about Gore and Hilton aiming for statistical goals.
3. Ending the season healthy
This is much of a thrilling facet to watch, but since the Colts will be playing their starters in a game without playoff implications, they need to emerge at the end with everyone still standing. That’s especially true of quarterback Andrew Luck, who has only missed one game (Steelers, after concussion) this season in a strong statistical year. It would be nice to head to the offseason without additional worries about the health of key players.
4. Younger players on display
This will be a game where some of the younger Colts can make an impact heading into the offseason. Among the players to watch has to be linebacker Antonio Morrison, who has made an impact with his fearlessness. If he can keep his aggression as he learns more about the pro game, he could be a key cog for the Colts moving forward.
5. Free agents to be
Which of the soon-to-be unrestricted free agents will the Colts try to keep? The list has some big-time names on it: Robert Mathis, Mike Adams, Jack Doyle, Erik Walden, Trent Cole and Darius Butler. (Butler is unlikely to play.) Running backs Robert Turbin and Jordan Todman will also be free agents. Some of these players will be playing their last game in a Colts uniform.
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