By Steve Shackelford
Cold, Hard, Football Facts AFC South Beat Reporter
The AFC South lead currently belongs to the Houston Texans, the only team in the division to get a win in Week 1.
Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Tennessee are attempting to right-the-ship in Week 2, but all three face opponents with a Week 1 victory.
The Texans (1-0) head to Jacksonville (0-1) for the first AFC South division game of 2012, while the Colts (0-1) take on the Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at home, and the Tennessee Titans (0-1) head to California for a shot at the San Diego Chargers (1-0).
Week 2 isn’t filled with epic quarterback battles, but three AFC South teams are staring down a two-loss start to their season, and excitement is guaranteed.
Here's 5 things to look for in Week 2:
1. Jake “The Hurt” Locker could be back in action
Tennessee’s starting quarterback Jake Locker suffered a separated shoulder in his non-throwing arm Week 1 against the Patriots. Locker certainly didn’t expect to be injured while making a tackle on Patriots defender Patrick Chung following an interception, but c’est la vie.
With Locker quarterbacking prior to his injury, and back-up Matt Hasselbeck closing out the game, Tennessee finished in the bottom half of the league in Week 1.
The Titans expect Locker to be ready for Week 2, but shouldn’t hesitate to throw Hasselbeck in as starter if Locker isn’t able to run the offense effectively in practice. Reports indicate that both Locker and Hasselbeck will split time in practices this week. Locker is certainly the go-to guy, but the Titans can’t be thrilled about the possibility of an 0-2 start to the 2012 season.
The Titans don’t face an easy assignment in Week 2, taking on a top-ten defense in the San Diego Chargers. More bad news for Tennessee: San Diego’s defense concluded Week 1 allowing the fifth-lowest rush yards per attempt of any team in the NFL (2.25).
If the Chargers can benefit from an injured Locker, and continue to shut down the run, it will be smooth sailing for San Diego.
2. Andrew Luck attempting to avoid another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day
Facing off against the Colts, the Chicago Bears posted a top-three Defensive Real Quarterback Rating, finishing behind only Philadelphia and Houston. All top-three teams devoured opposing rookie quarterbacks in Week 1. Luck cost the Colts four turnovers with three INTs and a fumble. Luck’s performance in his first game was not unlike other rookies, namely Peyton Manning – Both put up similar numbers in their debut, so Colts fans shouldn’t be too worried about their No. 1 overall draft pick.
Manning: 21 of 37 (56.7%) 302 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
Luck: 23 of 45 (51.1%) 309 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
The Colts take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2, who won their game, but failed to dominate their Week 1 opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Minnesota posted a middle of the pack performance against Gabbert, and will likely perform in similar fashion when the Colts come to town. If Luck is able to avoid the turnovers, the Colts might be able to come away with a win in Minnesota.
At least Indianapolis’ defense, often a source of frustration in 2011, managed to finish thirteenth overall in our Defensive Hog Index. Every little bit is going to help this season.
3. Houston primed for total domination over Gabbert
It’s good to be king.
The Texans are leading the AFC South, and currently second overall in the NFL, behind only the Baltimore Ravens. The Texans are heading to Jacksonville in Week 2, and will likely destroy Blaine Gabbert.
Jacksonville’s Real Quarterback Rating was the second-best of any team in the division (18), behind the Texans (10), but taking on Houston’s second overall Defensive Real Quarterback rated team will certainly send Jacksonville down the charts after Week 2.
Things are not going to be pretty for Jacksonville in this game. The Texans are clear-cut favorites across the board after handling Miami with ease in Week 1. Jacksonville almost squeaked out a win over Minnesota, but they likely won’t even be in this game by the fourth quarter.
4. Tennessee defense basement-bound again
Through Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season, the Tennessee Titans are already at the bottom of the Defensive Hog Index list. Sure, they faced off against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, but they had the entire off-season to game-plan for the offensive powerhouse.
The Titans appeared completely outmatched against Brady, finishing second to last in the total percentage of Negative Pass Plays (3.13) behind only the Oakland Raiders (2.94), and tied with the Kansas City Chiefs (3.13).
Unfortunately for the Titans, the Raiders achieved their last-place Negative Pass Play title against Tennessee’s upcoming Week 2 opponent – the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers concluded Week 1 with the ninth-best Real Quarterback Rating, and will attempt to shred the Tennessee defense with as much success as Brady.
Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray’s play calling failed to put any significant pressure on Brady. With Tennessee’s zero turnovers and one recorded sack, Phillip Rivers is likely in for a comfortable outing on Sunday. Rivers and the Chargers finished twelfth overall in the NFL on offense in Week 1.
It is beginning to smell a lot like a two-loss start for Tennessee.
5. Maurice-Jones Drew already on track for 300+ attempts
After Maurice Jones-Drew’s lengthy hold-out, it was anyone’s guess as to how many carries he would receive in Week 1. Although reports indicated that Jones-Drew would be used as primarily a third-down back, he found himself being fed the ball 19 times.
Jones-Drew averaged 21.4 carries per game in 2011, finishing the season with 343 rushing attempts total. Even though Jones-Drew put his hands on the ball on 19 occasions, he failed to bust off any huge runs. With an 8-yard rush as his longest gain, Jones-Drew averaged an efficient 4.05 RY/A.
Only time will tell if Jones-Drew can repeat his 2011 success (1,606 Yds), but he is currently on pace for 1,232 Yds.
Jacksonville’s overall success isn’t hinged on Jones-Drew’s personal performance, so his seeing a drop in yards and attempts could be indicative of a much-needed commitment to Gabbert and the passing game.