AFC South Preview: Off-season Recap and Predictions

AFC South Preview

A division with a lot of unknowns, the AFC South could be close this season. Young quarterbacks, elite running backs, and young defensive linemen are showcased in this division. Who will come out on top? I break down the offseason moves and predict each AFC South team’s season in this preview.

AFC South Preview

4. Houston Texans

Key losses – DT Vincent Taylor, S Justin Reid, LB Tae Davis, OT Geron Christian, QB Tyrod Taylor, OLB Jake Martin, TE Jordan Akins, OT Marcus Cannon, QB Deshaun Watson

Key additions – HC Lovie Smith, CB Steven Nelson, OG A.J. Cann, DE Mario Addison, OLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, TE O.J. Howard, OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, QB Kyle Allen, CB M.J. Stweart, FB Andy Janovich, DE Jerry Hughes, CB Derek Stingley Jr., OG Kenyon Green, S Jalen Pitre, WR John Metchie III, LB Christian Harris, RB Dameon Pierce

Re-signed – OLB Kamu Grugier-Hill (1-year), ILB Neville Hewitt (1-year)

Extensions – WR Brandin Cooks (2-years, $39 million)

Houston went 3-14 last season and was one of the worst all-around teams in the league. They added some talent, as well as a new head coach in Lovie Smith. Now, Smith comes in to try and help this team move on from quarterback Deshaun Watson. After finally trading him, Davis Mills looks to become the franchise guy.

The worst offense in the league last season, the Texans badly need something to change. Davis Mills didn’t look that bad last season, and still has some weapons. While Brandin Cooks is a solid wideout, he will need to lead the way next to Nico Collins, who’s trying to prove he can make it in this league. At tight end, they have Pharaoh Brown and Brevin Jordan, who will need to step up if either wants to become a permanent NFL starter.

The offensive line still needs some work, but has a solid tackles in Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard. However, that’ll help out QB Davis Mills more than it will the rushing attack. Rookie Dameon Pierce is generating buzz as he looks to have a huge season running the ball. This offense will still be one of the worst in the league, but I expect a jump from dead last.

The defensive side of the ball wasn’t much better, as they ranked 31st in the NFL. With a bottom five defensive line still, I don’t expect that to change. Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes are veterans who can bring some pressure, but are in the twilight of their careers. The worst part for the Texans is their linebacker corps is even worse. Christian Kirksey isn’t a quality starter, and they will be looking at rookie Christian Harris to bring some energy.

The Texans added to the secondary early in the draft by selecting cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. Stingley can become the long-term CB1 in Houston, but past him there isn’t much. Rookie Jalen Pitre will be the slot corner, although we don’t know what to expect there. They have arguably the worst secondary in the league unless the rookies show up and show out.

Prediction

The Texans are still rebuilding, so I don’t expect a playoff berth. But I do expect them to improve upon last year. I have them going 5-12 and 2-4 against the AFC South. Davis Mills will be the player to watch as he looks to earn the franchise’s trust.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Key losses – LB Damien Wilson, DT Taven Bryan, WR D.J. Chark, OG A.J. Cann, ILB Myles Jack, OG Andrew Norwell, WR Laviska Shenault Jr.

Key additions – HC Doug Pederson, WR Christian Kirk, OG Brandon Scherff, LB Foyesade Oluokun, CB Darious Williams, DE Foley Fatukasi, WR Zay Jones, TE Evan Engram, DE Arden Key, DE Travon Walker, LB Devin Lloyd, OL Luke Fortner, LB Chad Muma

Re-signed – DE Adam Gotsis (1-year)

Extensions – OT Cam Robinson (3-years, $54 million)

The Urban Meyer experiment failed miserably in Jacksonville, as they fired the former head coach after starting the season 2-11. They would finish the year 3-14 and earn the #1 pick in the NFL Draft. Top pick Travon Walker will look to become a focal point on this team during their rebuild.

The 27th ranked offense last season should improve this year. New head coach Doug Pederson will look to turn quarterback Trevor Lawrence into the star he is projected to be. Wideouts Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Marvin Jones Jr. create a solid trio for Lawrence to find, and should open up the field. It will be tough though, as the Jaguars offensive line ranks towards the bottom of the league.

The running back room should be fun to watch, as Travis Etienne Jr. will finally make his NFL debut this season. The pass-catching back should create a nice duo with James Robinson, who burst onto the scene after breaking the record for most scrimmage yards from an undrafted free agent his rookie year. The offense should improve this season, and has the potential to become top 20.

The defense did a little better than the offense in 2021, as they finished 20th in the NFL in total defense. They have an interesting defensive line that includes three first-round picks. Josh Allen, K’Lavon Chaisson, and Travon Walker will all look to bring the pressure and remind people why they were first-round selections.

At linebacker, the Jaguars have Foyesade Oloukon, Devin Lloyd, and Chad Muma to take over after losing Myles Jack in free agency. The young core will look to prove they can compete in this league under Doug Pederson.

Lastly, the secondary added two cornerbacks, rookie Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams, to create an interesting trio at corner next to Shaquill Griffin. The secondary could hold them back, as they have one of the worst safety duos in the league.

Prediction

The Jaguars are looking to bring back Sacksonville, but it might not be this year. I predict that Jacksonville will finish 6-11 and go 3-3 against the AFC South. Trevor Lawrence will look to make a jump without Urban Meyer there.

2. Tennessee Titans

Key losses – OG Rodger Saffold, OT David Quessenberry, WR AJ Brown, ILB Jayon Brown, WR Julio Jones, P Brett Kern

Key additions – WR Robert Woods, TE Austin Hooper, OT Jamarco Jones, S A.J. Moore, CB Ugo Amadi, WR Treylon Burks, CB Roger McCreary, OL Nicholas Petit-Frere, QB Malik Willis, RB Hassan Haskins

Re-signed – K Reggie Bullock (2-years), RB Dontrell Hilliard (1-year), C Ben Jones (2-years)

Extensions – HC Mike Vrabel (1-year)

The Titans earned the #1 seed in the AFC last season, but lost their first playoff game after the bye. They finished 12-5, and decided it was time to part ways with superstar wide receiver A.J. Brown. They shipped him to the Eagles and will try to make it back to the playoffs without him.

The 17th ranked offense last season was heavily reliant again on running back Derrick Henry. He is the focal point of this team, but will run behind a lackluster offensive line. It’s one of the worst groups in the league and without Henry, it would show. With their best lineman, tackle Taylor Lewan, coming back worse from an ACL tear, there is legitimate concern they can get the job done.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is looking to improve on the team’s 24th ranked passing game, but it will be tougher without A.J. Brown. The new weapons in rookie Treylon Burks and former Ram Robert Woods could be a solid duo to throw to, but Woods is still recovering from a torn ACL. The tight end spot is shaky with Geoff Swaim, so I don’t expect much from the passing attack this season.

The defense was 12th last season after dominating against the run. They should dominate again with a top ten defensive line. Jeffrey Simmons is the star, followed by Denico Autry, Bud Dupree, and Harold Landry III to help bring pressure. It makes a mid-tier linebacker group’s job easier, as Zach Cunningham leads the way as a great run stopper.

The secondary will be key. They struggled a year ago, but get Caleb Farley back, who missed his entire rookie season with an injury. They have a young trio of cornerbacks who could make a splash this season. The safety tandem is headlined by Kevin Byard, who is one of the best in the game. Armani Hooker and Byard are trying to lead the young corners to a better finish this season.

Prediction

Mike Vrabel is a fantastic coach, but Ryan Tannehill will hold this team back. I have them finishing 9-8, missing the playoffs after going 4-2 in the AFC South. This could be Tannehill’s last year, so he has to make the most of it.

1. Indianapolis Colts

Key losses – QB Carson Wentz, DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, RB Marlon Mack, OG Chris Reed, OG Mark Glowinski, S George Odum, DE Kemoko Turay, WR T.Y. Hilton, CB Rock Ya-Sin

Key additions – QB Matt Ryan, CB Stephon Gilmore, QB Nick Foles, CB Brandon Facyson, FS Rodney McLeod, OT Dennis Kelly, DE Yannick Ngakoue, P Matt Haack, WR Alec Pierce, TE Jelani Woods, OL Bernhard Raimann, S Nick Cross

Re-signed – TE Mo Alie-Cox (3-years)

The Colts finished last season 9-8, missing the playoffs after an 11-5 season the year before. They brough in quarterback Matt Ryan as an upgrade over Carson Wentz with hopes of a playoff return. With talent added on both sides of the ball, the Colts may be a real threat in the AFC.

The Carson Wentz-led Colts finished 16th in the NFL in total offense a season ago, but now Matt Ryan is at the helm. He is a decent improvement, and will look to help wideout Michael Pittman Jr. grow into a star. However, the receiving corps behind Pittman is below average. They will need tight end Mo Alie-Cox to play a big role in the passing game to become a top 15 passing team.

This offense is centered around running back Jonathan Taylor. The young back showed he is a superstar last season, and has the highest expectations of all running backs going into this year. With a top ten offensive line, including the best offensive lineman in the game Quenton Nelson, Taylor should have no problem leading this offense to a playoff berth.

The defense last season ranked identical to the offense, 16th in the NFL. They added Stephon Gilmore to the secondary, which gives them a big boost. The secondary is still in the bottom half of the league, but if Julian Blackmon can come back and breakout, they could move up in the rankings.

They have one of the best linebacker corps in the league, with superstar Darius Leonard next to Bobby Okereke. If Okereke can play like he did in 2019, they should be the best in the NFL. With the defensive line gaining Yannick Ngakoue to help create a force with superstar defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, they should be much improved this season, and eyeing a top ten finish.

Prediction

The addition of Matt Ryan should boost this team towards winning the AFC South. I have the Colts finishing 10-7 after going 3-3 against the rest of the AFC South. Expect a close finish between Indianapolis and Tennessee.

Patriots vs Colts: A Rivalry Renewed

Despite the poor play on multiple fronts, the Patriots still put themselves in a position to potentially win this thing. They didn’t deserve to win the game, and ultimately didn’t, but didn’t really deserve to have it that close either

Patriots vs Colts
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Patriots and Colts both were coming off their bye weeks to face each other in what had shaped into a pivotal AFC matchup. It was clear from the onset that the two teams were playing with different energy levels.

The Colts came out playing fast and motivated. The Patriots came out looking like they had just awoken from a long winter’s nap. After winning seven straight games, the Patriots of the first six weeks had returned. They played flat, were careless with the football, and committed penalty after penalty. Essentially, they didn’t play “Patriots football.”

Pats Can’t Make Crucial Stop

With two minutes left to play, the Patriots were somehow still in the game. They even had a realistic chance of at least forcing overtime if they could get one more stop. The Patriots had just scored to make the score 20-17, in favor of the Colts. The defense came out in need of forcing a three and out to give the offense a chance to extend the game.

The defense played an end-around to Ashton Dulin, the same play that gashed them for 37 yards earlier, beautifully; holding it to a 2-yard gain. The defense needed to make two more stops to force a punt. Everyone knew the Colts were going to run it. Jonathan Taylor had been successful the entire game up to that point, but it wasn’t because the Pats were getting dominated in the trenches.

The Patriots often met Taylor early in the progression of plays, only to have Taylor churn 3-5 more yards out after contact. And now with the game on the line, the Pats needed to meet him in the hole, and drop him without letting yards after contact.

Pats Play Scheme Perfectly, Don’t Finish Play

The Colts ran a zone to the left side, behind the strength of their offensive line. They did a great job of collapsing the Patriots’ defensive line down, leaving a huge hole for Taylor to run through. Jamie Collins engaged the left tackle and at least created some semblance of an edge. Taylor veered towards the hole only to see Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty waiting for him.

McCourty plays down from his safety spot, playing outside in. McCourty plays this technique because the linebacker, in this case, Hightower, should be flowing over the top from inside out. If McCourty is going to miss, he has to force Taylor back to his help.

Hightower is flowing over the top, coming from an inside linebacker alignment, meaning he must play his run fit from the inside out, if he misses, Taylor should bounce to McCourty’s waiting arms. Hightower over pursues, allowing Taylor to make a quick cut to the interior of the defense. Him and McCourty both end up on the outside shade of the hole, leaving no one home to clean it up.

This play, which broke the Pats’ back, was emblematic of the entire night for the Pats. A “close, but no cigar” type of effort. The Pats had no business being in the game at that point and yet they were. It was only fitting that two of the Patriots’ most trusted defensive players would be in a perfect position to make a key tackle and simply couldn’t.

Punt Block Example of “Doing Your Job”

The punt block was another case of the Patriots not executing simple aspects of their assignments. The Colts did not scheme anything up to befuddle the Patriots punting unit. It was a simple 8-man rush, with no overload on either side. Four punt protectors, four punt blockers. On punt block assignments, the protection counts the blocking scheme from inside out. Someone near the long snapper is number 1 in the protection, and out to number 4 or 5 over the end man.

Depending on the particular assignment, the long snapper may lean one way or the other to help in the blocking scheme. On the Colts punt block, the number two and three men line up extremely close to one another. The outside man, or fourth in the blocking scheme, is outside the tackle.

In this scheme, Brandon Bolden, the end man, is responsible for number 4 in the blocking scheme, the outside man. Jamie Collins is responsible for number 3, Jakob Johnson, number 2. On the snap Johnson plays down to the number 1, leaving E.J. Speed, the number 2, unblocked to the punter. Nothing complicated, just a lack of execution of the assignment. That makes the third punt blocked against New England this season. Belichick had never had more than one as the Patriots head coach.

Mac’s Struggles

The Colts stated their desire to make Mac win the game earlier in the week. Through two and a half quarters, the Colts looked to be backing up their talk. Trailing 17-0 with just under two minutes left in the first half, the Patriots put together their most promising drive to that point in the game. They faced 3rd and 3 from the Colts’ 15-yard line. The team needed to come away with points. Getting the ball back after half, they could get a double-dip and cut the deficit to a one-possession game.

Instead, Colts’ linebacker Darius Leonard baited Mac into an easy interception. The Colts were playing a zone defense with four underneath defenders flooding the short area of the field. Leonard initially pushes to widen, but with no threat to that side, he can keep his eyes on the QB.

When Mac takes his hand off the ball, something defensive players are told to key on to get a jump on the pass, Leonard immediately shifts his momentum back towards the interior of the field. His great read and immediate response put him in the passing window for an easy interception. The play negated any chance the Pats had at scoring before half.

Not All Hope is Lost

Despite the poor play on multiple fronts, the Patriots still put themselves in a position to potentially win this thing. They didn’t deserve to win the game, and ultimately didn’t, but didn’t really deserve to have it that close either. A loss like this can be extremely important for a young team like the Patriots. There was a lot of teaching tape available after this one, but perhaps most importantly, it showed that the Patriots C+ effort is not good enough to beat opponents in the NFL.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Pats as they now must win out and hope for help to reclaim the number 1 seed in the AFC. That quest starts Sunday with a HUGE game against the Bills. A win here sets the Patriots up to be in the driver’s seat for the division down the stretch run of the season. A loss means they’re playing for a wild card and hoping for help to get the division back.

Most importantly, the Patriots of the seven-game win streak must return and not the group that started the season 2-4. In the loss to the Colts, it was many of the same issues that were evident early in the season. It’s probably a safe bet Belichick gets his boys back in order.

Bills Week 11 Recap – Jonathan Taylor Steamrolls Bills

Jonathan Taylor leaps over Buffalo defense - Bills Week 11
Photo by: Robert Scheer / Indy Star

Jonathan Taylor and the Indianapolis Colts ran all over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Bills’ Week 11 performance was somehow more disappointing than their loss to the Jaguars. They have now failed to win back-to-back games since early October.

The AFC East is currently led by the Patriots, who are playing some of the best football in the league. The sky is falling in Buffalo. Whatever has changed in Buffalo, there is still time to overcome it and be the team we all know and expect them to be.

Bills Week 11 Recap – The Good

Red Zone Offense

The Bills were perfect in their two red zone possessions with both touchdowns going to Stefon Diggs. This had been a weak point this season, but that was not the case in the Bills’ Week 11 game.

Allen hit Diggs on a 6-yard out to cut the Colts lead down to seven in the early second quarter. They connected again for a 9-yard score when the game was well out of reach in the early fourth quarter. Diggs is clearly still at the top of his game and deserves many more schemed looks as part of the natural game script.

No Injuries

It is hard to find positives after such a disheartening performance, but at least there were no injuries. I agree with McDermott’s decision to pull his starters when it was clear things were over. On a short week, rest and recovery is hard to come by and every bit helps.

Cole Beasley is limited with a rib injury, as he has been for weeks. Tremaine Edmunds was a full participant in their Monday walkthrough after missing the Bills’ Week 11 game. Unfortunately, Star Lotulelei and Spencer Brown will remain in Covid protocols and miss the Saints game.

Bills Week 11 Recap – The Bad

Josh Allen

Allen played poorly. This is not disputable. He was not the reason they lost, but the franchise QB should be the player to step up when everything else is going wrong. Allen did not. He forced his first interception into a bad spot, but an uncalled DPI allowed the safety to make his break. He also got picked when things were already over on a bad ball that Kenny Moore volleyed up to himself.

Throughout the day, he never really looked comfortable and had no command over the offense. This has been a concerning theme throughout this season — when adversity piles up, Allen fails to step up and pull the team out of it.

Bills Week 11 Recap – The Ugly

Culture

Sean McDermott’s buzzword of choice is “culture”. The previous teams took pride in an exceptional culture where everything was earned and never given. That culture was the foundation of the organizational turnaround. Those teams were disciplined and resilient and always willing to stand up and fight in the face of adversity.

This team, however, is soft. Their culture is all about gloating when they beat up bad teams and cowering when they are punched in the mouth. They get bullied in the trenches and have no fight in them when the going gets tough.

In post game interviews of all their losses, we hear “This is not who we are”. When it happens every other week, and this deep into the season, it is exactly who you are. There is plenty of time to dig in and find that resilient culture, but right now they don’t have it.

Coaching Decisions

Speaking of McDermott, he made some real bad decisions in this game. The Bills’ Week 11 game was cold, rainy, and windy. McDermott opted for two field goal attempts (57 and 49 yards) when they were down 24-7.

Needing multiple scores, knowing Taylor can run at will against you, and the weather being so bad are clear reasons to keep your offense on the field. The first attempt is excusable being an end-of-half play, but the second is inexcusable and essentially a forfeit.

The personnel management was disappointing as well. The defensive line was getting bullied and has not been great this year, but Ed Oliver had been a bright spot. Oliver only played 46% of the snaps, while Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler both played over 60%. Run defense isn’t Oliver’s best attribute but he is certainly better than those two.

Another position with questionable management is running back. Devin Singletary has at least been serviceable this year and deserves some run. Zack Moss has been uninspiring, at best. Matt Breida has been inactive most of the season, but his impact on the offense is clear. He has burst and speed that the others lack and it showed in the past two games. He needs to be the guy going forward.

Run Defense

The Bills’ defense entered the game ranked top in the league without many questions. There were some skeptics based on the quality of offenses the team had faced, but nobody thought the unit was bad. The Colts exposed the unit.

Jonathan Taylor continued his potential MVP campaign gaining over 200 yards and five touchdowns. The team gave up nearly five yards per carry when they had eight or more in the box, and were expectedly even worse with light boxes. This was an all-around failure to compete against a team built to do exactly what they did on Sunday.

Isaiah McKenzie

McKenzie has been a fun spark in his return duties this year, causing some fans to ask “Andre Roberts who”? In the Bills’ Week 11 game, however, McKenzie showed a troubling problem that has followed him throughout his career: ball security. The Colts took a 17-7 lead late in the first half. The Bills were in a perfect “double dip” position with a chance to score in the two minute drill and get the ball back at halftime.

Instead, McKenzie fumbled the kick and gave the Colts a 1-yard field to work with. Taylor punched the ball in to take a 24-7 lead. The Bills never recovered from that moment, despite decent momentum immediately before it.

Offensive Line

The offensive line is really bad and has been really bad in all of their losses. Spencer Brown was missed and will be missed against New Orleans as well. Jon Feliciano has also been missed, and it appears unlikely that he will return by Thursday. As much as the team needs Brown, it was never the plan for him to start.

Openly admitting that the line was a weakness, Brandon Beane refused to address it in a meaningful way this offseason. His plan was to run it back with the same starting group he was dissatisfied with last season. They got lucky that their third round project tackle was good enough to start right away. This team lives and dies with the offensive line, and it is a concern that the front office has been comfortable with this weak group.

What’s Next?

The Bills have to put this game in the past and refocus quickly. They face the Saints in the Thanksgiving night game this Thursday. New Orleans lost Sunday as well but are strong in the trenches and post a similar threat to the Colts.

The schedule ahead is grueling and these next few weeks will reveal if the Bills are contenders or potentially not even a playoff team at all. Let’s hope that the Bills’ Week 11 result was a reality check for a team we all know is capable of competing.

Check back in later this week for a full preview of the Thanksgiving game. Go Bills!

Week 4 Game Preview: Colts @ Dolphins

Dolphins ATB break down a highly important game to get their season back on track, highlighting the key matchups and keys to victory.

Credit Andy Lyons/ Getty Images
  • Date: Sunday, October 4
  • Time: 13:00 ET (18:00 UK Time)
  • Venue: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL
  • TV: CBS and NFL Gamepass International
  • Record: Colts (0-3) Dolphins (1-2)

The Dolphins and Colts, two teams who at the start of the season were widely regarded as strong playoff contenders. However, following the performances in the opening 3 weeks, both teams enter this game in desperate need of a win to get their seasons back on track.

Week 3 Recap:

To sum up in one word…frustrating. The game started so positively with the Dolphins first pick 6 since 2019 courtesy of Elandon Roberts. On the next drive the Dolphins defense then proceeded to turn the ball over on downs. That was thanks to great run stuffing of Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler. With all the momentum on Miami’s side, they even managed to get a big rushing play from Malcolm Brown resulting in a 24 yard score. Then it all changed.

The Struggles

The remainder of the game was just outright painful to watch. After a hot start, the Dolphins defense allowed Peyton Barber to rush for 111 yards and a TD. Also allowing Derek Carr to throw for 386 yards and 2 TDs. Miami just could not get off the field on third down. Nevertheless, after the Dolphins offense could not stay on the field with 5 possessions without scoring. The bend not break nature of the defense ought to be applauded, keeping the Raiders to 25 points heading into overtime.

With a full complement of healthy and talented receivers at Miami’s disposal we were hoping to see the purported modernized Dolphins attack. Far from it. It was the coaches that lost Miami this game, all stemming from the pass out of the end zone to Jaylen Waddle resulting in a safety. From there the Raiders took full advantage and never looked back.

The play calling was conservative to say the least. With the contested catch specialists in Gesicki and Parker and the speed of Fuller and and Waddle, the Dolphins never played to their strengths, electing for a dink and dunk approach. Consequently, Jaylen Waddle, the most electric receiver the Dolphins have, ended the night with 12 receptions for 58 yards. Of course there is the argument that this is down to the play of the offensive line in not giving the receivers the time to develop their routes. However, Miami had no such issues in moving the ball down field late in the 4th quarter. As Hussam Patel wrote prior to the game…

Keys to Success

Coming into the game I stated in my preview article that there would be three keys to success:

  1. Improvements on the Offensive Line– The Dolphins offensive line were by no means perfect but were atleast somewhat functional and a big improvement from Buffalo. Austin Jackson continued to be a problem in the passing game allowing rushers to go by untouched, but was strong in the run game, opening up a solid channel for Malcolm Brown to score.
  1. Explosive Pass Rush– The Dolphins pass rush was much improved managing 3 sacks and 4 TFL. Increased use of Jaelan Phillips as a rusher rather than dropping back into coverage, and more safety blitzes from Brandon Jones enabled the Dolphins to create a more consistent pass rush.
  1. Put Points on the Board– The Dolphins put up 28 points including 11 in fourth quarter when the offense eventually got moving. Ultimately however, it prove not to be enough. Conservative play calling from the outset caused the Dolphins to go 5 drives without scoring, which ultimately decided the game. Giving up a cheap safety and a missed field goal, ultimately meant that the Dolphins beat themselves.

Expectations Heading into Week 4:

Coming into this game the Colts are 0-3, having played the Seahawks, Rams and Titans, all of which are likely to make a strong playoff run. Had the Dolphins played those same opponents, it is highly likely that the Dolphins would also be 0-3. In fact the Colts and the Dolphins are very similar. 2 teams coming off losing seasons in 2019, to be in and around the playoffs in 2020, yet have regressed early in the season. Both teams have strong defenses with their struggles along the offensive line.

Nevertheless, where the Dolphins have the edge is in their overall fitness. Entering this week 12 starters have missed practice this week at some point. With the offensive line already a concern for the Colts, their problems will only be further exacerbated as the only starting lineman who has had a full week of practice is C Ryan Kelly.

I foresee another defensively dominated game from both teams. Both will try and establish the run early and often in order to control the time of possession keeping their defenses rested. Colts QB Carson Wentz has been running around scrambling for his life on 2 injured ankles. With the athleticism of the Dolphins defensive line, especially with the increased worth of Jaelan Phillips improving week on week, I can see the defense causing the Colts offensive line nightmares.

Keys to Success:

#1- Stop the Run

With a run defense as porous as Miami’s at times, the emphasis will be on stopping the Colts’ rushing game. Surprisingly the Colts chose to abandon their running game last week against the Titans with Jonathan Taylor only having 10 carries, yet averaging 6.4 YPC. There is a reason the second year running back was taken so highly in many people’s fantasy leagues, but Taylor is yet to score in 2021. In fact the 64 yards he managed Week 3 was a season high, so look for the Colts to get him involved early and often, especially considering the fitness of Carson Wentz. Limiting the damage in the run game will go a long way to coming away with a W.

#2- Establish the Run

In Week 3 the Dolphins had some success in running the ball scoring twice against the Raiders with Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown and Jacoby Brissett all managing over 4.4 YPC. The Colts defense is the 6th worst in the league in terms of rushing yards allowed, but have only allowed 1 rushing TD. This is highly relevant as the Dolphins are the worst in the league in passing TDs with only 1 over 3 games. Establishing the run will go a long way to sustaining drives and allowing the defense to rest.

#3- Better Coaching

The Dolphins play calling was far too conservative with dink and dunk plays. Both Godsey and Studesville need to do better at scheming plays to get the balls into the hands of their best play makers. For Waddle to be tied 3rd in the league in receptions but 45th in receiving yards is no mark against him, but of how he is being used in primarily in bubble screens and drag routes. The Colts adopt a very heavy zone coverage defense giving Brissett (former Colts QB) the opportunity to pick apart the defense.

Injury Concerns:

Another week, another player moved to IR. Unfortunately now the Dolphins will be without their starting center in Michael Deiter for atleast 3 weeks. Deiter was arguably the most consistent performer along the offensive line throughout all of the early woes. Now the job falls to Greg Mancz to steady the ship this week before what will be an ordeal next week @ Tampa. On the brighter side, the remainder of the active roster is healthy and good to go.

The same cannot be said for the Colts who are very beaten up. Biggest news is that Quenton Nelson is OUT, while other big names such as Carson Wentz and Jonathan Taylor are both questionable to feature. Check out the full injury report below.

Score Predictions:

Despite their record and the teams they have faced the Colts haven’t conceded more than 28 points. As previously mentioned I foresee this being a very defensively dominated game. The outcome will all depend on whether the play calling can improve, allowing Brissett to push the ball down field. Check out the ATB Dolphins staff’s predictions below:

Bradley Davies- 24-17 Dolphins

Hussam Patel- 20-17 Dolphins

Tyler DeSena- 27-17 Dolphins

Tanner Elliott- 13-10 Dolphins

Rishi Desai- 23-19 Dolphins

Jared Vandermyde- 27-13 Dolphins

Chris Spooner- 24-20 Colts

Conclusion:

This is a must win game for Miami if they are going to be any form of playoff contender this year. However, before that happens there must be a vast improvement in the overall play calling and execution on offense. Good news for Dolphins fans, the throwbacks are returning this week to Hard Rock, a fitting tribute during the Don Shula Celebration of Life weekend. Fins up!

Follow Bradley Davies on Twitter:

Prize Picks

PrizePicks operates in EVERY US state and Canada EXCEPT for the following: AZ CO DE HI ID IN IA LA MD ME MS MO MT NV NH NJ OH PA TN VA WA.

  • Use promo code “ATB” to receive a 100% instant deposit match up to $100
  • PrizePicks is the simplest fantasy game on the market.
  • You pick 2-5 players and can win up 10x on any entry.
  • PrizePicks has no sharks, optimizers, or mass-multi entry (It’s just you vs. the projection).
  • Allows mixed-sport entries (You can take the OVER on Lebron parlayed with the UNDER on Mahomes).
  • PrizePicks has a slick easy to use mobile app, both on the App Store and Google Play

How to use PrizePicks:

Indianapolis Colts and RAS

Take a look at how GM Chris Ballard drafts players based on RAS scores

I find the connections between RAS and draft picks very interesting. I have done a number of articles relating to the Green Bay Packers and their connection to RAS and their draft picks. So I decided to do an article about it for other teams.

For those that do not know what RAS is it means Relative Athletic Score. Created by Kent Lee Platte. You can find his site at: https://ras.football/

I am only using teams whos GM/front office have been in place for at least three drafts. Its basically impossible to find correlations with only data from a couple drafts to work with. I feel like we can identify some trends with these teams. I like to take averages at each position so it give you an idea of where teams prioritize athletes.

Now I know everyone will say “well all you are going to find is that teams like to draft athletes”, “teams always want to get more athletic”. Which can be true. But there is more to it than that. Maybe its because its numbers and they don’t understand numbers? I am not sure. I am actually a film guy myself, but like I said earlier I still find it interesting.

Now that that is out of the way. First off we will start with the Indianapolis Colts.

Quarterbacks:

Since being hired in January of 2017 Chris Ballard has only drafted two quarterbacks. Also as we all know athleticism in quarterbacks is generally not seen as important. Even still it is interesting to look at the scores. With Jacob Eason scoring a 3.46 and Sam Ehlinger a 6.82 they average out to a 5.14

Running Backs:

With running backs Ballard has drafted four. With all their scores averaged out it comes to a 7.95. From the looks of it unless you have a special skill set(like Hines who can play all over), Ballard really likes his running backs to be athletic. If you take him out the average goes up to a 8.7.

Wide Receivers:

Now when it comes to receivers Ballard definitely has a type. Outside of Campbell all have been 6’1+ and even Campbell is close at just under 6’0. Their average RAS score comes out to a 8.26. Also of interest is it seems the Colts do not prioritize agility testing. All of them have been between poor to average in agility scores. Although Campbell had a good short shuttle score of 4.03 he does not have a 3 cone number on file. They all are also over 200 pounds. Three of them being 225+

Tight Ends:

With tight ends there is not much there to work with. Ballard has only drafted one tight end in his time. Kyle Granson in 2021 in the 4th round. Kyle has a score of a 7.72. He looks more like an h-back at 6’1 1/2 240lbs.

Offensive Line:

Since 2017 Ballard has drafted seven offensive linemen. three offensive tackles and four offensive guards. Their RAS average score was a 7.81. So pretty good, not super athletic, but up there. Now there is one guy dragging that score down. Zach Banner. He was drafted in the 4th round in Ballard’s first draft. His score was a 1.44. Which is really bad. If his score is removed the average shoots up to 8.87. So that tells us that Ballard really likes athletic offensive linemen. He also likes to draft linemen that are over 300. The lightest was Danny Pinter at 306. Five of them were 310+

Defensive Line:

Similar situation to tight end. Ballard in his time has only drafted two interior defensive linemen. Grover Stewart in the 4th round in 2017 and Robert Windsor in the 6th round in the 2020 draft. Both scored well athletically. Stewart had a 7.79, and Windsor scored at 8.68. They also have Tyquan Lewis who plays both end and tackle. If he were to be listed as an interior linemen his RAS would be a 9.69. So it seems they like relatively athletic interior linemen. Both Stewart’s and Windsor’s size and athletic testing vary so there is not much that can be gleaned from it, other than like like guys who are relatively athletic. It may be a position that he does not value as much draft wise.

Edge Defenders:

Here is where we get some interesting information. Ballard has drafted six edge defenders in his time. Their average ras score is a 9.22. This means he really values major athletes at this position. The lowest score was Terell Basham in 2017 with a ras of 8.2, the others are 9.3 or above. All have been between 250-270 when they were drafted. Ballard seems to like a range of sizes. Some smaller and some bigger. He likes fast guys. All have a 40 time of 4.7 or faster. Most importantly is overall a high level athlete.

Linebackers:

Another position of interest with the Colts. Ballard has drafted eight linebackers in his time. Seems as if it is a position he puts a lot of value in. As far as the RAS scores they have averaged a 7.3 which is pretty athletic. Even more interesting their top linebacker Darius Leonard didn’t test all that well. His RAS was a 4.9 which is basically average. If you remove his score the average goes up to a 8.2. So outside of Leonard who they must have saw something on tape that told the front office he was more athletic than he tested. They like to bring in really athletic linebackers. They also seem to like their linebackers 240 or under which kind of follows with their preference of uber athletic linebackers.

Defensive Backs:

Now this position is pretty interesting in regards to their RAS scores. So they have drafted nine defensive backs in the Ballard era. Nothing too crazy about that. One of the interesting parts is that four of them have no RAS scores. I do believe Julian Blackmon and Malik Hooker were coming off injury and that’s why they have no workout numbers. The other interesting thing is that the average score of the guys they do have RAS for is a 6.91. So a little above average. That in itself is really interesting. It tells me that athleticism is not a priority for this front office. At least not as the level it is for a number of other teams. For example Marvell Tell had a 9.2 RAS all the others are 7.35 or lower. All their db’s are of relatively average size as well.

Follow Brian Maafi on Twitter