What a week it was in the AFC South! We had one big statement divisional victory from a team looking to stay hot. We also had a massive performance from the Tennessee Titans against the New England Patriots. The Houston Texans (6-3) could have been forgiven for thinking their bye week would have been a nice one watching their lead grow in the division. Due to having played an extra game the Texans were essentially 1.5 games ahead of the Titans and a loss by them would have given them a two-fame cushion. However, that was not to be and now the Texans have the Titans (5-4) just one game behind and the Colts (4-5) just two games back.
Let’s take a look at the takeaways from a couple of crucial games in the division.
Tennessee Titans 34 vs. New England Patriots 10
Wow. Just wow. The Titans hit the Patriots in the mouth early and often and never let them get back into it. It started right from the kickoff. A 58 yard return was turned into a touchdown on a seven play 40 yard drive. After the Patriots responded with a field goal the Titans offense did it again. Nine plays and 78 yards later and they were in the end zone again. They then rounded off an impressive first quarter with their own field goal.
The Patriots did get a touchdown on the board in the second quarter but importantly after two punts the Titans closed out the half with a touchdown on an eight play drive to lead 24-10. A Logan Ryan sack of Tom Brady ensured the Titans would lead at the half. In the second half the Patriots never got going and when the Titans got to 34 points they even pulled Brady.
The key to the victory was effective offense early. It was not hugely efficient offense and special teams really helped but they all did what they needed too. However, once the offense got the lead the defense made sure it stuck. They sacked Brady three times, hit him six times, had six tackles for loss and a further four passes deflected. Even when they were not hitting him they made Brady uncomfortable and it told as he routinely missed guys he should have been hitting.
This was such a big statement for the Titans. We know the defense is good but the offense has now stepped up two games in a row and that is huge. Outside of the division their remaining schedule, Jets, Giants and Redskins, is not tough. The key games will be the two against the Colts and the one against the Texans. They already have the head-to-head advantage after beating the Texans earlier in the year. Winning those three games and their out of division games will almost ensure they are heading to the playoffs as division winners.
Indianapolis Colts 29 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 26
This was not a pretty game. The Colts rode Eric Ebron’s three touchdowns to victory but they can thank the Jaguars for the assist. The Jaguars defense left Ebron uncovered for one of his two touchdowns and the coverage on the first one was not great either. If we remove the Jordan Wilkins 64-yard rush the Colts went 30 yards on 22 carries. It was not pretty on that front. Luck as always did his thing and made a Jaguars defense that is supposed to be good against the pass look slow.
The Jaguars handed this one to the Colts. I have mentioned the coverage already, and there was a missed field goal and extra point which ultimately cost the game. Adam Vinatieri did miss a field goal for the Colts but in the end the 29 points they had scored in the first half was enough.
The game was sealed on a Rashaad Greene fumble when the Jaguars were in range to tie the game at the end. It was a tough call as the ball came out fractionally before Greene hit the ground and it required an extensive review to make the call for sure.
The Jaguars offense did fine in this game. Bortles avoided mistakes and had 320 yards. He did miss throws and he was helped by an 80-yard touchdown for Donte Moncrief but this loss is not on him. The run game was fairly poor, with Fournette carrying 24 times for just 53 yards. At 3-6, with five straight losses the Jaguars season is virtually over. However, they have the chance to play spoilers for someone and that should motivate them to continue playing hard.
For the Colts this is more of the promise they have shown recently. They have now won three straight and are just two games out of the division lead. Andrew Luck is getting better and better each week and the defense can stop people. At 4-5 they are going to be a tough out for the Titans and Texans this season. There is a real chance their offense could take them to the playoffs, either as division winners or a wildcard team.
Image Credit: Associated Press