Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC South [Print without images]

Friday, October 16, 2009
Final Word: AFC South

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson


Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

Fernando Medina/US Presswire
Sticking with Maurice Jones-Drew and the run game could pay dividends for Jacksonville.
Jacksonville must be more physical: This is a perfect week for an ailing Jaguars club to get it right at home against the lowly Rams. To best accomplish this on offense, Jacksonville must give its best player, Maurice Jones-Drew, a heavy workload and then take some shots down field off of play-action. Even incorporating bigger runners Greg Jones and Rashad Jennings could pay long-term dividends. The Jaguars’ run blockers are superior to the Rams' front seven and even if it doesn't show immediate results, sticking with the run game will surely pay off. On defense, Jacksonville should dedicate an extra defender to the box and key heavily on Steven Jackson. Marc Bulger is a shell of what he once was, and most of the Rams’ weapons are suspect. If Jacksonville's defense is more physical, remains gap sound and doesn't allow Jackson to beat them single-handedly, the Jaguars should be fine on defense.

Can Tennessee even slow the Patriots’ passing game? Tom Brady is struggling. He is missing open receivers and leaving too many plays on the field. If he would have played better against the Broncos in Week 5, New England probably would have easily won. That being said, he is still Tom Brady. Tennessee's pass defense is atrocious, and even if Brady continues to leave big plays on the field, the recovering signal-caller should light up this secondary. Expect the Titans to consistently roll a safety over Randy Moss' side of the formation, but that leaves Brady's favorite target, Wes Welker, with favorable matchups in the short-to-intermediate portions of the field.

Can Houston compete with the Bengals' level of physicality? AFC North blogger James Walker asked me Thursday if Cincinnati is now in the mold of fellow AFC North counterparts Pittsburgh and Baltimore in terms of their overall physicality. The answer: Yes. Cincinnati features a big mauling offensive line, a power running game with a powerful downhill runner and an active, talented defense. Houston is a finesse team. That aspect of this contest does not bode well at all for the Texans. Houston has struggled mightily to sustain a running game, and it seems unlikely that it will break out of that slump. Defensively, as most of you know, they have been a sieve. Cincinnati could be primed to dominate this game on the ground, control the clock and keep Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson on the sidelines. Carson Palmer can really go to work by attacking downfield against a porous Houston secondary. Needless to say, I don't see this as a good matchup at all for the Texans on the road. They must step up their physicality.

Indianapolis gets to sit back and relax. There is almost never a bad time for a bye week, as playing the game at this high of a level takes it toll on every player's body. But the Colts already have a commanding lead in the AFC South and it is not far-fetched to think that each of the other three members of this division could be dealt a loss on Sunday -- including Jacksonville against a horrible Rams team. But maybe more importantly, the Colts get this week to help heal injuries to players such as Bob Sanders, Anthony Gonzalez and several other key contributors. But it isn't like Indianapolis has struggled with these guys out of the lineup. If you asked Peyton Manning & Co. company their preference, they would probably want to keep playing to keep their momentum rolling.

Jacksonville must get some pressure. The Jaguars have just four sacks this year -- worst in the league. Few teams rush the passer as poorly. Meanwhile, Bulger does not move well and lacks dangerous weapons to keep defenses honest. Few protect their quarterback as poorly as the Rams. Jacksonville would be wise to bring added pressure against a suspect offensive line. St. Louis will counter with more max protection schemes in an attempt to isolate Donnie Avery against one of Jacksonville's corners. With his speed, he could make a big play or two in this game in this scenario … if the Jaguars fail to get pressure once again.