This AFC South has been kept extremely interesting by the Tennessee Titans victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. Had the Jaguars won they would be three games ahead of the Texans and two ahead of both the Colts and Titans. Now we have two teams tied at 2-1, one at 1-2 and one at 0-3. That makes the divisional game between the Colts and Texans extremely interesting this week. In the last 23 years, 2% of teams who started 0-3 made the playoffs. Get to 1-3 and that rises to 14% but dropping to 0-4 does not bear thinking about. As for the Titans and Jaguars, both need to win to keep the pressure on the other.
There will be more twists and turns this season, you can count on it. However, Week 4 could really spell the end for a couple of these teams. It may be early but there is actually a virtual knockout game in this division this week.
Tennessee Titans vs. Philadelphia Eagles
This game could be an absolutely fascinating watch despite the possibility it is a low scoring game. Both teams are coming off games where they struggled to put points on the board. However, both will have their franchise quarterback starting for just the second time this season. Mariota is almost being forced back by the situation in Tennessee. Blaine Gabbert is hurt and Austin Davis is still trying to learn the offense.
One of the keys for the Titans is to try and get their run game working. They have the second most rushes in the NFL (98) but average just 3.73 rushes per attempt (25th in the NFL). This defense is not a good one to try and get the run game going however, as the Eagles defense ranks number one against the rush this season. If they cannot get the rush going they will likely need Corey Davis to step up and dominate on the outside. Interestingly, Davis has yet to score an NFL touchdown. Could this be the week to break the duck?
The key to winning this game for the Eagles will rely on a couple of elements. Firstly, they cannot let the Eagles offense be on the field for over 40 minutes like the Colts did last week. To neutralise that pass rush they need to keep them on the field and tire them out. If they can do that they should be able to move the ball late in the game.
The second element is trying to shut down the Eagles tight ends. Wentz completed 11 passes to tight ends last week and the Eagles now have 34 completions to that position this season, ranking them first in the NFL with 11 more than anyone else. So far this season the Titans have been really good against the tight end but they have not really been tested. This will be a huge test covering someone with the quality of Zach Ertz.
Interestingly, the Eagles have never beaten the Titans in Tennessee (0-2) and they are 1-4 against them since 1999, when the franchise moved to Nashville. The Titans are going to have their work cut out winning but I do expect this to be a close game. If you can get the Titans +4 then I would jump all over that and under 41.5 points is very much in play as well.
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts
This might be the first elimination game of the season. If both the Jaguars and Titans win then trying to make up either two or three games could be extremely tough. Winning this game is more important for the 0-3 Texans. Lose this game and they are all but eliminated as 0-4 teams have never made the playoffs since 1995.
To win this game they need to play better on offense. Their offensive line needs to give Deshaun Watson time. However, they are facing a Colts team who ranks joint fourth in the league with 10 sacks. It could be another long week for the Texans offensive line and quarterback. To try and keep the Colts off balance they need to get Lamar Miller going. Miller had 98 and 68 yards in Weeks 1 & 2 but managed just 10 on 10 attempts in Week 3. The Colts rank middle of the pack against the run, surrendering 87 yards per game on average.
If they can get the run game going it should slow down the pass rush and give Watson time to find his weapons down the field. In addition, Watson needs to find more of his guys outside of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller if he wants to increase his efficiency. Getting tight end Jordan Akins going could be a huge help for this struggling offense.
The Texans defense is going to have to step up and start getting more pressure on the quarterback as well. J.J. Watt managed to get three sacks last week but the team have just seven in total through three weeks. Luck is definitely still not right and if they can put him under pressure they may be able to force mistakes. So far we have not seen Luck go deep down the field which makes defense for the Texans a lot easier. They still need to respect the ability of T.Y. Hilton but they can generally feel safe down the field.
The good news for the Texans is that the Colts run game is virtually non-existent so that is one element of the game they should be able to control. The Colts were on the field less than 20 minutes last week and that made their defense fairly ineffective late in the game. The Colts must control the ball better if they want a shot to win this game.
The Colts are 14-2 when hosting the Texans and 25-7 all-time. However, many of those games were with a firing Peyton Manning under centre and a bad Texans team. The Colts are favourite by one point this week and I like their defense to be able to shut this Texans offense down. I think the Colts come away with the win so I would back them giving up the point. The over/under is 47 which I think you should stay away from.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs New York Jets
The big question here is which Jacksonville Jaguars team are we going to see. Are we going to get the ones who vanquished the Patriots in Week 2 or the ones who spluttered and stuttered in games against the Giants and Titans. The return of Leonard Fournette should help the Jaguars offense. The Jets have had four sacks in their past two outings and will be looking to get after Bortles again. Interestingly, more may rest on Bortles than you think. The Jaguars are 1-11 when Bortles fails to throw a touchdown in a game. In the last 10 games where he has thrown at least one they are 9-1. If they can get the run game and the pass game functioning how it did against the Patriots then they should win. However, the Jets appear to be a significantly better defense than the Patriots.
For the Jaguars defense it will be business as usual. Darnold has completed just 56.3% of his passes in the last two games. The Jaguars defense ranks second against the pass in terms of yards surrendered. The Jaguars are also among the best 10 teams in the league against running backs. They should have no issue shutting down this Jets offense so this game will fall onto the shoulders of their offense.
The Jets have won the last four games between these two teams but I think that will stop this week. I expect this to be a relatively low scoring game. Therefore, I would lean towards taking the under which is set at 38. That is ridiculously low but I do not see much offense in this game. I am also struggling to take the Jaguars giving up 7.5 points. I would bet the Jaguars straight up but I would avoid the spread.
Tennessee Titans +4 vs. Philadelphia Eagles – Titans and Under
Houston Texans +1 @ Indianapolis Colts – Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars -7.5 vs. New York Jets – Under (Jaguars to win outright)
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