Sep 29, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Donald Brown (31) finds a hole for a 50-yard run after getting a handoff from quarterback Andrew Luck (12), back right, in the second quarter of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
The AFC South suddenly looks like the AFC South Colts fans knew and loved until Peyton Manning's neck injury. This week the Texans took the Seahawks the distance but couldn't finish. The Colts destroyed an incredibly undermanned Jaguars squad. The Titans dominated the Jets behind another strong performance by Jake Locker. The Colts and Titans are duking it out for first place, the Texans look suddenly vulnerable and the Jaguars suck. It feels somewhat normal again.
While we've reached the quarter mark in the season I suspect the Texans will rebound, the Colts struggle a bit in the middle of their schedule and the Titans to need time adjusting to life without Locker. The Jaguars are helpless.
Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
It's hard to see much bad in the Colts romp over the Jaguars except for the sluggish offensive start. Early in the game Andrew Luck was simply not on the same page as his receivers which lead to an early interception and field goal. The Jaguars relished the early lead but by the mid second quarter the Colts offense was in full stride after Darrius Butler's interception return gave the team a lead on which to build. Luck turned that gift from his defense into 37 straight unanswered points that included lots of power running, two touchdown passes and a Donald Brown 50 yard rush that ignited the team. Reggie Wayne again proved he's good at football. The offensive firepower that sad idle for the first quarter roared back to life quickly and crushed Jacksonville.
Defensively it was about Robert Mathis whose three sack, five tackle performance was timeless. As we watch the final years for #98 it's important to remember just how big this guy has been in tough spots. None of the tight spots he's helped this team out of were bigger than these last two years. He could have folded, decided to give the 3-4 transition a half-hearted effort or simply retired. Instead he's proven to be a leader in the locker room and on the field. Yesterday Mathis matched his career high with three sacks. At his point in his career he's not satisfied nor resting but rather thriving.
Tennessee Titans (3-1)
The Titans continue to shock me. I've been horribly wrong about them so far. They may let me down but for now they're making me a believer.
Jake Locker is the biggest reason for their success. In the last two weeks Locker has been nothing short of great. He's been a leader and a playmaker. His injury is going to hurt should he miss extended time. Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reported this morning Locker could miss four to eight weeks.
The rough spot is that the Titans receiving corps have really hit their stride with Locker. Ryan Fitzpatrick is no slouch but there will be some adjustments. This injury may hurt their ability to contend for the division title.
Houston Texans (2-2)
For the first time this season the Texans had a strong first half. The notoriously slow starters jumped out in front of the Seahawks 20-3 before absolutely flunking the second half. No only did the Texans allow the road-weak Seahawks to come back for a win they did so while going scoreless in the second half. At some point this team has to figure out how to play four quarters. The Texans just plain choked while leading a tough team.
Another troubling trend for the Texans is Matt Schaub's regression. His pick-six did this team in against Seattle and he's slowly proving his critics right: he's not the guy you build your franchise around. If Schaub can't pick this team up and lead it in critical situations they won't win a title. They may not even win this division.
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4)
There were empty seats--many empty seats. Those not filled with Colts fans, Tebow fans or fans with bags on their heads were quickly vacated following half-time. Jacksonville has turned on their Jaguars. They don't believe. While in the stadium I heard "Bridgewater" frequently.
Here's the problem in Jacksonville: they have good pros playing in the wrong scheme. Gene Smith absolutely left the cupboards bare and as a parting gift left a steaming package under the Christmas tree in the form of Blaine Gabbert. This team has a coaching staff with a philosophy they can't execute due to a lack of personnel.
Owner Shad Khan must have some patience with this rebuild. GM David Caldwell wants to build a young team through the draft and chances are he's going to have high picks to do it.
Will they go winless? That looks quite possible as their opportunities for wins are suddenly tough. The Rams are their best chance for a win. The Titans games could be in play given Locker's injury but that's a longshot. The Browns are good enough to beat the Jaguars. The Jaguars suddenly have a realistic chance to go winless unless someone rests in the final weeks against them.
I liked this quote about Mathis "He could have folded, decided to give the 3-4 transition a half-hearted effort" because it certainly seemed to be what Freeney did.
Given that the Steelers are now 0-4 and look really bad, its looks like the week NBC 15 Sunday night game against the Bengals may well get flexed.
The two best alternative games would be New England at Miami or Texans at Colts. Miami is good but NE may have the division locked up by then. Besides NE already has 5 prime times games to the Colts' 4.
The Titans don't surprise me, but Locker does. I've been a critic of his since I watched him play against Ohio State many years ago. Back then they were touting him as the "Tebow of the West", which was accurate since neither one could hit the side of a barn. But it sure looks like he's turned the corner. He's not only playing well, passing well, and running effectively, he's also a respected leader. I don't know how the hip is going to affect his play, but the Titans sure look like they're a decent team. Probably better than the Texans.
Jags beat the Rams? Wow!! If that happens Jeff Fishers' job might be in doubt. The Rams stunk it up against a 49ers team that was reeling. Rams really played lackadaisical football. They let Frank Gore rip them a new one like he was made of kryptonite. Kaepernick was still struggling but Bradford could not score in the red zone. Rarely seen a team with so much talent take such a step backward.
@erhall01 Nice eye.
@erhall01 Freeney was playing through injury through most of the transition which went admittedly poorly. No matter how his end in Indy played out, I'll always love Freeney and his charismatic smile.
@thellamajockey Let's see how the middle part of the schedule goes for these teams. The Colts have a very rough stretch ahead.
@smonroe I'm a husky alum and watched Locker off and on for four years. He was one of those... "potential" guys, inconsistent but with flashes of brilliance. Ronnie Foush, his backup, replaced him one game and lit the stadium up. Prob his soph year. I thought they'd be a much better team with Locker at RB and Foush at QB. Then they got Sarkisian as coach, and he turned Locker around in one summer. He took a HUGE step forward his Jr year, a half step back as a senior with injured WRs, but his Jr year was enough to secure the #8 draft slot. He has the goods physically; the main issue is can he put it all together? I suspect he can, but won't ever be a top-10 QB. Or at least, will have those flashes, but won't produce consistently. Like someone we know in Houston...? Or East Rutherford? Or Baltimore?
@smonroe It's the "better than the Texans" part that shocks me. That defense isn't that good but they're playing well.
@thellamajockey There aren't many other feasible wins out there.
@coltsauth_todd @smonroe Yeah, I think we all know who the Texans are at this point. They're getting older/more injured at their skill positions and their QB usually gives up football at the end of December. Yes, they have a good D. But remember that last drive against them in the last game of the season, when they needed it and we didn't? That's the Texans to me.