It’s been six years since the Indianapolis Colts won the AFC South, but expectations are much different in 2020 with coach Frank Reich and Co. finally embracing a big-name replacement for Andrew Luck under center. After 16 years quarterbacking the Chargers, Philip Rivers is now Indy’s gunslinger, giving the Colts hope for a return to playoff contention. The journey toward a potential postseason berth begins right inside the division on Sunday, with the rival Jacksonville Jaguars playing host to their 2020 kickoff.
Is there any way the rebuilding Jags can pull off a Week 1 upset? How, exactly, will Rivers look in his first gig with the Colts? We’ll find out this Sunday afternoon. Here’s everything you need to know about catching the AFC South battle:
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Gardner Minshew had the benefit of a full — if pandemic-affected — offseason as Jacksonville’s starting quarterback, and his chemistry with D.J. Chark could pose a few issues for a transitioning Colts secondary featuring Minnesota Vikings castoff Xavier Rhodes. But let’s not kid ourselves: The Jags don’t have much else going for them here.
Exiling young talents like Leonard Fournette, Yannick Ngakoue and Jalen Ramsey over the last year or so, Jacksonville is seriously bereft of depth across the board. Outside of Chark and rookie Laviska Shenault, Minshew might be forced to check down to running back Chris Thompson behind a shaky offensive line. And the defense isn’t much better, unless rookies like K’Lavon Chaisson and C.J. Henderson make unprecedented early impacts.
The Colts, meanwhile, are sure to run into some hurdles of their own with Rivers debuting with an entirely new supporting cast. The thing is, that supporting cast is good. Behind one of the NFL‘s sturdiest O-lines, the ex-Chargers QB should have plenty of time to find play-makers like T.Y. Hilton and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. — and then lean heavily on the RB duo of Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor. On “D,” DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard alone should help keep the ball in his hands and pave the way to victory.
Pick: Colts 27, Jaguars 17
Check out CBSSports.com for even more expert predictions on this game and the rest of Week 1.