As the Colts enter a must-win Week 17 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, in a place they haven’t won since 2014, they could be without one of their best players.
All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is questionable with a knee injury. He did not practice all week while resting an issue that has flared up on and off this season.
If he’s out, it will mark two starters down on that side of the ball since last week. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes is out with the hamstring injury he suffered late in Sunday’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
They are the only two players on the Colts’ status report this week. Left tackle Eric Fisher returned to practice in full all three days after missing last Sunday with a collection of injuries.
The Jaguars are ruling out backup tight end James O’Shaughnessy. Star linebacker Myles Jack had missed two practices with a knee injury but practiced in full Friday.
Buckner has had to rest knee and back issues at various points this season, but it has yet to cost him a game and it has not held him back from reaching his second Pro Bowl. He has faced a number of double teams as the Colts search for other pass-rush help, and his seven sacks are his lowest since 2017.
Buckner has missed only one game to injury in his six-year career, and it came in his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers. He missed one game last season due to COVID-19, and Derrick Henry ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the Tennessee Titans’ 45-26 win over the Colts.
If he can’t go, Taylor Stallworth will likely start in his place with second-round rookie Dayo Odeyingbo sharing snaps. Those two combine for 3.5 sacks this season.
Isaiah Rodgers will start in place of Rhodes this week. He’s had a surprise second season after playing just 53 defensive snaps as a sixth-round rookie out of UMass last year. This year, he has played nearly half the team’s snaps, has started against the Baltimore Ravens and the Arizona Cardinals and has collected three interceptions, trailing only Darius Leonard and Kenny Moore II for the team lead.
“Coming into the league this young, there’s some things you have to get past,” Rhodes said of Rodgers. “I feel like he has gotten over those hurdles. I think he’s prepared himself to be able to become a starter.”
At 9-7, the Colts can secure a second straight wildcard spot with a win on Sunday. They are 15.5-point road favorites according to Bovada, but Jacksonville has tripped them up regularly in recent years. Last season, the Jaguars scored their only win over the Colts in Week 1.
“The guys know what’s at stake is our season,” Buckner said this week. “It’s just fitting. You know what I mean? Going down, division game, in Jacksonville. One of the places we’ve been struggling over the last couple of years to get a win in Jacksonville.
“What better time than now?”
This story will be updated.