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A Look Around The AFC South

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A Look Around The AFC South: 10.9.18 offers a comprehensive look at the latest action around the AFC South Division, courtesy of the Associated Press and presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) is pursued by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones (31) after a catch during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) is pursued by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones (31) after a catch during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans got their second straight win on Sunday after an 0-3 start, but they still have plenty of room for improvement.

Notably in the red zone where they managed just one touchdown in six trips against the Cowboys.

"We've got to make major improvements there because we're moving the ball, but we're not scoring touchdowns," coach Bill O'Brien said.

"We're kicking too many field goals ... that's not a sustainable way to win games in this league and we know that. So, we're going to work hard to get it better this week."

The Texans rank third in the NFL by averaging 423.4 yards a game, but are tied for 15th by scoring just 23 points a game. They've struggled in the red zone all season, finishing with touchdowns just 8 of 22 times. Houston has converted more than 50 percent of its chances inside the 20 in just one game this season, when it went 3 for 5 in an overtime win over Indianapolis on Sept. 30.

O'Brien said plenty of factors are contributing to the problem and that his staff is focused on fixing it.

"I think it's a combination of a lot of things," O'Brien said. "It's not a time for us to sit here and list all the things. I think it starts with me. I've got to do a better job of teaching it, designing it, and then there are some things that we have to do a better job of executing."

O'Brien credited the defenses Houston has faced for doing a good job of limiting his team in this area and noted how much more difficult things become once an offense is inside the 20.

"You have to be in this business day in and day out to understand how difficult the red area is," he said. "There's less space, the windows, they open and close very fast, you have to make quick decisions, you have to throw the ball accurately, you've got to be able to run the ball by covering people up and blocking support and all these other things."

Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is fifth in the NFL with 1,621 yards passing, said part of the struggles in the red zone come from his failure to execute plays. He pointed to a couple of throws he made that were short against the Cowboys that kept his team from scoring.

"We've just got to execute. That's pretty much it," he said. "You can be simple. You can be creative. It doesn't really matter what you do, you've just got to execute the play. The plays are designed to get the ball in the end zone, and if everyone does their job and does it correctly and I make the right throw and make the right read, the ball should end up in the end zone."

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles was largely ineffective despite a career-high 430 yards passing against Kansas City. His offensive line was the biggest problem.

The Jacksonville Jaguars failed to give Bortles enough time or protection in a 30-14 loss at the Chiefs on Sunday. Bortles was sacked five times, fumbling once, and hurried way more often.

According to Pro Football Focus, Jacksonville's line allowed 24 total quarterback pressures — seven more than any other NFL team in Week 5.

"We take an immense amount of pride in our work," backup left tackle Josh Walker said Monday. "That's going to be the goal of our group this week: to be more determined to be better and do a better job in protecting Blake. We've got to keep him clean. That's our job and that's what we're going to do.

"We're fine. We're not worried about things. We're going to fix things."

The Jaguars (3-2) might have to make some roster changes to find help.

Left tackle Josh Wells has a groin injury that could cause him to miss Sunday's game at Dallas (2-3), and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is headed to injured reserve and will have core muscle surgery.

Coach Doug Marrone said Wells is "week to week" and Seferian-Jenkins is expected to return later in the year.

Running back Corey Grant (foot) also is done for the season, joining Leonard Fournette on the sideline. Fournette is expected to miss his fourth game of the season because of a sprained right hamstring.

The Jaguars are planning to sign a running back and likely will do the same at left tackle.

"When you add and you're missing some key players, you have to play to the strengths of what they can do," Marrone said. "It is a challenge for us, but there are teams that go through those same challenges. It's going to be on us as coaches to do a good job of putting in the right plays, going to the right people and being able to go and execute it."

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Tennessee Titans

Mike Vrabel has recently been talking about close games a lot with his Titans.

After Tennessee pulled out three straight victories by three points apiece, the first-year coach and the Titans are coming off a one-point loss. The Titans had been a league-best 9-1 since the start of 2016 in games decided by three or fewer points.

Now Vrabel and the Titans get to see how they react to losing a close game — a 13-12 decision to Buffalo — and Vrabel believes the Titans will find out who they really are.

"It's not about what kind of team you are when you're winning, it's about when things go bad and you lose," Vrabel said Monday. "Can you stick together or does one side of the ball start looking at the other side? Do people start pointing fingers? That can't happen. I won't let it. I think that's where we have to start."

Even before Vrabel was hired in January, the Titans had been very good in close games. Then they added three more such wins before going to Buffalo.

"This one we wasn't able to pull it off," safety Kevin Byard said. "We win the close games it's like we're celebrating that. When we lose it, it's like the building's falling down and stuff like that. So at the end of the day, we just have to regroup and get back together ... correct the things we need to correct and get on the Ravens."

Well, the Titans have a few things to fix before hosting Baltimore (3-2) on Sunday in their lone home game in October.

The offense matched its season high in turnovers with two lost fumbles and an interception, and the Titans lost both of those games. Dropped passes also have been an issue. Nick Williams, the receiver beaten for position on the interception, also dropped a would-be touchdown pass as Tennessee settled for the first of two field goals in the fourth quarter.

The Titans went through a second game without scoring a touchdown, and they rank 29th in the NFL in scoring average at 17.4 points per game.

The loss of three-time Pro Bowl Delanie Walker, who broke his right ankle in the season-opening loss in Miami , has been very noticeable with tight ends not catching a single pass over the past two games. Jonnu Smith dropped a pass in Tennessee's overtime win against Philadelphia but didn't catch the two passes thrown to him in Buffalo. Luke Stocker didn't catch the one thrown to him.

Asked if the Titans need more from their tight ends, Vrabel said they need more from everybody, including himself.

"The only two guys we didn't need more from (Sunday) were the kicker and the punter," Vrabel said. "They did their job."

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