Week 5 NFL Takeaways: The AFC South is entertaining television

Week 5 NFL Takeaways: The AFC South is entertaining television

Even though the highly anticipated Sunday Night Football showdown revealed that Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys were no competition for the San Francisco 49ers, the rest of the NFL Week 5 slate was largely entertaining.

Not entertaining in a way that viewers should just be happy the NFL is on television, but compelling football was played throughout the day. Three of the four games in the late slate were all one-score contests at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the Minnesota Vikings brought the score to 27-20 against the Kansas City Chiefs by scoring a touchdown with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game.

The early slate had six games, and some beatdowns were administered between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST. The Carolina Panthers had no chance against the Detroit Lions, and the New England Patriots were shellacked 34-0 at home by the New Orleans Saints — quarterbacked by Derek Carr who injured his throwing shoulder the week prior.

Somehow the Baltimore Ravens snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, watching the nuts, and bolts fall out of their offense as it collapsed during a 17-10 loss was more *melting face emoji* than quality television.

Some of the best, and most fun, football in Week 5 was played in the AFC South. A division that was supposed to be in the running for the worst in the NFL had already largely outplayed its expectations through four weeks. In Week 5, the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts carried the first shift on RedZone, while the Jacksonville Jaguars looked explosive across the pond against the Buffalo Bills in the early-bird game.

Jags finish quite the homestand in England

Following the Jaguars’ impressive postseason run, with the addition of Calvin Ridley they were supposed to continue to improve in 2023. This is their second season without Urban Meyer, and Trevor Lawrence ended last season playing like a No. 1 overall draft pick.

Lawrence was great in Week 1, and Ridley made a thunderous return from his gambling suspension with eight receptions for 101 yards, and a touchdown as the Jaguars defeated the Colts, 31-21.

The Jaguars did not break 25 points the next three games and lost both in Week 2, and Week 3. They were scheduled to play consecutive games in their second home — England — beginning in Week 4. The Jaguars defeated the Atlanta Falcons handily, but they only scored one offensive touchdown and benefited greatly from a pick-six.

Against the Bills in Week 5, the Jaguars offense mauled their opposition in a 25-20 victory. Ridley had 100-plus yards receiving, and Lawrence recorded his first 300-yard passing game of the 2023 season. The player who jumped off the screen in this game though was Travis Etienne.

Not only was Week 5 his first time totaling triple-digit rushing yards in a game this season, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Etienne also averaged 12 yards per reception on four catches. He was the most explosive player on the field and it drove the Jaguars to 3-2 on the season.

The Texans lost, but they made the Falcons work for the victory

Desmond Ridder must have grown tired of the criticism, because he was tossing the ball to his top pass-catching playmakers on Sunday. For those who have Drake London and/or Kyle Pitts in fantasy, you all got some points in Week 5.

Pitts caught seven passes for 87 yards against the Texans. London hauled in six receptions for 78 yards. Prior to Week 5, London, and Pitts had each totaled 11 catches on the season. On the day both had their best stats of the 2023 season, Ridder — their much-maligned quarterback — had by far the top passing day of his short NFL career. He threw for 329 yards, with a touchdown, and no interceptions.

C.J. Stroud’s counting statistics were objectively worse than Ridder’s and the Texans lost to the Falcons 21-19. However, the rookie’s fourth-quarter drive had his team on the way to both victory and a record above .500 in a year in which they had the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

When the Falcons took a six-point lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the game, the Texans drained the clock past the two-minute warning while scoring a touchdown. They largely rode the running game, including a clutch 3rd down run from Stroud. He threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz the play after the two-minute warning timeout.

Stroud has played like a phenom all season. He was a record-setting quarterback before Texans-Falcons Week 5 kicked off. The Falcons ended up kicking a game-winning field goal, but that game turned out to be a thriller because Stroud is leading an offense that one day will be great.

Colts and Titans play a thriller in Jonathan Taylor’s return to the field

Taylor did not touch the ball very much in his 2023 debut for the Colts. In the days leading up to the Colts’ Week 5 matchups against the Titans, he signed a multi-year contract in line with what the top running backs in the NFL receive.

He played against the Titans, but only touched the ball seven times. During the summer,

the Colts were projected to not sniff the playoffs. Taylor’s contract dispute was not the only reason for the Colts’ low expectations. They entered the season starting a rookie quarterback — Anthony Richardson — whose scouting report should have been literally stamped “raw.”

Even though Taylor was hardly used, and Richardson exited the game with his second injury of the season, this matchup between division rivals was a fun watch. The Colts were feisty all day, proving that their 2-2 record was no fluke. Derrick Henry was largely a non-factor for the Titans, while his backup — Tyjae Spears — was a matchup problem for the Colts with 11 touches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Also, DeAndre Hopkins was snatching passes from all angles for the Titans as he totaled 140 yards on eight receptions.

As well as Hopkins and Spears played, the Colts were still able to pull out the victory at home. Gardner Minshew filled in at quarterback for the second time this season and threw only three incomplete passes out of four attempts. Also, from the Colts’ first possession to their final one, Zack Moss was unstoppable. He gashed the Titans for 165 yards rushing and two touchdowns while averaging 7.2 yards per carry.

Going into Sunday’s game, Moss had rushed for 280 yards while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. These Colts who had the fourth-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft are now 3-2 on the season. A backfield tandem of Moss and Taylor is at minimum able to make the rest of the AFC South consider the Colts as a threat.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.