Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (84) runs up the field past San Diego Chargers cornerback Derek Cox (22) and free safety Eric Weddle (32) during the first half at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

AFC South Week 7 Thoughts: Cecil Shorts, Vontae Davis, Houston Texans and more

All four AFC South teams played against tough opponents in Week 7, and the Indianapolis Colts were the only winners despite playing the toughest team of them all. Andrew Luck was sensational in spearheading the 39-33 upset over the Denver Broncos, spoiling Peyton Manning‘s return home to Indy. As we have seen throughout his career, Luck rises to the occasion in big moments, and he is one of the best leaders in the game. Luck’s ability to run for a 10-yard touchdown score showcased his athleticism, and Philip Rivers will tell you just how hard it is for QBs to run for TDs. It make look like there is a wide opening, but defenses close in so quickly. Rivers, by the way, failed on an attempted touchdown run on Sunday, though you can hardly fault him. Below are some thoughts I have on the AFC South.

1. Vontae Davis is the star of the Indianapolis Colts secondary, which is a solid unit. LaRon Landry was a really nice offseason signing, Antoine Bethea continues to be a key player at safety, and Davis has been the brightest spot of them all. The Colts secondary has been middle-of-the-pack in terms of yards allowed per play, but overall I think this unit is definitely an improvement from last year’s bunch. Nobody impressed me more in Sunday’s upset win than Davis, who did a terrific job covering Demaryius Thomas and the other big-time weapons on the Broncos offense. He came away with two pass break-ups, and it was easy to see that he was just playing on an entirely different level on Sunday. The Colts needed him to step up against an extremely potent passing attack, and it’s safe to say that Davis did more than his job.

2. Cecil Shorts came into this week’s game with a sprained SC joint, and I would have honestly sat him out. It was obvious that Shorts was in severe pain throughout the week, and he stated that he had difficulty sleeping. But Shorts was able to play, and he was determined to play with adrenaline as his only aid. The Jaguars lost, but Shorts had himself a really nice ballgame with 80 receiving yards.

3. The Houston Texans could be in a serious conundrum at the running back position in Week 9 if Arian Foster and Ben Tate are unable to play, because they had to release No. 3 RB Cierre Wood following a violation of team rules. Ray Graham is currently the Texans only healthy running back, and it’s weird to use “healthy” and “Ray Graham” in the same sentence given his history of severe knee injuries. Graham is a very talented back, though, who is Pittsburgh’s career leader in rushing yards. He was a big star in college, but hopefully he isn’t pressed into starting action. Tate has fractured ribs and Foster has a hamstring injury, but it looks like the latter will most likely play. It’s a darn good thing the Texans have a bye this week.

4. Case Keenum made his debut on Sunday against a very tough Kansas City Chiefs defense in a tough road environment. Gary Kubiak is extremely high on the second-year passer, and he looked excellent early on in the game. His throw to DeAndre Hopkins was an absolute beauty, and he did show plenty of upside and some flashes. However, Keenum was inconsistent and looked very much like a QB making his debut. He could potentially be the Texans QB of the future, but it’s far too early to make a judgement call. The Texans kept the Chiefs extremely close, and this is still a playoff-caliber team. At this point in time, Matt Schaub should start, since he gives the Texans the best chance at winning (I know what I am saying is extremely unpopular, though).

5. The best player in the NFL today is J.J. Watt, if you don’t adjust for positional importance. The guy just dominates on a week-to-week basis, and he was terrific on Sunday. Watt hit Alex Smith three times, with one of those being a sack. He also continues to play his best football in run defense, and that really shouldn’t be overlooked.

6. If you haven’t noticed this by now, then you need to pay attention here. Robert Mathis is playing at an incredibly high level this season, and he’s doing it without Dwight Freeney on the other side of him. The man has been an absolute monster this season, and he was another big reason why the Colts were able to win. Mathis recorded two sacks, four QB hits in total, and he has been an absolute monster all year long. Keep watching him closely, because Mathis is putting on some masterful performances this year.

7. Kendall Wright continues to impress me with his consistency, and he swallowed up nine of his 12 targets for 98 yards against the San Francisco 49ers. Nate Washington makes the big plays, but Wright is the best receiver on the Titans and does an impeccable job of moving the chains. His play this season is one reason why Jake Locker‘s completion percentage has increased.

8. It’s clear to me that Chad Henne needs to start for the Jacksonville Jaguars for the remainder of the season, because he gives this team a significantly better shot at winning than Blaine Gabbert. While Henne throws his fair share of picks and will ideally be replaced as the starter once the Jaguars draft a QB in 2014, his arm strength and ability to gain massive yardage is key. The Jaguars have some really talented receivers (Shorts and Justin Blackmon make up an amazing 1-2 dup), and Henne does a much better job of getting them the ball than Gabbert.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter for more NFL updates and analysis @SorianoJoe. Be sure to like us on Facebook here and follow our site on Twitter as well.

Tags: Andrew Luck Arian Foster Ben Tate Blaine Gabbert Case Keenum Cecil Shorts Chad Henne Cierre Wood Houston Texans Indianapolis Colts J.J. Watt Jacksonville Jaguars Kendall Wright Matt Schaub Nate Washington Ray Graham Robert Mathis Tennessee Titans Vontae Davis

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