Audibles: AFC South Week 5 preview

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
4:06
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Indianapolis Colts (1-2) at Houston Texans (0-3), 1 p.m. ET

It's tempting to say the Texans can spring an upset here. The team and the city will be fired up for the home opener, with the Texans hoping to give the city something to celebrate amid all the time, energy, effort and emotion spent on Hurricane Ike recovery.

Rookie running back Steve Slaton has shown he can hurt defenses as a runner and a receiver, and while a quick guy may not be as good as a big back against the Colts, their run defense looks like it might yield yards to anyone.

The trouble is the Texans' secondary is beat up. They're already rotating three corners through the two starting spots and now they may do the same at safety. Peyton Manning's line could be back to what was envisioned for the start of the season, minus only guard Ryan Lilja, and if Manning can find his rhythm, he'll find room to throw. Houston has allowed at least 30 points in all three of its games this season.

I sense a shootout, and it's hard to lean against the Colts in one. Which means it'll probably be a 10-7 game.

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2), 8:15 p.m. ET

Pittsburgh has lost four in a row to the Jaguars, including last year's wild-card round playoff game. The Steelers are thinned out at running back and have had trouble protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They are going to need to throw it to move it. How complete will the Jaguars' banged- up secondary be? Jacksonville has had pass rush trouble, but not against the Steelers -- 11 sacks in two games last season.

The game is only the fifth in NFL history featuring two teams coming off overtime wins. The Steelers defeated Baltimore Monday night 23-20 on a 46-yard field goal by Jeff Reed and the Jaguars topped Houston 30-27 on a 37-yard Josh Scobee field goal.

Courtesy of the Jaguars PR staff, here are the five games in history featuring teams coming off overtime victories:

Dec. 8, 1975: Denver 10 at Oakland 17
Oct. 15, 1995: Philadelphia 17 at N.Y. Giants 14
Sept. 23, 2001: St. Louis 30 at San Francisco 26
Sept. 15, 2002: Green Bay 20 at New Orleans 35
Oct. 5, 2008: Pittsburgh at Jacksonville

Tennessee Titans (4-0) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1), 1 p.m. ET

Once upon a time these AFC Central rivals played games that ended with scores like 14-11, 14-6, 16-10 and 13-12.

Now they're both back to where they rate as solid defensive teams with run-centered offenses. We could see a return to those awkward sorts of numbers.

The Titans have held everybody they've played under 20, and the Ravens put the clamps on Cleveland and Cincinnati, holding them to 10.

The easy presumption is that the veteran Kerry Collins will fare better against Baltimore's ever-shifting defense than rookie Joe Flacco will fare against the pressure from the Titans' front.

But I have a feeling Collins will struggle and the offense will miss Justin Gage, probably out with a knee injury. Even if Collins does have a hard time, that doesn't mean Tennessee suffers its first loss. I don't believe the Titans will win this one by 14, which is what they've averaged. They might not score 14.

Look for the Ravens to go heavy on screens and passes to the flat to try to use the Titans' aggressiveness against them.

I'm not ready to compare this Titans defense to the 2000 Ravens, a Super Bowl winner that is the modern measuring stick for great defenses.

But here's food for thought from the Elias Sports Bureau:

'00 Ravens'08 Titans
Points per game20.825.5
Opponents' ppg10.311.5
Turnovers per game1.62.0
Takeaways per game3.13.0

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

Insider