AFC South: A Look at Week 14 and Playoff Implications
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For the second week in a row this weekend’s slate of NFL games begins with a Thursday night NFL Network game involving the AFC South. Last week it was Houston almost showing up against the Eagles, and this week’s NFLN game has two AFC teams doing work as the Indianapolis Colts are in the Volunteer state to play the Titans.
The Colts, or Baby Horses, as I like to call them, have the No. 1 ranked passing offense. Ordinarily that would be considered a good thing, but this is not an ordinary year for the team from Indy.
Indianapolis cannot run the ball effectively, as evidenced by their ranking 32nd, dead stinking last. Overall the Colts offense rank fifth in the league.
Tennessee, on the other hand, has the 12th ranked run offense and is 31st offensively passing, and has an overall offensive ranking of 30th in the league.
Defensively, these two teams are nothing to write home about either. Indianapolis has the 29th ranked run defense and their pass defense is ranked fourth, for an overall ranking of 18th in the NFL.
Tennessee’s defense is ranked 24th overall, with rankings of 22th against the run, and 23rd against the pass respectively, which seems fitting for two teams whose collective win-loss record is 11-13.
The "Baby Horses" aren’t what they used to be. Peyton Manning leads a patchwork offense that sorely misses Dallas Clark, who is out for the season with a hand injury. Manning has thrown 11 interceptions over the last three games, and the Colts, winners of the AFC South for most of recent memory, are a beatable team.
Tennessee has not fared any better lately. Vince Young is out for the season, but his devolving into an immature prima donna had him lashing out at head coach Jeff Fisher and throwing his Titan gear into the stands.
Rumors are swirling around Fisher possibly not being in Tennessee next season due to the fact that owner Bud Adams seems to be enamored with Young and is insistent that he play when healthy.
Even with Manning’s sudden poor passing performances the Colts should be able to win against Tennessee. Remember two weeks ago in Houston? Titans rookie quarterback Rusty Smith threw three interceptions to Texans DB Glover Quinn, making Quinn seem, at least for one afternoon, like a player bound for Canton enshrinement.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (I refer to them as "The Fast Cats") host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Oakland is 6-6 and in second place in the AFC West behind Kansas City and needs a win (who doesn’t this time of the year) to stay in playoff contention. The Jags rank 29th in passing offense, but are a very respectable second in rushing offense, and 17th overall.
The Raiders have the ninth ranked defense against the pass, but a pedestrian 23rd against the run. If Maurice Jones-Drew can get going early, the Jags, who are a surprising 7-5 after 12 games, should keep their lead in the AFC South. Jacksonville should win this one. As a Texans fan I don’t like it, but that’s what I’m saying.
The last game this weekend has the Baltimore Ravens at Houston playing the Texans in Reliant Stadium. That’s an appropriate name for Houston’s home field, because we Texans fans have become “reliant” on disappointment from our team.
For the fourth season in a row, Houston has a disappointing 5-7 record after 12 games. After last year’s first ever winning record at 9-7, we fans were sure our team could get in the postseason tournament for the first time ever this season. It’s still a possibility, but a lot of things that aren’t likely to happen will need to happen.
The Ravens are 8-4 and will probably be a wild-card entry into the playoffs, barring an unlikely implosion by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Houston does have the league’s leading rusher in Arian Foster, with 1,230 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, but while the offense is ranked seventh in the league, Houston’s defense is ranked 29th overall and 32nd (that’s dead stinking last) against the pass.
Baltimore’s passing offense ranking? Glad you asked. The Ravens offense is ranked 14th overall, 15th against the pass and 16th against the run.
Houston’s coach Gary Kubiak, who, just like last season, is enduring rumblings from the fans screaming for him to be fired, should run Foster and Derrick Ward early and often. That way, the Texans might have a chance against Baltimore.
Think about this; Houston was driving the field sharply against San Diego in Week 9, when wide receiver Andre Johnson (who, mark my words, will be the first ever Houston Texans player enshrined in Canton’s Hall of Fame) kicks the ball out of his own hands into the waiting arms of a Chargers safety.
In Week 10, Texans DB Glover Quinn, who was just doing what he was coached to do, batted down a hail-Mary pass from Jags QB David Garrard that went directly into the hands of Jacksonville wide receiver Mike Thomas for the winning score.
What’s the point? Simply this; Houston is two bounces of the football away from being 7-5 instead of their present 5-7. I know, “if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, what a party we could have”, or something to that effect.
I think it was Bo Schembechler who said “a football is shaped funny and it bounces weird”. Well someday, the ball will bounce Houston’s way, but we Texans fans want sooner than later. What we fans need is for Houston to beat Baltimore, Oakland to beat the Jags, and Tennessee and Indianapolis to play to a tie. Dare to dream.
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