Week 7 was another tough week for the AFC South. It was also the first time there have not been a one or a three in the divisions overall record as they went 2-2 as a group. The last four weeks have almost turned the division on its head. The Texans were potentially a loss away from being eliminated from contention before Week 4, now they lead the division at 4-3. The Jaguars were flying high at 3-1 with a statement win over the Patriots before Week 5. They have now lost three in a row to sit at 3-4. Same for the Titans who had their big win over the Jaguars in Week 3, but now sit at 3-4 entering their bye week. The only consistent team has been the Colts, who are seemingly in every game only to lose in heart breaking fashion most of the time.
Let’s take a look at what happened in Week 7 across the division and what it means going forward.
Tennessee Titans 19 @ Los Angeles Chargers 20 (London)
This was a really tight game over the course of the full 60 minutes. The Chargers seemed to move the ball at ease on the Titans at times. However, they just did not seem to have the ball for a prolonged period of time. Every time they had the ball they seemed to take chunk yardage and kick a field goal or score a touchdown relatively quickly. For example their first score came nine second after they took their first snap of the game. On the contrast the Titans ground the ball and took time off the clock. Dion Lewis rushed 13 times for 91 yards and had some eye popping runs. Marcus Mariota also rushed effectively for 38 yards on seven runs. In contrast without Melvin Gordon the Chargers only managed 47 yards on 16 runs.
Mariota was also quite effective throwing the ball. He completed 24 of 32 passing attempts for 237 yards and a touchdown. Mariota was not helped by a couple of key drops by his receivers which would have made his numbers even better. Unfortunately, his biggest mistake led to an interception in the red zone late in the first half. Instead of it being either a three-point Tennessee lead or a one-point deficit ended up being a four-point deficit at the half. Those three points would make all the difference come the end of the game.
The Big Talking Point
The last thing to focus on is the two-point conversion at the end of the game. After the Titans scored to make it 19-20 Mike Vrabel chose to go for two and the win rather than kick the extra point and take the game to over time. Unfortunately the play call was wrong and the Titans failed to convert. The issue was possibly that the Titans had to use a play from a similar distance to get the touchdown and then had another play fail only to be reprieved by flag. It may simply have been they ran out of options.
For what it is worth I do not mind the call. Being aggressive is how the Titans won in Week 2 against the Texans and Vrabel did not shy away. The Titans had had the ball 35 minutes in total and had been moving it with ease in the second half. Vrabel must have believed he had the Chargers defense on the ropes and he went for the kill. Unfortunately, it did not come off but given the Chargers looked like they could move the ball with ease at times he was right not to leave the game to be decided on the toss of a coin.
Indianapolis Colts 37 vs. Buffalo Bills 5
This is exactly what teams should do to the Bills. The Colts took advantage of the Bills mistake to put up big points in the game. Derek Anderson threw three interceptions and the Colts forced two fumbles, both of which they recovered. In contrast, the Colts did not turn the ball over once. Andrew Luck throwing for four touchdowns is nice but the biggest story is 126 yards on 19 runs for Marlon Mack. The Colts need to make that run game work week-in week-out if they are to have any shot of staying in this division.
Houston Texans 20 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 7
This game potentially has monster implications for both teams. For the Texans to go into the Jaguars house and come away with a win is huge. To do it with a quarterback with bruised ribs, who had to take a bus to the game, and to get over 100 yards rushing is also big. Watson was not great but he did enough when you combine it with 141 yards rushing on 37 attempts. Against that defense they were never going to shred them but to only allow one sack and give up five QB hits is far better than I expected. However, scoring just 20 points will often not be enough to win games and the Texans will need more from their offense going forward.
The big news came on the other sideline. With Blake Bortles struggling, having six completions on 12 passing attempts for 61 yards and losing two fumbles the Jaguars made the extremely tough call to bench him. Cody Kessler came into the game and went 21-of-30 for 156 yards, one touchdown and one interception. All around the Jaguars offense was just inept once again. The run game did not work, the quarterbacks combined for an average of 5.2 yards per attempt and the receivers dropped balls when wide open. It was ugly ugly football and it is extremely concerning for the team going forward. It also appears as though there were serious words exchanged in the changing room after the game. With the personalities on that defense there is no way they will have taken the offense looking this inept again without having something to say.
Right now this division is well and truly open. If you told me that come January 2019 the Colts will have won this division I am not sure I would be that shocked. The other three teams just keep finding ways to shoot themselves in the foot. The Texans cannot protect Watson, the Titans cannot get consistency in their offense and the Jaguars offense is in tatters. The good news for Jaguars fans? Bortles will start in London this week and he appears to be a different player when playing there. Maybe a trip to London is just what they need to jump-start their season.
Image credit: The Athletic