AFC South: 2012 Week 7 coverage

Wrap-up: Raiders 26, Jaguars 23 (OT)

October, 21, 2012
Thoughts on the Jaguars’ 26-23 overtime loss to the Raiders in Oakland:

What it means: The Jaguars fell to 1-5 as they blew a third-quarter, two-touchdown lead on the West Coast. Everyone else in the AFC South won, which means the Jaguars are two wins off the pace of the Colts, who they’ve beaten, and the Titans.

What I didn’t like: Receiver Cecil Shorts lost a fumble on the third play of overtime in an absolute worst-case scenario. The turnover gave the Raiders the ball well within Sebastian Janikowski’s field-goal range with the ability to win it with a kick since the Jaguars had had a possession. The Raiders simply centered the ball and let Janikowski hit from 40 yards for the win. It was Jacksonville’s only giveaway of the game, and it was deadly.

Injury concerns: The Jaguars might have survived the early loss of Maurice Jones-Drew to a left foot injury, but when quarterback Blaine Gabbert was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a left shoulder injury it was more than the offense could handle. While Gabbert posted a 123.6 passer rating, Chad Henne couldn’t manage half that with a 54.4, completing less than half his passes.

More of a rush: A typically anemic pass rush generated two sacks and six hits on Carson Palmer, one of which forced a fumble. Palmer missed on 20 of his 46 passes and threw a pick to Derek Cox.

Can’t win with it: The Jaguars converted just one of 15 third downs and failed to convert their one fourth-down attempt.

What’s next: The Jaguars travel to Green Bay in the third game of the season against the NFC North. Jacksonville has lost at Minnesota and to Chicago.

Wrap-up: Colts 17, Browns 13

October, 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 17-13 win over the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Colts are at .500 after recording their third home win and have surpassed last season's total just six games into the 2012 season.

What I liked: A team that has struggled to run and to stop the run did both. The Colts turned 37 carries into 148 rushing yards with Vick Ballard and Delone Carter doing better with their chances and Andrew Luck running for two short scores. The previous Colts quarterback to score twice on the ground was Ricky Turner in 1988. The rush defense also fared quite well, at least in part because rookie back Trent Richardson was unable to play in the second half with the rib injury he suffered last week. The Browns managed just 55 yards.

What the Browns didn’t like: The dose of good fortune (for the Colts) that came with fewer than seven minutes left in the game, when rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden hit the mark on a play that would have put the Browns ahead, but receiver Josh Gordon dropped a long touchdown pass.

Good news: Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who's battling leukemia, was out of the hospital and watched the win from his family's home.

Welcome back: Inside linebacker Pat Angerer, who broke a foot in the preseason, appeared in his first game of the year. While the Colts didn’t record a sack, Angerer had two of their quarterback hits.

What’s next: The Colts, who’ve played four of their six games at home, head for Tennessee, where they face the 3-4 Titans. The winner of that one will stand as the second-best team in the AFC South.

Wrap-up: Titans 35, Bills 34

October, 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Titans’ 35-34 win over the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium:

What it means: The Titans won their second game in a row and improved their record to 3-4, keeping their hopes of getting into the playoff mix alive. It was their first road win of the season.

What I liked: Against a terrible run defense, Chris Johnson did what a good back should do -- he ran wild. He turned 18 carries into 195 yards and two touchdowns, including an 83-yard home run that was once the sort of play opponents feared on any touch of Johnson's. Jamie Harper added two short touchdown runs. In their first five games, they’d combined for just one score on the ground.

What I also liked: Cornerback Jason McCourty pulled in a crucial interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the game that gave the Titans a chance to win it. And Matt Hasselbeck converted a fourth-and-9 from the Bills’ 15 with a touchdown pass to Nate Washington that provided the winning margin.

Signs of life: Two defensive ends who’ve been too quiet combined to create a big takeaway when Kamerion Wimbley forced a Fitzpatrick fumble that Derrick Morgan recovered. That turnover led to a touchdown.

The lingering concern: Missed tackles remain a problem, and it’s clear the Titans are unable to coach the players that they have to tackle better. They need better players who tackle better. The Titans' 7.3 yards per carry average was offset a bit by the 6.9 yards per carry the Bills managed.

The question that must be asked: I have no doubt the Titans will turn back to Jake Locker if his left shoulder is sufficiently healed, but the fan base is going to be eager to dissect the move. With Hasselbeck at the helm of a two-game winning streak, and with a beatable team coming to Nashville, why mess with the formula?

What’s next: The Titans host AFC South rival Indianapolis. The Colts’ win over Cleveland put them at 3-3. It’s a big game for establishing who ranks as the second-best team in the division.

Rapid Reaction: Texans 43, Ravens 13

October, 21, 2012

HOUSTON -- Thoughts on the Texans' 43-13 pounding of the Ravens at Reliant Stadium on Sunday:

What it means: At 6-1, the Texans own the best record in the AFC, and with a win over the Ravens in their pocket, they are in an advantageous position to set up a playoff bye and home-field advantage in the postseason. They showed a nice bounce-back ability, recovering from the pounding they suffered a week ago at the hands of the Packers, exploiting matchups and showing themselves to be far better in the playmaker department.

What I liked on offense: The Texans wisely attacked the Ravens’ secondary in their first game without injured cornerback Lardarius Webb. Andre Johnson has had a relatively quiet season, but had no problem routinely getting open, mostly against corner Jimmy Smith. Matt Schaub also did well finding tight end Owen Daniels. The Texans spread out the carries as they used Ben Tate, but Arian Foster still gained 98 yards and had two scores to round out the offensive effort.

What I also liked on defense: Whitney Mercilus had a sack fumble and Connor Barwin had a sack for a safety on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. Antonio Smith had back-to-back fourth-quarter sacks of Joe Flacco. With pressure and pretty good coverage, the Texans never let Flacco find any sort of comfort zone.

Bounce-back effort: Cornerback Johnathan Joseph (groin) got called for a couple of penalties, but appeared far more effective than he had been the past two games. He picked off a fluttery ball from Flacco that was tipped by J.J. Watt and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.

What’s next: The Texans have a bye before returning to action with a trip to Buffalo. The remaining home schedule is hardly intimidating with the Bills, Jaguars, Colts and Vikings.