One division, four interesting games. We break down all of Sunday’s AFC South action below.
Chicago @ Tennessee: The Bears are slight favorites on the road in Nashville against a wily and unpredictable Titans team this week. This is a rare AFC/NFC match up the way scheduling has gone as of late. The last time these two teams met in 2008 Chicago had the residue of a dominating defense and had Rex Grossman under center who was oft making ESPN’s weekly “C’mon Man!” The Titans however, were surprisingly undefeated and took the Bears down at home to go 9-0.
The two faces that are familiar to each other this week are Matt Forte and Chris Johnson. Granted, the teams, particularly the offensive lines, and schemes are different, but that being said we saw Chris Johnson get swallowed with every touch he got. Johnson went 8 yards on 14 carries and caught two passes for 15 yards.
On the other side of the field Matt Forte went for 72 yards on the ground and went 54 yards via Grossman Air and even snagged one of the two touchdowns the Bears had in the game. This year I would imagine that the Bears keep Johnson under wraps, as they rank 1st in rush defense keeping their opponents to a measly 77.9 yards per game. Being able to cheat on pass defense should leave Hasselbeck prone to adding to his 146 career interceptions thrown. Cutler’s offense should shine against a hit-or-miss Titans defense.
I see the game going 24-13 in the Bears favor, sending the Titans to a 3-6 record and comfortable rut at 3rd place in the AFC South.
Buffalo @ Houston: The Texans will be welcoming Mario Williams home this week as a big favorite at home, as well they should. They are putting together a great season on both sides of the ball, ranking amongst the top 5 in the NFL in rush and pass defense and 6th in the league in their rushing attack. They’ve really shown their opponents the door in their 6 wins this season accumulating an +88 point differential that even includes an 18 point loss to the Green Bay Packers. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick should have bad memories of the Texans as he posted a 41.4 QB rating in a 0 touchdown, 2 pick, 117 yard snoozer of a 31-10 loss at home at Ralph Wilson in 2009. Schaub didn’t have a great game either in a 0 touchdown, 2 pick, 268 yard game where he posted a 71.7 rating. All the scoring came at the hands of one Ryan Moats that hit pay dirt thrice and ran for 126 yards on a very good Bills defense (at least back then).
Remember Ryan Moats?
Yeah me neither. Schaub should light up a Buffalo defense that is trying to find chemistry amongst their youngsters and veteran playmakers. Arian Foster is quite the step up from Moats, and the Texans are a whole different monster up front this year. RED FLAG Texans fans expecting their team to lay waste to Buffalo this week should think twice, usually a team doing well going into their bye week have to shake off the rust on offense coming out the next week. That being said defenses usually have time to heal their stingers, and stretch out their hammies, and are itching to hit somebody. Though the Bills are well-equipped for the big play, particularly the long bomb, they should be held to under 14 points this week, unless their defense hands them a 20 yard field. The Texans will show up on defense but don’t expect a 41 point smashing.
I see the Texans pleasing their fans with a 31-13 win at home and improving to a 7-1 record looking forward to a primetime game next week against a hot-blooded Bears team.
Detroit @ Jacksonville: The last time these two teams met was in 2008 when the Jags helped the Lions to continue their perfect season; 0-16 that is. This season both teams are completely new crews. The Lions are looking to go to 4-4 and salvage their season in a tough NFC North division, the Jags are looking to get the game over with and go home. Jacksonville ranks near last in almost every category and is putting up a 1-6 record with a near win over the Colts being their only win, which sadly means they can’t achieve the perfection that the 2008 Lions did.
Last week Titus Young proved that either anyone can catch Stafford’s .38 caliber bullets, or that he has some talent…or both. The main thing you can draw from that is that even if you put say three defenders on MegaTron Calvin Johnson, Stafford will find someone else to shoot with his pistol throwing arm. This is bad news for the Jags who are allowing close to 250 yards per game in the air. On occasion the Lions’ offense looks elite, and this game should be a display of the passing game. Even with Johnson perhaps seeing limited playing time (which could very easily be one of those coaching chess moves to keep the Jags from game-planning against him by Lions coach Jim Schwartz), the Lions should win the 3-and out battles and make the best of short fields.
I see the Lions carrying their momentum from their Seahawks win into a 38-17 spanking of the reeling Jags, and looking into the future with their record at .500. The Jags will return to their mouse-hole and lick their wounds at 1-7.
Miami @ Indianapolis: In 2009 these two teams met in a Monday Night game that saw 6 lead changes, capped off with an 80-yard touchdown drive led by the master of such things, Peyton Manning. Even with all the stars that Colts fans have been wishing on, Andrew Luck is not Peyton Manning, nor will he probably ever be. That doesn’t mean Luck doesn’t know how to win ball games though. This season these two teams are pretty even, which is a new one for an Miami fan watching them play the Colts since the early 2000s. The Colts are top ten in the league in pass offense, and near last in rush defense, while the Dolphins are 11th in rush offense and near last in pass defense (though 2nd in rush defense). Needless to say this game has the makings of another multiple lead change “anything You can do I can do better.” This should be advantage Dolphins though, as they should have a much better chance to control the game with what should be a longer time of possession.
It may very well come down to whether Luck has what it takes to lead a 4th quarter drive for the win. Does he have what it takes? Who knows? However, he did look pretty clutch in the Colts’ overtime win where he led two long drives in the 4th quarter (to tie) and in OT to win with no kickers involved. The Colts are coming off of a two-game winning streak including an inspiring OT win, while the Dolphins are coming off of a 3 game winning streak and a 30-9 shellacking of Rex Ryans Jets.
I see the Colts facing the harsh reality that it’s not number 18 under center anymore in a close 24-20 Dolphins win as Miami becomes relevant and the Colts go back to their comfortable win-then-loss trend. It should be a good one though.