AFC South: Week 17 Preview and Predictions
The AFC South got a lot more interesting after the Houston Texans took an unexpected beating at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday. Suddenly, the team that was once considered the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl looked mighty mortal. The Colts, meanwhile, continue their unlikely run to the playoffs, and receive head coach Chuck Pagano back on the sidelines this week after his battle with leukemia. He could provide a boost, both emotionally and practically, to a team that was already surging without him. Let’s take a closer look at the two Week 17 games in the AFC South and make some predictions.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+4) at Tennessee Titans, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST
A 2-13 team travels to take on a 4-10 squad. This isn’t exactly compelling theater, but storylines still abound. Will Tim Tebow be in a Jaguars uniform next year? Will Chris Johnson and his albatross of a contract return to the Titans? Can Tennessee ever bounce back from the 55-7 shellacking they took in Lambeau Field last weekend?
“It’s embarrassing to lose 50-something to seven,” Munchak said after the Packers game. “That’s just not acceptable and we let it happen. Thank God we have that (game this week) because I wouldn’t want this to be our last game of the year.”
Indeed, even if the Jaguars have the worse record of the two teams, they’re playing infinitely harder than the Titans right now. The Jags actually took the New England Patriots to the wire last weekend, while the Titans suffered one of the most embarrassing losses of the season. Always take the team that looks like it’s still playing football versus the one that looks like it’s been mailing it in for the last quarter of the season. I love the Jags +4 here.
Houston Texans (-7) at Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST
There were many distressing signs in the Houston Texans’ loss to the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, but there was no more distressing symptom of the team’s failure than their third down rate. The Texans converted an astonishingly bad one of 11 third downs in the game. The Vikings have a good defense, but it isn’t that good. The failure, instead, rests on the offense’s total lack of execution. “There’s many, many issues going on,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “But there is one consistent issue and the consistent issue is third-and-long.”
The Texans could have clinched home field advantage in the playoffs with a win over the Vikings last week. Now they have a chance to do it again against a Colts team hungry to prove their worth against one of the league’s top teams.
“It’s one of most important games we ever played,” Texans tackle Duane Brown said of the upcoming match against the Colts. “We put a lot of emphasis on this game, how important it was, but obviously we came out just flat and came out without the intensity, without the sense of urgency that was needed. I think going to Indy we just got to bounce back. It’s something that we’ve been doing all year. It shouldn’t have taken a loss like this for us to realize it, but I think this group will be able to do it.”
This line started out this week at -5 in favor of the Texans, but has swung up to -7. This was the opposite of what I predicted would happen; I figured Vegas (and savvy gamblers) would get wise to the fact that the Colts were an underdog at home against a Texans team that failed to score a touchdown at home against a vastly inferior team last week. Apparently no one saw that Vikings game, because the Colts are actually greater underdogs now than they were at the beginning of the week. It beats me why. Take the Colts at +7 here.