Week 8 was a crucial week for the AFC South teams in action. The Houston Texans had the chance to ensure they were top of the pile whatever on Thursday. The Jacksonville Jaguars had the opportunity to turn around their fortunes in London. The Indianapolis Colts needed to win to have any realistic shot of staying in the playoff race. This week the division went 2-1 as the Texans and Colts took advantage of their opportunities. Meanwhile, here in the United Kingdom things got worse for the Jaguars.
Let’s take a look at what happened in Week 8.
Houston Texans 42 vs. Miami Dolphins 23
I wrote about this game in depth on Friday. However, the long and short of it is that the Texans offense came alive and the Dolphins struggled to do much against the Texas defense.
Jacksonville Jaguars 18 vs, Philadelphia Eagles 24
For a long time in the first half this was a really ugly game of football. The Jaguars forced turnovers on the Eagles first two drives. Marcell Dareus forced a fumble on the first drive and Jalen Ramsey picked off Carson Wentz in the end zone on the second. The Eagles were moving the ball but Wentz was under pressure and made a bad mistake. As for the Jaguars, they moved the ball thanks in part to the legs of Blake Bortles but the Eagles held them to two field goals. With just under two minutes in the first half the Jaguars had the chance to go 9-3 or 13-3 in the lead. However, Keelan Cole fumbled after a reception. That mistake sparked the Eagles offense as Dallas Goedert went in on a 32-yard reception to lead 10-6 at the half.
In the second half the Eagles run game turned up. In the game Josh Adams had nine carries for 61 yards but most of his damage came in the second half. He and Jordan Matthews in the receiving game sparked the Eagles into scoring two touchdowns to get to an unassailable 24 points. The Jaguars managed to score one touchdown but had to settle for two field goals, with D.J. Chark dropping a touchdown on the drive that resulted in the second field goal of the half. It never felt like the Jaguars were out of the game in the second half but at the same time it never felt like they would win the game.
24-of-41 are ugly numbers for Bortles but for once the offensive struggles were not his fault. If Westbrook holds onto the ball before the half then the Jaguars are likely leading at the half and we may have had a different result. The loss here is on the offensive line and the running game. Bortles was sacked four times and hit nine but he was constantly under pressure and had to throw the ball away a few times. In addition, the team had just 70 yards rushing and Bortles provided 43 of them. Yeldon was great in the passing game but he and Hyde combined for 18 yards on eight carries.
In contrast the Eagles won this game on the ground. They carried the ball 28 times for 133 yards and took over the second half. Wentz actually had better numbers than Bortles going 21-of-30 with 286 yards. However, he was picked off once and arguably could have been twice more in the first half alone. Of the two he actually made more mistakes but he was also under pressure a lot in the first half. In total Wentz was also sacked four times and hit nine times. However, in the second half the Jaguars pass rush could not get to him and combined with the run game they kept the game out of sight for the Jaguars.
The Fall Out
For the Jaguars this is a major problem. They have now lost four in a row and sit at 3-5, two games out of first place entering the bye week. They are now officially last in the division thanks to being 0-2 within the division. However, it looks like Bortles should have done enough to keep his job through the bye. What the Jaguars need to work on is their offensive line and their run game. If they can get that clicking then they are not out of it but it will be tough.
Indianapolis Colts 42 @ Oakland Raiders 28
The Colts made tough work of this but eventually their offensive fire power shone out. This was a story of four quarters with the Colts dominating the first, then the Raiders dominating the second and third before the Colts ran away in the fourth quarter. Luck went 22-of-31 for 239 yards and three touchdowns. However, the headline for the Colts was 222 rushing yards on 40 carries. Having struggled to make any impact on the ground early in the season Marlon Mack appears to have provided them a spark. In addition, in this game Nyheim Hines provided the perfect foil rushing for over seven yards per carry on his 11 carries. The final positive for the Colts offense is that Luck was not sacked once and was only hit once. Now the Raiders defense is not good but this is certainly a promising sign.
Defensive the Colts allowed the Raiders to move the ball a little more than they may have liked. Derek Carr threw the ball 28 times, completing 21 for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Doug Martin averaged 5.5 yards per carry and the Raiders in all averaged 5.4 yards per carry for 103 yards. The Raiders lost this game on a crucial moment in the fourth quarter. The Colts had taken the lead at 35-28 when Martin fumbled the first carry of the next drive. The Colts recovered and scored to go up 42-28, all but ending the game.
What does it mean?
The Colts are now just two games out first place in the division. Had their play on fourth down in over time worked against the Texans they would be tied for the lead at 4-4. Had Jack Doyle not fumbled against the Cincinnati Bengals the Colts might actually be leading this division at 5-3. What this means is that just maybe this Colts team is not as bad as their 1-5 start suggested. They have been helped by facing the Bills and Raiders the last two weeks. However, their schedule in the second half of the season is not overly tough.
The Colts face the Jaguars twice, the Titans twice, host the Dolphins, Cowboys and Giants and travel to the Texans. Only one of those teams is over .500 right now and none of them have looked overly convincing at times this season. The Colts are not out of this and if the Texans trip up Luck could be headed back to the playoffs.
The Division picture
The Texans lead the division at 5-3. However, they now head to Denver which will not be easy before their bye week. After the bye they still have to travel to the Redskins, Jets and Eagles. Those are all tough games on the road and they Texans by no means have this game in the bag, especially after losing Will Fuller to injury.
The Titans sit at 3-4. Their performances prior to the bye are extremely concerning. However, if they come out of the bye strongly on Monday night they have some very winnable games down the stretch. I have already spoken about the Colts above and right now they are worth a punt to win this division at 10/1. As I said above the Jaguars are somewhat of a mess as well right now. Unless they can come out the bye with a victory over the Colts they could be in serious trouble.
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