It is another quiet Sunday in the AFC South with two of the four teams on a bye this week. The bye has come at the perfect time for the Jacksonville Jaguars as they are on a four game losing streak. However, for the Indianapolis Colts it comes at a time where they have won two in a row and look pretty good despite their 3-5 record. What it all means is that the Houston Texans have a chance to extend their record to 6-3 and sit three wins ahead of the Colts and Jaguars before they have their bye next week. The Tennessee Titans also have a chance to bounce back and get to 4-4 in the hope that they can get to just one game behind the Texans ready for the second half of the season.
Let’s take a look at the keys for the two AFC South teams to come out on top this week.
Houston Texans @ Denver Broncos
This is a fascinating game between two teams that play tough defense and have the occasional wobble on offense. The fascinating thing here is the trade which saw Demaryius Thomas essentially switch changing rooms this weekend. Will his loss hamper the Broncos offense? Can he give the Texans defense some insight that might help them stymie the Denver offense?
The Broncos strength on offense this season has been the run game. They rank seventh in rush yards and fifth in touchdowns scored on the ground. Their yards per attempt running the ball is the best in the NFL at 5.1 so that is where the Texans need to focus. The Broncos are 0-3 this season when rushing for under 125 yards in the game and 3-2 when they go over this mark. Those two losses were to the Chiefs as well so they are extraordinary circumstance. The good news for the Texans is their defensive strength in the run. They rank seventh in the NFL in rush yards, second in rushing touchdowns conceded and third in yards per rush attempt at 3.6. This game could come down to the arm of Case Keenum, especially with the injury issues in the Texans secondary. It will be fascinating to see if the Broncos can have success in the air without Thomas.
For the Texans the run is also the key. If they can get Miller rolling they can tire out the defensive line and low them down for the passing game. In the last two weeks the Texans have rushed for 329 yards and it has helped them to comfortably handle their opponents. This week they face a defense who rank 27th in terms of rush yards surrendered and 31st in rush yards surrendered per attempt (5.1). With Deshaun Watson still recovering and playing on the road getting that run game going will be key.
The Texans are entering this game as slight favorites giving up around a point to 1.5 points depending on where you look. This line has bounced around a bit showing you that people do not know where to go. Personally I think the Texans are the better team. The trouble is that even at home I do not feel confident they win the game. Therefore, on the road in Denver I am staying clear of betting them this week. The over/under here is 45 and I am leaning under. Both of these teams are defensively dominated. The Texans have limited receiving weapons who know their playbook and will run the ball a lot. I do not see either team going far over 20 this week.
Tennessee Titans @ Dallas Cowboys
This is going to be a defensively dominated game which is going to go right down to the wire. Passing wise both of these teams rank among the bottom five offensive. Defensively they are both top-10 against the pass so do not expect much to happen through the air in this one.
On the ground the Cowboys have been very good, ranking fourth in rush yards and third in yards per attempt. The Titans have not had much success on the ground over the season but Dion Lewis flashed moments in London against the Chargers. They will need that to continue this week but it will not be easy. The Cowboys also rank in the top-10 against the run this year and the Titans need to move the ball somehow.
This is not going to be a sexy Monday Night Football game but it should be a gritty tough game. The Cowboys opened 6.5 point favorites but that has fallen to five. I am not sure how much the Titans will move the ball in this game. However, give me Mike Vrabel over Jason “The Clapper” Garrett any day. I think Vrabel’s coaching is worth a handful of points a game. If the offense is struggling expect him to get inventive. The over/under is 40 point and while I do not feel comfortable I am going under. Unless the Cowboys run all over the Titans I see this being a really close game in which neither team goes over 20 points.
Houston Texans -1.5 @ Denver Broncos – Under 45 points
Tennessee Titans +5 vs. Dallas Cowboys – Titans and under
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