All offseason long, AFC South outsiders talked about how the AFC South was going to be good this year. They predicted the Jaguars would make the leap. The Texans and Colts would fight for a playoff spot. They ere only sour on the Titans because of Mike Mularkey and exotic “methmouth” (I didn’t think of this, but I am thankful for those that did, even though I do kind of like Tennessee’s offensive scheme). These people just wanted to hop on some hot AFC South action before the bandwagon got rolling so they could say they saw this coming. To be first (!) without the emotional investment.
Where are they now now that it didn’t happen? I know: They are nowhere to be found. Instead, they are complaining that the Texans and Colts are playing Sunday night. They are going to moan about wasting a Thursday Night watching the Titans and Jaguars.
Screw them. The AFC South has always been like this. And I love it. They were all wrong. The AFC South isn’t good, but it’s fun as hell. It’s a real cowboy’s dog. I can’t wait for Sunday night. I can’t wait for Titans-Jags. I’m so stoked, brah, to watch some miserable 3-9 versus 4-8 football later this month. I’m dying to see the 8-8 AFC South champion beat the Bengals in the first round of the playoffs. This is just one of many examples showing just how beautiful life can be.
1.) A Very Bad Offense Against A Very Bad Defense
The Texans have the worst offense in the NFL. If you haven’t, you should read the film room article I wrote earlier this week. I’ll sit here and wait until you finish that.
Now that you’re done, let’s move along. The Colts have the 31st defense in DVOA, ahead of only the Lions, but I’ll just call them the worst defense in the NFL because that sounds better, more poetic, and they aren’t missing players like Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy.
Houston’s offense has suffered from an offensive line that can’t create space between the tackles. They aren’t getting movement at the first level. They are missing linebackers. Lamar Miller NEEDS space; instead, all they have given him is some neolithic torture cage. It’s gotten better now that they have started to run the outside zone more. This needs to continue. The passing game is bad not because of scheme, or pass blocking, or a lack of receivers, but because of Brock Osweiler. It’s all on him. He’s missing open throws. He’s overreacting to pressure. He’s not placing the ball where only his receivers can get it. He’s throwing short instead of deep. He’s been a really bad quarterback.
On the other hand, the Colts’ defense is really bad because of Ryan Grigson. The dude had four years of cheap Andrew Luck to add talent and build a defense. He didn’t. Instead, Grigson missed on Bjoern Werner and used cap space on older free agents. The last three years, the Colts were able to be mediocre as a result. But this season, all of that frailty has led to broken hips and the entire thing has fallen apart. It’s not going to get better. They have an old and bad defense. I mean, their best pass rusher is Erik Walden. Their only great player is Vontae Davis.
Watching these two battle it out is going to be beautiful. It’s going to be a slap fight.
If you looooooove the Houston Texans and Brock Osweiler doesn’t play well against this atrocious secondary, just give up on him forever. This is a game he should play well in. This is a game he has to play well in.
2.) Right Side Weakside
The Colts have given up 20 sacks this season. That is four per game. Their adjusted sack rate is 8.9%. Their pressure rate is 20.7%, which is 30th in the league. The goal has been to protect Andrew Luck. The Colts haven’t done it. Even after he suffered a kidney injury last year, these vows have all been empty and hollow. He should have just signed with Denver this offseason and left this milk toast hellhole just like that Papa John kissing, Omaha yelling, robotic quick pass offense mastermind did.
The problem with Indianapolis’ offensive line is the right side is atrocious. Composed of Denzelle Good and Joe Reitz, it’s been awful. These two are the main reason why that swamp monster has had to to play through a blitzkrieg on every drop back. The left side with Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort, and Ryan Kelly anchoring the center is above average and they do a fine job.
If you are Romeo Crennel, what do you do? I’ll tell you what you do. You put Jadeveon Clowney on the right side against Joe Reitz and let him pillage. He’s been awesome against the run game. He can run from the backside unblocked and flash across the line into ball carriers. He destroys pullers on power and trap plays. He’s finally starting to fill up that boxscore. His pass rush has left more to be desired. This is the game where he can make an impact on both the ground and the air, especially so if he’s left on his own against the right side of the Colts’ line.
3.) Infirmary Ward
The one hangup for the Texans’ defense is that Andrew Luck is really good, and he’s been really good against the Texans. He’s 5-1 against Houston, with his only loss coming in the City of Houston during his rookie year. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and 1,385 yards against Houston. He rears back and drops bombs against the Texans, no matter the iteration.
I was lying when I said there was one hangup. There’s actually two hangups. The second is that the Texans’ secondary is ravaged by injury. Kareem Jackson missed last week because of a hamstring injury and is expected to play this week. Johnathan Joseph left last week with a concussion and is also expected to play. Nobody knows how these two will play all stitched up from recent injuries. Any sort of hampering is bad news since Joseph will probably be tasked covering T.Y. Hilton, and Kareem Jackson will bounce around the slot. At safety, Quintin Demps is out with a calf injury. He’s slow and athletically challenged, but he’s a veteran who has a good sniffer for the ball and knows what offenses are looking to do. With him out, Corey Moore will be back there. Luck and the Colts should run combination routes to highlight Moore and throw directly at him.
If the Texans’ pass rush really gets going, it will help things. But Luck has played with poor pass protection for most of his career. He’s great at stepping up in the pocket, avoiding sacks, and throwing passes at the last second. It’s going to be up to Houston’s secondary to be at least average in coverage for the Texans to win this game, even if the pass rush is monstrous.
4.) Witches, Goblins, and Joe Marciano
Do you feel that? The cold wind blows. The gouging gourds are plump and orange, laying soft and glowing underneath a complete pearl moon in the gardens of ghouls, and ancient goblins, and witches, and warlords, while a Ramones song plays in the background. Right now, you’ll be hearing lots of spoooooky stories, like the fact that there is a spoooooky skeleton inside your body right now.
Still, nothing is more insidious. Nothing is more sinister. Nothing is more terrifying than what Joe Marciano has done to the Texans’ special teams.
I’m done trying to make sense of it. Every year, the Texans have been a disaster on special teams no matter what they do. No matter the kicker, punter, coach, returner, or the amount of speed they add to the roster, it’s bad. It will always be bad. This season, they deserve every bad thing that happens to them on special teams. I mean, they used Jay Prosch as a gunner against Minnesota last week and got burned for a touchdown because of it.
Nobody talks about special teams until something bad or good happens. The Colts have the best special teams in the division and are first in special teams DVOA. The Texans are 30th and are again in the bottom of the league. The Colts have two of the best specialists in the game with Adam Vinateri and Pat McAfee. This game is going to be close, like most Colts games are. It’s going to be a one possession game. It seems like the type of game where a special teams play can be the difference. I have a strong feeling that the Colts are going to be the team that makes this play.
5.) Big Game Sunday Night
Unlike the first five weeks that offered cheap wins or measuring stick games, this is a very important game. It’s bigly important for both these teams to win. If Houston wins, they will be two games up on Indianapolis and the scary feelings from the Minnesota game should subside. If the Colts win, there will be a tie for first place in the AFC South. If the Titans beat the Browns, which they should do, and the Colts beat the Texans, there will be a three way tie atop the AFC South. An extra layer of importance for Houston is that they are playing Denver next week, a game they will probably lose because a bad offense against a great defense is usually a L. If Houston loses these next two games, things are going to be gross and hideous. I’ll probably leave and go backpack for a few weeks until the hate and pain on the internet subsides.
Sunday night is very important.