AFC SOUTH REPORT

Titans get Browns; Jaguars and Colts face off in key division game

Titans get Browns; Jaguars and Colts face off in key division game
Marcus Mariota should be 100 percent this week. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Brian Schaible of SBNation Radio will provide coverage on the AFC South.

All of the preseason predictions of a 9-7 (or worse) division winner appear to be on target. 

For a Texans’ team decimated by injuries, getting the Browns and then a bye week is about the best two week stretch imaginable. Houston will travel to Seattle next week before returning home to host the Colts on Nov. 5.  

Let’s take a look at the rest of the AFC South heading into week seven. 

Tennessee Titans

The Cleveland Browns may very well prove to be the cure all for AFC South struggles in 2017. Much like Houston last week, Marcus Mariota and company are at least partially limping into the showdown with Cleveland before getting an extra week’s rest.

After back to back losses in which Mariota was sidelined with a hamstring injury, he was able to jump into action in Monday night’s win over the Colts. Mariota threw for 306 yards and one touchdown in his first ever victory against Indianapolis. The Colts had won eleven previous games against their division rival. 

Mariota has fully participated in practice on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Titans Coach Mike Mularkey believes he is “very close, real close” to 100 percent.

The dreaded hamstring strain seems to be infectious throughout the Titans locker room. Rookie wide receiver Corey Davis and veteran safety Johnathan Cyprien have already been ruled out against the Browns. Running Back DeMarco Murray’s status is very much in doubt as he was sidelined Thursdaywhile getting treatment on his right hammie. Murray was able to participate in a limited capacity on Friday.

Matchup: Cleveland Browns 0-6 vs. Tennessee Titans 3-3

Despite playing just two games, Myles Garrett has recorded three quarterback sacks. After finishing 31st in total defense in 2016, the Browns are currently ranked 8th.

Titans’ Head Coach Mike Mularkey recognized just how disruptive Garrett can be along the defensive line. “He can do it all. Just for his size, he has great length very good and powerful man. Has multiple moves and is very athletic and slippery. He’s very good and you know why they picked him where they picked him.”

After being benched for a week, DeShone Kizer will return as starting quarterback for Cleveland. He acknowledged Thursday that he needs to “have a better attitude and do more.“ He also added that “It sparked my competitive juices. It definitely motivated throughout the week.”

Head Coach Hue Jackson said on Kizer’s return to the starting position, “I’m not gonna say the rest of the season but I know he’s the guy right now….I know it was the right thing to do a week ago. And I think we’ll be better for it.”

Matchup: Indianapolis Colts 2-4 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-3

When Andrew Luck returned to practice on Oct. 4, the team was hopeful he would be ready to go against Jacksonville. After receiving a cortisone shot in his throwing shoulder, Luck may be shut down for the remainder of regular season.

While the Colts may be dependent on their starting quarterback returning to achieve success, the same cannot said for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In six games, Blake Bortles is currently 26th in quarterback rating. In the Jaguars two road victories against Houston and Pittsburgh, he passed for a combined 210 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, both the defense and Leonard Fournette combined for three scores each.

In what could conceivably be a foreshadowing of things to come, Bortles addressed the release of kicker Jason Myers by acknowledging that anyone can be cut at any time.

“I think anytime a guy gets cut during the season, especially a starter, at any position I think it's definitely an eye opener. You know, nobody is really safe,” said Bortles.

“It’s a results oriented business and everybody gets that and you got to do your job and if you don't do your job they can find somebody else to replace you.”

Jacoby Brissett will make his sixth start for the Colts. While he has shined at times, he's only managed to pull out victories against winless San Francisco and Cleveland.

Jacksonville Head Coach Doug Marrone has been impressed with what he's seen of Brissett so far.

“He’s a young player that's getting better and better each week. A young player that can really throw it on a dime. It's a challenge for us. We have to play consistent and take advantage of all the opportunities and those are the things we need to win. We can't let other teams make big plays on us.”

Indianapolis enters the game 29th in total defense while allowing over 114 on the ground per game. This could spell trouble going up against the number one ranked rushing team in the league. 

However, it's been a bit of a mystery this week on the availability of Leonard Fournette. After a suffering an ankle injury last Sunday, Fournette has told the assembled media he’s fine and would “most definitely” play on Sunday. But after missing practice every day this week, perhaps Jacksonville is hoping to rest the star rookie through their week seven bye week.

If Fournette cannot go, look for an increased workload from Chris Ivory. Also, expect TJ Yeldon, who’s been very much a forgotten member of the backfield thus far, to be in uniform on Sunday. While Yeldon has battled through a number of injuries in his short career, this year he has largely been a healthy inactive. Sunday would mark the first time he's been a part of the gameday roster this season.

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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.

UP NEXT

Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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