By Steve Shackelford
Cold, Hard, Football Facts AFC South Beat Reporter
The AFC South crammed a lot of action into two games.
The undefeated Houston Texans dominated struggling division rival Tennessee Titans, while the Jacksonville Jaguars laid down like a mat to welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to town. The Indianapolis Colts didn’t take the field, kicking off the first weekend of byes.
Week 4 went as expected in terms of wins and losses, but the some of the action on the field was certainly a surprise.
Here are five things learned in Week 4:
1. The dominant Texans have a legit shot at 16-0
The Houston Texans are on fire so far in 2012 behind star second-year defender J.J. Watt, who may be the best defender in the game right now. Watt is up to 7.5 total sacks on the season, an average of nearly two per game, and is striking fear into quarterbacks around the league,.
For the first time in the Texans franchise history, they are 4-0, and Watt’s performance is clearly making an impact on their record.
It’s still too early, but a perfect regular season record might not be out of the question for Houston.
The Texans are absolutely dominant right now: back at No. 1 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings after a one-week hiatus and strong by every single measure.
Houston ranks no worse than No. 6 in any one of our individual indicators (Real Passing YPA) and are No. 1 in Scoreability and No. 1 on the Relativity Index, a stat which by itself predicts winners in nearly 70 percent of NFL games, according to the Predictive Rate of Victory charts at CHFF Insider.
The big question mark is the quality of the opposition: Houston has faced the Dolphins, Jaguars, Broncos and Titans, none of which has a winning record right now.
They'll be tested soon enough, with big showdowns later this month in back-to-back weeks vs. the Packers and Ravens. Both those games are at home.
The biggest hurdle after that is a Monday night visit to Foxboro on Dec. 10. That's about as big as a test can get: outdoors, up north, at night, in the cold, verse a legendary coach-QB duo that rarely loses at home.
If the Texans can get to 12-0 by that point, it will be the most heavily hyped game of 2012.
2.Hurt Locker knocked out again
Titans quarterback Jake Locker left their game against the Houston Texans halfway through the first quarter after taking a devastating hit. Locker remained on the ground for several minutes following the punishing uncontested hit capped off by a J.J. Watt shot to Locker’s shoulder.
The Titans were left with no choice but to hand the ball over to Matt Hasselbeck. The veteran quarterback managed to throw two touchdowns in the Titans 38-14 loss to the Texans, and coughed out a couple interceptions as well.
2. Chris Johnson was finally ready for some football
It appears Chris Johnson finally received the wake-up call alerting him that the NFL season is underway. The struggling running back entered Week 4’s games with only 45 yards total rushing. His abysmal performance record changed on Sunday as Johnson tripled his yearly production with an impressive 141 yards rushing.
Maybe Johnson is finally going to start producing the way the Titans know he can. Although his impressive yardage didn’t help the Titans win, every little bit is going to help if the Titans want a shot at smelling the postseason.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew was not a factor against Cincinnati
After a mediocre start to the season, Maurice Jones-Drew’s performance was impressive last week, but he managed only 38 rushing yards in Week 4. Jones-Drew is more up and down this season than in years passed, and there’s no telling if the Jaguars are going to be able to turn things around.
Gabbert’s poor performance thus far isn’t doing Jones-Drew any favors.
5. Bengals declaw Jaguars
Allowing only 212 total yards of offense, the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense came to play Sunday afternoon. Andy Dalton impressed through the air as usual, finding A.J. Green for 117 yards in Jacksonville.
So far, Dalton looks to be the best sophomore quarterback in the NFL. Cam Newton put on an impressive rookie campaign, but Dalton is looking like he will be putting the Bengals in the position to win for years to come. The Jaguars fell to the Bengals 27-10.