I know I say this every week but Week 10 is another crunch week in the AFC South. With the Houston Texans on their bye week the other three teams have a chance to move one game closer to them and have a shot to put pressure on them down the stretch. The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts are squaring off in Indianapolis this week so unless we get yet another tie this season, one of those teams will move to 4-5 and within two games of the Texans. The Tennessee Titans have a tough task, hosting the New England Patriots, but they will know that a win puts them just one game back on the Texans.
Let’s take a look at the key matchups in this weeks games.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
This game looks a lot different now than it did a few weeks ago. If this game was being played in Week 5 the story line would be all about the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were 3-1 at that point. However, since then the Jaguars have lost four straight games to slump to 3-5.
The positive for the Jaguars is that they are getting Leonard Fournette back in this game and boy do they need him. The Jaguars run game was supposed to be the strength of this offense but they currently rank 24th in rush yards and 32nd in rushing touchdowns with two. A big part of the issue has been falling behind early in games and having to move to a more pass first offense because in terms of yards per attempt they rank 18th but they have the 27th most rushing attempts in the league. They need to change that this week. In games where they have over 100 rushing yards they are 3-1.
Their passing game was always going to be a struggle and they rank 22nd in passing touchdowns, 28th in interceptions and 25th in passing yards per attempt. This season they have thrown for over 200 yards just four times. They are 2-2 in those games. The bigger issue is turnovers, they rank 31st in lost fumbles (9) and 30th overall in turnovers (18). 11 of those turnovers have come in their four game losing streak. The bad news is that the Colts defense ranks third in turnovers forced with 13 and third in fumbles forced with five. However, their defense has had its issues, they rank 25th in points against and 23rd in yards against. The Jaguars need to control the ball in this game if they are to win on the road.
For the Colts it is simple, keep doing what they have been doing. That means running the ball and not committing turnovers. In the last two weeks the Colts average 221 yards rushing and have no committed a turnover. Now the level of competition they have faced has not been very good which is an issue. However, they showed flashes in the games against the Texans, Patriots and Jets, but turnovers (9) and mistakes let them down in those three games. If they can control the ball on the ground then Andrew Luck is more than capable of making plays in the passing game.
The Jaguars have a good defense, they rank first in passing yards and touchdowns against. They also rank second in passing yards per attempt. However, they d have weaknesses. They rank 24th in rushing yards against, largely due to the 28th ranking in rushing attempts against. They also have not forced turnovers this season, ranking 22nd in fumbles and 24th in interceptions and 26th overall.
Winning this game will not be pretty for the Colts. They are unlikely to rip off long runs but they can have success if they are willing to grind. The Jaguars have had issues covering the tight end so Jack Doyle will be an important chain mover. It may not be the Colts we love to watch but they need to hang in there and then this Jaguars team is there for the taking.
The Colts are currently three point favorites in this game and I think they are a good bet. Yes the Jaguars have had a bye week to sort themselves out but they had to travel back from London in there as well. The Colts are also on a bye and have the confidence from a two-game winning streak. However, the loser of this game is essentially out of the division race so there will be extra motivation and that might means the Jaguars can spring an upset. The over/under in this one is 46.5 and I would look to take the under. I expect both offenses to commit to the run game and only pass when necessary and that is a good indicator of a low scoring game.
Tennessee Titans vs New England Patriots
There is no doubt this will be a tough game for the Titans. The Patriots are the second best team in the AFC and they will be desperate to keep winning to keep the pressure on the Chiefs for home field advantage. In addition, with the Steelers marching the Patriots now also need to win to stay the #2 seed. However, the Titans know if they win they are just one game back on the Texans.
The Titans offense showed signs of life last week and the Patriots defense is not great. They are not going to shut down the Titans but they will play them tough. The Titans will have to use lots of options because the Patriots will be constantly trying to take away their best players. Stephon Gilmore will likely cover Corey Davis one-on-one and I think they put a safety on Dion Lewis in the passing game. Therefore, they will be relying on their secondary receivers and their tight end Jonnu Smith to make plays. If they can they have a shot at upsetting the Patriots. If they do not then they could get punished early.
The Patriots will not be scared by the Titans defense. Statistically it is very good but they also gave up big plays to the Chargers a lot in London a few weeks . The Patriots will likely try and mix it up given that Mike Vrabel will know some of their schemes on both sides of the ball. It will be an interesting chess match early but Vrabel and company will need to call their best game for 60 minutes to give their offense the chance to win it.
This game will have an extra edge to it. There are a number of former Patriots on the Titans team, including Malcom Butler. Butler will be desperate to show the Patriots the mistake they made benching him in the Super Bowl. That could go either way and he may make some plays but he may also be too aggressive sometimes. I fully expect Tom Brady to go at Butler early and often. Also don’t be surprised if we see some double moves and fake screens to try and catch him out to spring big plays. Butler is going to be the corner to keep an eye on all game.
The Patriots are seven point favorites in this one and I am staying away. I think this game is either a three point difference or a 10-point blow out. I am just not sure which. As for the over/under at 46, I like the over. I think the Titans can move the ball on the offense and should get 20 something points. As for the Patriots, I think they get at least 25-28 points. However, I can also easily see them scoring into the low 30s.
Jacksonville Jaguars +3 @ Indianapolis Colts – Colts and under 46.5 points
Tennessee Titans +7 vs. New England Patriots – over 46 points