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Re-Examining the AFC South Quarterback Situation and its Impact

About a month ago, I ran a post here on Cincy Jungle that talked about the quarterback situations surrounding teams in the AFC South. This posting came on the heels of the then-surprising release of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback, David Garrard. The Jaguars went into the season with two unproven guys in Luke McCown and Blaine Gabbert, which left their team's success in 2011 looking doubtful. And, as we all know by now, the Indianapolis Colts have lost their entire team quarterback Peyton Manning for what looks like the entire 2011 season because of a neck injury.

Fast forward four weeks later. Those two teams have a combined record of 1-7, have started four quarterbacks between them and are pretty much right where the critics had them, given their respective situations. The Colts started 42-year old Kerry Collins for three weeks and he was replaced by Curtis Painter because of a sustained concussion, not to mention ineffectiveness. The Jaguars started Luke McCown, but also because of ineffectiveness they predictably went to the rookie Gabbert to lead the squad. Gabbert had his first career start in week three against the Carolina Panthers. Gabbert wasn't the only one to get his first career start in the past two weeks, as the Colts trotted out Painter for the first time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on their Monday Night Football matchup.

Because the Bengals play these two teams in the next two weeks and some things have changed with these two squads, I decided to look into this again. A month ago, I contended that these two matchups should conceivably go into the Bengals' favor because of the uncertainty surrounding these two specific squads. Should that stance have changed?

And, while the stats and records are still clearly in the Bengals' corner, there are some things about these two teams that cause me to pause before I automatically chalk up two Bengals victories.

First, there's the Colts. In their Monday Night Football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Painter actually looked somewhat impressive in his first NFL start against a young and fast Tampa Bay defense. Although his completion percentage was only at 43%, he threw for 281 yards, two touchdowns and a 99.4 rating. Say what you want about his performance in that game or the week before against the Steelers, but the truth is he's had his team close to victory in two consecutive weeks. Couple that with the fact that their star wide receiver Reggie Wayne thought that Painter was the best option to start all along, and there may be something going on here that none of us know.

Then there's the Jaguars and Gabbert. He's a big, mobile guy that the Bengals were supposedly looking at in this year's draft and he's had the typical rookie season filled with ups and downs. He's played in roughly two and a half games in 2011 and has a pedestrian 47.8% completion rate with a 62.9 overall quarterback rating. The Jaguars are winless with Gabbert at the helm, but have still been relatively competitive--especially in Gabbert's first start. The thing with Gabbert is that the Bengals have historically struggled against quarterbacks that are mobile, as well as those who they have very little game tape on. Call it lack of preparedness or whatever you like, but we've all seen it happen over the years. 

All in all, the Bengals should and most likely will be favored to win in these two games. They're boasting the No.1 defense in the NFL and have the most polished rookie quarterback right now. But, with both of these AFC South teams changing their courses from a month ago, it's worth looking at again a little more closely--especially when a 4-2 Bengals start is on the horizon. Are these games as easily winnable as they were just a month ago? Some signs point to yes and others to no. We'll see what happens over the next two weeks.