AFC West: AFC South


CINCINNATI -- Hello again, Allen Hurns.

The Jacksonville Jaguars rookie receiver wasn’t injured or suspended the past seven weeks. He just wasn’t as noticeable as he was in the season opener, when he caught four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

He was pretty visible on Sunday in the Jaguars’ 33-23 loss to Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium. He caught seven passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came on plays in which he outfought defensive backs and adjusted to poorly thrown balls.

"We do a good job of playing for the ball," said Hurns, who had caught six passes in the Jaguars’ three previous games. "That’s what we’ve been talking about all week, just playing for the ball. If the ball's in our area, get the ball. We wanted to eliminate the turnovers, so when the ball’s in the air we needed to get aggressive with it."

Hurns' first TD catch came on a ball that Bortles was trying to throw in front of him so he could run under it. Instead, the ball was short and Hurns had to fight off cornerback Leon Hall, who never saw the ball.

His second TD catch was a throw that Bortles probably shouldn’t have made. Hurns was bracketed by safety George Iloka in back and cornerback Terence Newman in front, but he outwrestled Newman for the ball at the goal line.

Hurns also had another 28-yard catch in the middle of the field on the drive that ended with Bortles’ interception in the end zone. It was a tough catch between Hall and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur.

"I threw him some bad balls and he fought for them," Bortles said. "He battled his tail off.

"It was an unbelievable job. All of them were really good catches. He understands really well and he has a really good feel for everything going on. He was able to make some really good catches."

Hurns was pleased with his performance but said he wants to do a better job of following this big day better than he did his first. After the four catches for 110 yards and two TDs against Philadelphia, Hurns caught three passes in the next two games. He had 22 catches entering Sunday and had found the end zone just once after the first week, a 63-yard catch and run on his only reception against Indianapolis.

"It’s been ups and downs but each day I’ve been attacking, attacking [and] trying to get better each day," Hurns said. "How I prepare hasn’t changed at all. I just come in each day and try to be consistent. That’s the main thing, just be consistent so I just want to use this to keep getting me better each week and improve."
SAN DIEGO -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Jacksonville Jaguars' 33-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers:

Bryant
Moral victory? Defensive end Red Bryant said he believes this was the first time this season the defense had played a full game with consistent effort. “Personally, I don’t believe in moral victories, but in this situation I feel like the intensity was there,” Bryant said. “The want-to was there, and you can build on that. You had guys fighting, and when you’ve got guys willing to fight, that’s when positive things can happen. Of the previous three games, this was the game that I felt like we played hard from beginning to the end.”

More work for Robinson: Running back Denard Robinson was expected to have an increased role against the Chargers, and he ended up with more touches than starter Toby Gerhart. Robinson rushed nine times for 25 yards and caught three passes for 7 yards. Gerhart had 10 carries for 32 yards and one catch for 8 yards. He also had a fumble. Coach Gus Bradley said Gerhart wasn’t demoted, but the move was intended to mix up the run game.

No momentum: The offense generated 14 points and 200 yards of offense in the first half, but it wasn’t able to keep that going in the third quarter. They had the ball just twice, ran seven plays and totaled 19 yards. One of those possessions ended with an interception. By the time the quarter ended, the Chargers led 27-14 and had control of the game. “We’re a momentum team, and we’ve got to create our own momentum,” receiver Cecil Shorts said.

Colts blow their chances against Denver

September, 8, 2014
9/08/14
2:45
AM ET

DENVER -- The long pauses were usually met with a glance around the locker room, down at the ground or up at the ceiling, before the answers were given. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was short with his answers, and the frustration was heard in his voice during his postgame interview.

The film study during the almost three-hour flight back to Indianapolis for the Colts won’t be centered around how they came from 24 points down before eventually losing 31-24 to the Denver Broncos.

It will be centered on what the Colts did to put themselves in that big hole against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

"We had the opportunities early to convert, get down the field," Colts tight end Dwayne Allen said. "We didn’t capitalize. That’s the story of the game. The second half was the second half, but we couldn’t stay on the field in the first half and give our defense some help. If we would have done that, it might have been a different outcome."

A theme for the Colts that lasted into the second half started on their opening drive. They used their up-tempo offense to get down to Denver’s 36-yard line where they faced a third-and-1.

That's the perfect time for them to use running back Trent Richardson or Ahmad Bradshaw, right?

Nope.

Luck attempted a pass to tight end Coby Fleener that was off target. A 5-yard delay of game penalty while the Colts lined up for a field goal forced them to punt.

The Broncos are too good of a team to waste scoring opportunities, especially in Denver.

That was just the start.

A Luck touchdown right before the end of the half made the score 24-7 and gave the Colts some life, and they had an opportunity to really put the pressure on the Broncos when they started their first drive of the third quarter at Denver’s 46-yard line. The Colts moved the ball until, on third-and-goal from the Denver 3-yard line, receiver Hakeem Nicks caught a short pass and was stopped at the 1.

An opportunity for the Colts to pound the ball with Richardson or Bradshaw this time after not giving it to them on their first series?

Nope, again.

Luck rushed everybody back to the line of scrimmage to try to catch the Broncos off-guard for the fourth-down play. He attempted a quarterback keeper but was met by a handful of Denver defenders behind the line of scrimmage

"It was a stupid decision of mine to go for that QB sneak and get stoned," Luck said. "I didn’t get in, so it was my fault."

After the defense got the ball back, Luck again marched the Colts down the field until they had first and goal from Denver’s 4-yard line.

A 2-yard loss. Incomplete pass. Sack. Field goal.

That's not going to cut it.

"That’s an 11-point swing," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "You’ve just got to do the math, it’s a totally different ball game. … Give Denver all the credit, they played extremely well. You know, you go on the road, you go into a hostile environment like this against a quality football team, a team of this caliber -- you can’t let those opportunities slip away."

Early in the fourth quarter, the Colts forced Denver tight end Julius Thomas to fumble, only to have two defenders fail to pick up the loose ball. The Broncos scored a touchdown three plays later to push their lead to 31-10.

The Broncos are the team that represented the AFC in the Super Bowl last season. The Colts want to be that team this season. What Sunday proved is that great teams know how to take advantage of opportunities, while the Colts blew their chances.

"We had our opportunities," receiver Reggie Wayne said. "Not take anything away from Denver, they did what they had to do to win, but we had our chances. We let it squander away."

Quick Take: Chiefs at Colts

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
11:00
PM ET
Three things to know about next week's Kansas City Chiefs-Indianapolis Colts wild-card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium:

1. Containing Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs running back finished with 106 yards on 13 carries in the first matchup between the two teams on Dec. 22. But those yards don't tell the whole story. Charles gained 37 yards on Kansas City's opening series. That means the Colts held one of the NFL's premier all-around players to only 69 yards the rest of the game. Indianapolis will have to do the same again because Charles has proved that he can run the ball -- he ran for 226 yards against the Colts in 2012 -- and he had 195 yards receiving against the Oakland Raiders in Week 15 this season. Charles finished the season with 1,287 yards rushing, 693 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns.

2. Do it on defense. Yes, Andrew Luck is the Colts' most valuable player, but they'll need their defense to play well. They're heading into the playoffs with the defense getting 11 sacks and forcing eight turnovers during their three-game winning streak. The Colts sacked Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith four times to go with four turnovers in the game. Indianapolis held Kansas City to 287 yards of total offense.

3. Continue to protect the quarterback. The offensive line has done a good job protecting Luck. He was sacked only three times in the final three games of the season. The ability to keep the young quarterback on his feet has helped the Colts' passing game, as he was 26-of-37 for 282 yards in the season finale against Jacksonville on Sunday. Luck also completed 67 percent of his passes to receivers with six touchdowns and only one interception in the final four games of the season. He had completed only 50.5 percent of his passes to his receivers in the first five games without Reggie Wayne.

You know what you're going to get out of receiver T.Y. Hilton. But fellow receivers Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen are about to step into unfamiliar territory. The three have developed a nice continuity with Luck. The playoffs aren't the time for them to have a setback by showing their inexperience. The Colts won't be able to run their no-huddle offense if Luck can't depend on them to get open and catch the ball.
Gud Bradley, Andy ReidAP PhotoGus Bradley and Andy Reid are looking to get off to fast starts with their new teams.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Fans know a lot about their favorite teams, but they don’t have the same depth of knowledge of the 31 other teams in the NFL. That’s not going to be a problem any longer.

Each week the NFL Nation writers will team up Q&A style to help you get a handle on each team. Today, Kansas City Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco help break down Sunday’s matchup.

Michael DiRocco: Is Alex Smith really an upgrade over Matt Cassel?

Adam Teicher: He had better be or the Chiefs are in some trouble. Cassel and Brady Quinn turned over the ball far too many times last season. One thing we know about Smith is that he hasn’t thrown many interceptions. He threw just 10 in his last 25 starts with the 49ers. So he’s been a quarterback who protects the ball, and if he can just do that, he’s already an upgrade over Cassel and Quinn. Another thing: Andy Reid’s West Coast offense will succeed if the quarterback completes a high percentage of throws. Smith completed 70 percent last season. If he can get close to that number this season, he’s even more of an upgrade.

Teicher: How patient will the Jaguars be with Blaine Gabbert on Sunday and this season?

DiRocco: This is a make-or-break season for Gabbert, who must prove he’s capable of being a franchise quarterback. That’s the team’s No. 1 goal for the season, so there will be a certain amount of patience. It does no good to give him a half or one game and yank him because the team will essentially be where it was heading into the season. That being said, if Gabbert really struggles during the first two months of the season, then the team will have its answer and may turn to Chad Henne or the recently signed Ricky Stanzi for the remainder of the season.

DiRocco: What’s the biggest change Andy Reid has brought to Kansas City?

Teicher: It’s a change brought by Reid and John Dorsey, the new general manager. Everybody seems to be pulling in the same direction. The Chiefs went through plenty of infighting the past few years and it was dragging them down. People often had their own agendas or felt they had to align themselves with one person or another. Dorsey and Reid swept that out the door. Winning looks to be the only goal and it certainly appears everybody is on board with that. Of course, it’s easy for a new administration to have everybody on board when it’s undefeated. So it’s an issue to keep an eye on once the Chiefs start losing some games.

Teicher: What are the biggest changes Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell have brought to the Jags?

DiRocco: On the field, it’s on defense, where Bradley is implementing a more aggressive attitude and trying to rebuild the secondary with bigger, more physical cornerbacks -- essentially what he did in Seattle. Off the field, Bradley and Caldwell have changed the culture in the locker room. There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm around the franchise even though everyone knows that the talent level needs a significant upgrade and the team likely isn’t going to reach .500. It was a much-needed boost, because the atmosphere around the team the past few seasons under Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey had become somewhat stale.

DiRocco: Some NFL experts have pegged the Chiefs as a playoff team just one season after finishing 2-14. What are a few things that have to happen for that to become a reality?

Teicher: They have many good players, but from the GM to the coach to the coordinators to the offensive and defensive system to the quarterback to 29 other players who didn’t play for the Chiefs last season, there’s a lot new here. How quickly Reid and his staff can pull everything together will be a key. The Chiefs have a favorable schedule the first half of the season and they need to take advantage because it gets more difficult after that. On the field, the Chiefs have to fix a turnover differential that was minus-24 last season. Their defense and special teams have to do a better job of providing better field position for the offense. This offense won’t make a lot of big plays, and if it has to go 80 yards on every possession, it will be a struggle.

Teicher: What are realistic expectations for the Jags this season in terms of number of wins?

DiRocco: I kind of let that slip in my earlier answer, but a six-win season would be the best-case scenario for the Jaguars. Four or five victories seems more likely, though, especially considering the team has back-to-back road games on the West Coast, plays San Francisco in London, and has to play at Denver, Indianapolis and Houston.

Terrelle Pryor and Andrew LuckUSA TODAY SportsTerrelle Pryor will lead a rebuilding team while Andrew Luck and the Colts will try to build on last season's success.
The Indianapolis Colts surprised the league by finishing with an 11-5 record and making the playoffs behind rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The Oakland Raiders struggled with a 4-12 record. They're expected to have problems again this season as the rebuilding project continues for the Raiders. The teams open the season facing each other on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Mike Wells: So much was made about who the Raiders would start at quarterback earlier this week. It looks like it’ll be Terrelle Pryor. Does he give Oakland the best chance to win, and if so, what makes him so dangerous as a quarterback?

Paul Gutierrez: It appears as though it will be TP2 Time for the Raiders in the opener. And really, it should be. Now, that’s not necessarily an endorsement, but with this team, at this moment, Pryor does at least represent some semblance of hope, what with his skill set. His ability to run should keep the Colts' front seven honest and they won’t be able to simply pin their ears back and rush, like they could Matt Flynn. I believe Flynn is probably a better NFL quarterback at this stage, but with the deficiencies around Oakland’s pocket -- leaky line, inconsistent receivers, injury-prone running back -- Pryor gives the Raiders a better chance. And being that this is a quarterback-driven league, how has Luck dealt with stepping into those huge shoes left by Peyton Manning, and how can Luck avoid the sophomore jinx?

Wells: I’m sure you probably watched Luck one or two times out there in the Bay Area while he was at Stanford, so you know his work ethic should never be questioned, and his demeanor doesn’t allow him to get caught up with the hype. The offensive weapons the Colts put around Luck will make it difficult for him to struggle. Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Oakland’s favorite former receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey at receiver; Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen at tight end to go with the duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard at running back. So the words “sophomore slump” and “Andrew Luck” shouldn’t be on anybody’s mind. Of course that’s if the offensive line does its job and blocks. A lot is being made of Pryor’s ability to be creative with his feet, but what about Darren McFadden -- isn’t he the real threat with running the ball, especially with the Colts being near the bottom of the league in rush defense last season?

Gutierrez: No doubt, especially in a perfect world for the Raiders' offense. If all is working right, and opposing defenses have to at least respect the quarterback’s ability to take off, they can’t key on the quarterback. And that sets up the play-action pass. But for the Raiders to have any success offensively this season, it all starts and ends with a guy who has yet to play more than 13 games in a season.

Yeah, Run DMC had been more Limp DMC of late, but when he’s right, he’s nice. Two years ago, he was playing like a league MVP candidate. Then came the Lisfranc injury that ended his campaign after just six-plus games. And last year, in perhaps the greatest failing of the Raiders’ new regime’s plans, they changed the offense on McFadden from a power scheme to the zone-blocking philosophy. McFadden’s average yards per carry went from a career-high 5.4 yards to 3.3 yards. McFadden is also entering a contract year so yeah, he has something to prove as the Raiders return to the power running game. Speaking of something to prove, you mentioned him earlier: The artist formerly known as DHB around these parts left a lot to be desired after four nondescript seasons in Oakland. Hey, it wasn’t his fault he was drafted so high. How has he adapted to a change of scenery, and how strong is his desire to prove something to the Raiders after they cut him this spring?

Wells: I thought Heyward-Bey would come to Indy with a chip on his shoulder because, well, he did play for the Raiders, where more bad than good comes out of that organization. But Heyward-Bey has only good things to say about the Raiders. He blames himself for a lot of his struggles during his four years in Oakland. He also knows he needs to produce to get rid of that “bust” label. As you know, Heyward-Bey has an incredible work ethic.

The biggest difference here is that he now has a mentor. Wayne is the perfect veteran to guide him. The future Hall of Famer's professional demeanor is exactly what Heyward-Bey needs. The other thing is, Heyward-Bey doesn’t have the pressure of being the No. 1 receiver. Wayne isn’t slowing down any time soon, and the Colts have so many other offensive weapons, as I mentioned earlier, that Heyward-Bey can just let the game come to him. Fans will likely see a number of those weapons because the Raiders don’t have much of a defense. Will nine new starters help them from giving up almost 28 points a game again this season?

Gutierrez: That’s the plan. At least, that’s the hope for the Raiders. Yeah, they have nine new starters on defense, with the only two returning starters being defensive end Lamarr Houston, who is moving from the left side to the more pass rush-specific right side, and strong safety Tyvon Branch, who endured an injury-plagued season for the first time in his career. Of course, a million times of course, the Raiders kept their defense vanilla in the preseason ... and not just for what coach Dennis Allen would term "competitive reasons." In fact, Sunday will be only the first time the Raiders will field their entire starting defense at the same time. Injuries wreaked havoc in exhibition games.

There was a glimmer of hope, though, with the run-stuffing play of defensive tackle Pat Sims in the exhibition finale. And if Nick Roach, who will wear the green dot on his helmet, can rally the defense from his middle linebacker position, the Raiders' defense should be better this season. Emphasis on "could." Can the Raiders -- with virtually an entire new defense and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who schemed daily against Luck at Stanford -- be a detriment to the Colts? Or are they simply of the mindset that they have to worry only about themselves?

Wells: The only way the Raiders will be able to rattle Luck is if the offensive line doesn’t do its job and allows its quarterback to take a pounding all game long. And even then, that may not be enough to beat the Colts. Let’s not forget, Luck was sacked 41 times and hit more than 100 times last season. That didn’t stop him from setting a rookie record for passing yards, attempts and 300-yard games. So I don’t think the Raiders will be to do much against Luck & Co. on Sunday afternoon.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Rds. 4-7

April, 27, 2013
4/27/13
10:00
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for Rounds 4-7 of the 2013 NFL draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at noon ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Rds. 2-3

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
4:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2013 NFL draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 6 p.m. ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: 2013 NFL draft, Round 1

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
5:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

We'll be analyzing every pick from 1 to 32. We'll get started an hour early at 7 p.m. ET, so submit your questions and comments and we'll see you there.

Live: ESPN.com #bloggermock draft

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
11:45
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they play general manager for their divisions and execute a 2013 first-round mock draft.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at noon ET. You can also participate via Twitter using the hashtag #bloggermock. See you there.

NFL: Week 15 knee-jerk reactions

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
1:44
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you might even have heard it here. So, are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

NFL: Week 14 knee-jerk reactions

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
1:37
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you might even have heard it here. So, are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

NFL: Week 13 knee-jerk reactions

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
1:42
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you might even have heard it here. So, are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

NFL: Week 12 knee-jerk reactions

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
1:30
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you might even have heard it here. So, are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

NFL: Week 11 knee-jerk reactions

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
1:30
PM ET
You’ve heard the chatter by the sports pundits and on the talk shows. Heck, you may have even heard it here. So are the knee-jerk reactions about your team based in reality? Our NFL bloggers weigh in.

NFC Knee-jerk Reactions | AFC Knee-jerk Reactions

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