AFC South 2017 Week 5 Preview & Predictions

By Joanne Kong

Twitter: @kongfu4u  AFC South Week 5

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-2)

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)

After a stunning victory in London against the (now) not so threatening Baltimore Ravens, the Jaguars were unable to keep the momentum going into week 4.

If you didn’t know, or somehow forgot, in week 4 the Jaguars lost to the…wait for it…New York Jets.  These are the same New York Jets that were considered in preseason more in contention for a high draft pick than a post-season berth and who are are currently 2-2, meaning that after week 4, they were also tied in the AFC East with the…wait for it…New England Patriots.  In the week 5 Thursday night game, the Patriots defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-14, making them 3-2.  But the Patriots still are not top of the AFC East.  That honor belongs to the Buffalo Bills at 3-1.

In week 5, the Jaguars will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers, who also devastated the Baltimore Ravens in week 4, 26-9.

What can we expect in week 5?

When watching the Jaguars, its often unclear whether the Jaguars are good or the opposing team is just that bad.  It’s an issue I’ve had with this team for years.  But unlike previous seasons, the Jaguars have shown vast improvement in defense, while the offense seems to have stagnated, especially with the loss of Allan Robinson in the first game of the season.

  • Is the Jaguars offense good enough to compete with Big Ben?

In week 4, Blake Bortles had only 140 passing yards, 1 TD, an interception and a sack. Luckily, the Jaguars have found their ground game with the addition of rookie running back, Leonard Fournette, who has also been the team’s greatest weapon.

The Jaguars aren’t the only teams that have found success with running backs this season, but there’s no denying how Fournette has helped this offense, especially with an inconsistent Bortles at quarterback.  Fournette was limited on Wednesday practice with an ankle injury, but he practiced in full the rest of the week and should good to go on Sunday.

According to Football Outsiders, the Jets defense was ranked 24th entering week 4 when they beat the Jaguars.  The Steelers are currently ranked 3rd overall with the 4th ranked pass defense and 10th ranked run defense.  According to ESPN, the Steelers defense has allowed an average of only 154 passing yards, second least in the league, and an average of 113 rushing yards.  The rankings aren’t absolute, but they can gauge how this Jaguars offense might struggle or succeed.  And at this point, it certainly looks challenging.

The Steelers have had their greatest success defending wide receivers other than WR1 and WR2 (ranked 3rd), and tight ends (ranked 8th).  Allen Hurns and Marquise Lee has found success in the past two weeks, picking up the slack for Allen Robinson, but there’s not much depth behind them.  Plus, Lee is questionable to play with a rib injury.  Don’t be surprised if Hurns finds the end zone in week 5, but it’s Fournette that will be the biggest challenge for this Steelers defense.  If there’s a weakness in the Steelers defense, it’s against the run and against RB receptions (ranked 16th), so Fournette should be a formidable challenge.

Allen Hurns – AP Photos

If the Jaguars offense can create some running lanes and control time of possession, the Jaguars have potential to leave Pittsburgh with a win.

  • The Jaguars Defense.

The Jaguars defense has been one of the more surprising defenses this season.  Sure, they’re not the Denver Broncos or the Houston Texans, but they have found success, helping to lead the team to a three-way tie for first in the AFC South.

According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars defense is currently ranked 1st against the pass with the only weakness being against WR2 (ranked 21).  With tight coverage on Antonio Brown by the Jaguars secondary, and Martavis Bryant questionable with an illness, expect wide receiver, Juju Smith-Schuster, to see some open opportunities.  Smith-Schuster has already had 8 receptions of 14 targets for 103 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns this season.  Tight end Jesse James will also have some opportunity to move the ball.

Regardless, expect the Jaguars defense to have a defensive touchdown.

  • Betting on the Underdog.

If you check the NFL lines, you’ll note that the Jaguars at +7.5 have the largest money line of any game this week at +290.  So, if you feel confident in the Jaguars defense holding Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown while the offense performs like they did in London, than that’s the bet for you.

Even with both defenses highly ranked, expect this to be a fairly high scoring game.

In the end…

The Jacksonville Jaguars win (barely).

HOUSTON TEXANS (2-2)

Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans

The Kansas City Chiefs are 4-0.  The Houston Texans are 2-2, winning 57-14 against the Tennessee Titans.  Yeah, I said the Texans scored 57 points.  That’s more points than the first three weeks combined (53).

DeShaun Watson had his best game in his rookie year completing 25 of 34 passes for 283 passing yards, 4 touchdowns and just one interception.

Can the Texans repeat in week 5, or will the Chiefs go 5-0?

What can we expect in week 5?

  • Can the Texans defend stand up to the Chiefs #1 run game?

The Texans have hit their stride with DeShaun Watson.  I’ve said it before, only to jinx the Texans, and I’m certain this week will be no exception.  The Texans will host the Chiefs at home, but the Chiefs aren’t the Titans, and unless quarterback Alex Smith leaves the game, the Texans have a fight ahead of them.

In week 4, the Texans looked incredible.  There’s no arguing how dominant they were against their division rivals.  And, as always, the defense showed up to play.

According to Football Outsiders, the Texans defense is ranked 4th overall, equally effective against the pass and the run.  If you think this means trouble for the Chiefs, you’d be right.  With no spread, neither teams are considered underdogs.  Although, the Texans do have home field advantage.

On defense, the Texans has been solid against WR1, but vulnerable against WR2 (ranked 28th) and other wide receivers (ranked 20th) over the first four weeks of the season.  This leaves an open opportunity for wide receiver Albert Wilson.  Wilson has caught 14 of 17 targets for 140 receiving yards and a touchdown this season.  Expect him to see over a hundred receiving yards in week 5.  Tight end, Travis Kelce, likely won’t have the same success he saw against the Washington Redskins in week 4 (7 of 8 for 111 receiving yards and a touchdown), leaving him under 50 receiving yards.

According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs offense are currently ranked 1st overall, and 1st in the run game.  Expect Texas to struggle against rookie phenom running back Kareem Hunt.  The run will be a major factor in this game, and if successful, the Chiefs will be 5-0.

  • Can the Texans have a repeat of week 4?

There are a lot of people on the Watson band-wagon, and its well deserved.  The Texans have seen a lot of heart-ache in the quarterback position.

However, don’t expect Watson to have a repeat of week 4 against the Chiefs.

According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs defense are ranked 11th overall, 9th against the pass and 25th against the run.  In week 4, the Chiefs struggled against Washington, so they will definitely have some difficulty against the Texans.

The weakness against the run should leave opportunity for running back Lamar Miller and DeShaun Watson to scramble to move the chains.  But, will it be enough?  Week 4 was Miller’s best game of the season (75 rush yards, a rushing touchdown, 56 receiving yards and a passing touchdown), which included his first rushing and passing touchdowns of the season.

With that said, I expect DeShaun Watson to have a rushing touchdown against the Chiefs.

As for the pass game, the return of Will Fuller created a lot of opportunities for Watson.  Don’t expect Fuller to be as successful against the Chiefs.  Instead, I’d put my money on DeAndre Hopkins.  The Chiefs have much more difficulty defending WR1 (ranked 24th) than WR2 (ranked 1st), and Hopkins is one of the most targeted WRs in the NFL this season.

With more experience at quarterback and a tricky head coach in Andy Reid…

The Kansas City Chiefs win.

TENNESSEE TITANS (2-2)

Tennessee Titans @ Miami Dolphins (1-2)

After a devastating loss, the Tennessee Titans might enter week 5 without Marcus Mariota.

The Dolphins have lost two weeks in a row, going scoreless in week 4 against the New Orleans Saints.

What can we expect in week 5?

  • With or Without Mariota.

With or without Mariota, the Tennessee defense needs to get back on track.  According to Football Outsiders, the Tennessee defense is currently ranked 31st overall, 29th against the pass and 21st against the run.  It’s no wonder the Texans scored 57 points.

The key to a Titans victory will be the defense’s ability to hold Jay Cutler and the Dolphins.  The Titans defense has only gotten worse as the season progresses, and has definitely struggled compared to last season, but Cutler has been abysmal for the Dolphins thus far.

If the defense is able to hold the Dolphins offense, whether Mariota plays or not, the Titans might be able to win.

The Titans are experiencing a recurring problem, a shortage of receivers.  Tight end Delanie Walker, wide receiver Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker will need to step up and make plays against this Swiss cheese Miami pass defense.

  • The Miami Dolphins can win?

We are looking at the very familiar Cutler that lead the Chicago Bears to a 3-13 record in 2016.  Scoreless against the New Orleans Saints, the Dolphins are playing at home and hoping for some magic, or maybe some divine intervention.

The Dolphins defense is ranked 29st overall, 31st against the pass and 2nd against the run.

With a poor pass defense, the Dolphins would love to see Mariota on the side lines.  In week 4, the Titans quarterbacks struggled in the pass game, having only 109 passing yards combined.  Matt Cassell will be significant downgrade if he starts for the Titans.

The Titans scored only 14-points in week 4, both rushing touchdowns by Mariota.

If the Dolphins can limit the pass game, shut down DeMarco Murry and Derrick Henry in the run game, a win is in their future.

Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi had a breakout in Week 2, but has been hampered due to a knee injury and, as a result, hasn’t been getting the volume over the last two weeks.  Ajayi sat out Thursday’s practice, but got a full session Friday and was left off the final report, so he’s good to go and may be the difference in this matchup.

With the way the Titans are regressing, and the uncertainty surrounding Mariota, expect the Dolphins to bounce back.

The Miami Dolphins win at home.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (1-3)

San Francisco 49ers (0-4) @ Indianapolis Colts

The San Francisco 49ers have yet to win a game this season. But ever since the week 3 Thursday night game, when the 49ers played against the Los Angeles Rams, I’m in love with both teams.  Probably the most exciting and definitely among the highest scoring games this season, these two teams have at least been entertaining.  And isn’t that what sports is all about?

With Andrew Luck still out, Jacoby Brissett will start once again.  Brissett was decent until week 4, when the Colts lost 18-46 to the Seattle Seahawks.  Can Brissett and the Colts pull out a win against the 0-4 49ers?

What can we expect in week 5?

  • Which Team is worse?

This is a tough question to answer.

And yes, I said worse, not better.  With both teams ranked at the bottom of the league, these two teams are trying to climb up from the depths and see some sunlight.

Offensively for the Colts, Brissett has not been the quarterback the Colts had hoped for in leading the offense with their only win against the lowly Cleveland Browns 31-28.  At least with Luck, the Colts have some potential for a consistent offense.

According to Football Outsiders, the Colts have the worst overall offensive efficiency in the league.  Of course, the 49ers are have the second worst offensive efficiency, so at least that’s not a point of distinction.  The Colts are ranked 32nd offensively in the pass game and 28th in the run.  Is there anything else that needs to be said about the Colts this season?

In week 4, Donte Moncrief had his first touchdown of the season, catching 3 of 3 targets for 30 receiving yards.  The Colts had only had 157 passing yards with just 16 completed receptions.

Week 5 won’t be much easier, with Jack Doyle out, T.Y. Hilton should have more targets.

Hang in there Colts fans, Luck is supposed to return in week 6.

The 49ers aren’t much better.  The 49ers lost week 4 against the Arizona Cardinals in overtime, 15-18.  With an offensive efficiency ranking of 31st overall, 29th with the pass and 26th with the run, the 49ers face a similar offensive problem with Brian Hoyer behind center.  In Hoyer’s defense, he does have experience behind him.  It’s unfortunate that its mostly been on the bench.

On the defensive side, the Colts are ranked 26th overall, with an equally bad defense against the pass and run game (24 and 23, respectively).  The Colts have allowed an average of 283.5 passing yards, 112.8 rushing yards and 34 points per game.  And going back to the Browns game in week 3, the Colts defense allowed the Browns to score 28 points, the most of any team this season playing against the Browns.

As for the 49ers, their defense has allowed an average of 240.3 passing yards, 106 rushing yards and 23.5 points per game.  Slightly better, and the 49ers were able to hold the Seattle Seahawks to 12 points in week 2, losing 9-12.

Both teams have struggled on both sides of the ball.  In week 5, it will be a matter of which team just plays better offensively, defensively and avoids penalties.  What did you think I was going to say…there’s really no in-depth analysis here.

After the dust clears…

The San Francisco 49ers will have their first win of the season.

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