AFC South: Texans On Fire, Tennessee Ice Cold
By Steve Shackelford
Cold, Hard, Football Facts AFC South Beat Reporter
All is good in the great state of Texas. Gary Kubiak's Houston Texans currently reside in the top spot of our Quality Stats Power Rankings, making them the best team in football. The disparity between teams in the AFC South is large and likely to continue. Jacksonville (26), Indianapolis (29), and Tennessee (32) are all banished to the rankings basement after Week 2.
Here's 5 things to look for in Week 3:
1. Houston primed to maintain perfection
Visiting Denver in Week 3, the first-place Houston Texans take on an up-and-down Broncos squad. Following a turnover filled Monday Night Football appearance against the Atlanta Falcons, Denver sits at fifteenth overall in the NFL here.
The highly-touted Broncos defense is nowhere near as dominant as the reputation attached to 2011's squad. In our Defensive Hog Index, the Broncos are hanging at seventeenth overall, and likely won't be any match for Houston in Week 3. Look for the Texans to start 3-0 while easily moving the ball on Denver.
2. Luck could double-up on wins
Love is lovelier second-time around. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck led the Colts to their first victory of the season and managed to avoid starting his career 0-2, a very realistic possibility. With the Colts in second place in the AFC South, the outlook is positive for another Luck win in Week 3.
Taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars (26), the Colts (29) are in for a pretty fair matchup. The young quarterback isn't exactly racing up the Real Quarterback Rating charts (29) and the Jaguars are decent so far against opposing passers(18).
Taking on Jacksonville could go either way for Luck, but his odds for success will improve if he can continue to avoid turning the ball over. Luck managed zero interceptions in Week 2. A huge improvement after an embarrassing four-turnover debut Week 1.
3. Awful numbers for Chris Johnson
Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. Such is the case of Titans' running back Chris Johnson. Once a powerhouse at the position, Johnson is averaging a head-in-the-sand worthy 1.1 YPA so far in 2012. Carrying the ball eight times last week, Johnson's managed to rush the ball only nineteen times total this season.
On Johnson's pathetic rushes, he owns 21 Yds for the year. At this rate, Johnson is on track for a 2012 season with 168 Yds, if he manages to stay on the field. Maintaining high yard totals for Johnson isn't essential to the Titans' overall success, but at 0-2, and with a struggling Jake Locker, the time is now for Johnson to step up in Week 3 as Tennessee takes on the Detroit Lions. Currently twenty-fifth overall, the Lions aren't impossible to beat, but nothing is going right for the Titans these days.
4. Interception-happy Manning could put on repeat performance versus the Texans
Historically, Peyton Manning is top-notch against the Houston Texans. Prior to sitting out the 2011 season, Manning put together a 16-2 record against Houston - that was then, this is now. The Texans are looking down at the rest of the league, and Manning proved he is able to throw interceptions with the likes of Andrew Luck. Defensively, the Texans are an unstoppable force with a Wade Phillips calling the shots.
Through Week 2, the Texans defense is the best in the league on third down by a wide margin. Owning a 10.53 percent rate of opposition success on third down so far, the Texans are nearly twice as good as the next best team - the Philadelphia Eagles (22.22). Throwing 3 INTs to a nineteenth-ranked Atlanta Falcons defense, Manning could be in for a long day against Houston.
5. Quarterback trouble in Jacksonville
Although Blaine Gabbert left the Jacksonville's 27-7 loss to the Houston Texans with a hamstring injury, early reports indicate that he will be starting in Week 3. Backup quarterback Chad Henne finished out last Sunday's game, and managed to fumble a snap in the process. Typical.
The Jaguars take on the Colts in Week 2, and Gabbert could use the relief. Compared to Houston, playing Indianapolis is a cakewalk. This game could go either way. Jacksonville might just snap their losing streak this week.