The AFC South is coming off an extremely tough week in which the division went 1-3 for the third time this season. The top two both lost and the Houston Texans bounced to close within one game of the division lead. Just like that they are right back in it having been virtually on the verge of elimination a couple of weeks ago. The question is can the division pattern of going 3-1 in even weeks continue? If it does then whoever is the one that loses is in big trouble. The Jaguars and Titans risk slipping a game behind the other and into a tie with the Texans. The Texans would slip two games behind those if they lose. As for the Colts, if they lose it is as good as over for them.
Whatever happens there should be some superb games this week as the teams continue to scrap to assert their dominance or stay afloat as we near the half way point of the season.
Indianapolis Colts @ New York Jets
This game should be a really interesting one to watch. The teams may not be in the playoff hunt come season end but there is a good chance it will be a good game. The Jets offense ran all over the Broncos defense last week. However, there is part of me that thinks the reason may be the Broncos travelling East for an early kickoff. It will be interesting to see if they lean on the run again this week. Against the Patriots last week the Colts were strong against the run game, but struggled against the passing game. However, that was facing a future Hall of Fame quarterback on a short week. This week they are facing a rookie quarterback having had 10 days to prepare. Stopping the run is going to be the key because then they will force Darnold and the passing game into mistakes.
For the Colts offense to succeed they also need to try and establish a run game. That is something they have struggled with this year. The Jets defense ranks middle of the pack against the run game allowing 80 rushing yards on average per game. If they cannot get the run game functioning the pressure will once again fall on Luck. This offense is once again expected to be without T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle, leaving Eric Ebron as the main man in the passing game. The Colts receivers have to catch the ball better this week as they left a lot of plays on the field against the Patriots.
The Jets are roughly three point favorites in this game. My feeling early in the week was that the Colts could win. However, with how inconsistent their offense looked last week I worry that they will struggle to move the ball on the Jets in their own back yard. This is a game between two teams with a ton of questions marks and I would look to stay away from betting this game.
Houston Texans vs. Buffalo Bills
The Texans have a little momentum now after winning their last two games. The bonus is that they do not have to go on the road after their overtime win, as that is often a really bad situation. Instead they are at home against an extremely hit-or-miss Bills team. Defensively the Texans do not need to do anything special. If they play to their level they will restrict this Bills offense to under 20-points. What they cannot have is players trying to be heroes and whiffing on tackles or going for interceptions and missing the ball. If they are just solid they will set their offense up to win this game.
Offensively the key is looking after the ball. The Titans fumbled early, giving the Bills a short field and allowing them to score a touchdown last week. That is the only way this Bills team will win, if they are helped. If Watson and company play solid football and look after the ball they will win this game.
Houston are currently 10-point favorites with most bookies which I think is too much. However, if the bad Bills turn up then this could be a massacre. I would be tempted to take the Bills getting the 10 points but I would not put much on it. The over/under is 41 in this game which seems low. However, the Bills have tended to play low scoring games the last few weeks with 30 being the highest total in those three weeks. I would look to bet the under in this game but it might get uncomfortable late, especially if the Texans get rolling.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Dallas Cowboys
A perfect bounce back game for the Jaguars. This defense is not going to have any problem with the Cowboys offense who continue to look a mess. As long as they keep Ezekiel Elliott contained then they will be able to get after Dak Prescott. I do not see many scenarios where the Cowboys score over 20.
Offensively I do have concerns because the Cowboys have shown they can play defense. However, Blake Bortles appears to be alternating good and bad weeks and it is time for another good week. His offensive line should be able to give him time to throw and as long as he makes the right decisions this week he can make plays. The Cowboys defensive line is good and they will get pressure at times. Therefore, Bortles will need T.J. Yeldon to continue stepping up and making plays. Hopefully the Jaguars will stick with the running game more this week and then they should be able to tire out that defensive line.
The Jaguars are anywhere between one and three point favourites and no matter which line you are offered I would take them giving up the points. The Cowboys offense should not worry this defense and we saw the Texans move the ball last week before stalling in the red zone. This one could be sewn up by half time if Bortles plays half well. I would look to avoid the points scored. Even if the Jaguars score 27 you are still relying on the Cowboys getting to 14 or more points which scares me a lot.
Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens
This has the potential to be one of the games of the weekend. Many people have referred to these two teams as playing to the level of the competition they are facing. What that means for this game I am not certain but I expect the game to be really close. The Ravens have relied heavily on their passing game this year, ranking second in most pass attempts, eighth in passing yards but just 19th in passing touchdowns. The reason for the drop off in touchdowns is because generally they have ran the ball near the goal line and they rank fifth in the league in rushing touchdowns. The good news for the Titans defense is they have been superb against both the pass and the run this season, ranking top five in passing stats and second in rushing touchdowns. They will need to be that good again this week because their offense has had its woes.
The Titans offense ranks among the bottom five in passing yards and passing touchdowns. They also rank 24th in rushing touchdowns and 17th in rushing yards. Overall, this offense has found it really tough to move the ball and they are not going to have an easy time of it this week. The Ravens rank top five in passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns allowed. The Titans need their play makers, Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis and Corey Davis to step up in a big way this week. Their defense can do as much as they like but if this offense cannot get rolling they will struggle to pull out a result.
The Ravens are slight favorites in most places by between one and three points. This is another game which I really do not know how to call. I think home field advantage might be enough for the Titans but I do not feel comfortable enough to call it. In terms of the over/under being set at 41 I would lean to the under. These are two great defenses and two meh offenses. However, I think this is a tight game that could go to overtime. Both teams only need to get just over 20 for this line to fall. I do not feel confident enough to bet over but I am definitely not going under.
Indianapolis Colts +2.5 @ New York Jets – No bet
Houston Texans -10 vs. Buffalo Bills – Total points under
Jacksonville Jaguars -3 @ Dallas Cowboys – Jaguars and under
Tennessee Titans +2.5 vs. Baltimore Ravens – No bet
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