Every week in crucial in the AFC South right now but this one was especially so. With two teams in contention for the division facing off and another one facing a playoff contender. We can ignore the Jaguars game against the similarly terrible Bills. The Texans could have ended this week one, two or three games ahead of second place in the division. In addition, the Colts and Titans could easily have seen themselves slip into a wildcard quagmire. Ultimately is was a fascinating week in which we saw an offense step up, one team survive an up-and-down performance and another continue to be maddeningly inconsistent.
Let’s take a look at what happened in the AFC South in Week 12.
Houston Texans 34 vs. Tennessee Titans 17
Well I was not expecting this level of offense in this game. 54 points in the game and 17 in the first quarter are higher marks than I expected in either. The Titans first two drives saw them go 131 yards in eight plays and score 10 points. However, they could not maintain the moment. Mariota had just two passing plays over 20 yards, the touchdowns by Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis. He was extremely efficient, completing 22-of-23 passes for 303 yards but it never felt like they were making big dents into the Texans. A big part of that were sacks, six for 43 yards, and penalties, 7 for 50 yards. After those first two drives the offense never really had any positive momentum.
In the run game they averaged 4.6 yards per carry in total, but that includes a 39 yard rush by Davis on a reverse. Take that play away and they averaged just three yards per carry, with Dion Lewis gaining eight yards on seven carries. It was an uninspiring offensive performance and it highlighted why the Titans will struggle to compete in this offensive explosion in the NFL.
Texans Offense Rolls
The Texans had their way with the Titans on offense in this game. When Deshaun Watson needed to complete a pass someone was usually open. Demaryius Thomas contributed two touchdowns and at least one crucial catch to move the chains. However, the run game was the story. Lamar Miller carried 12 times for 162 yards. Even without the 97-yard touchdown run he had to break Titan hearts he was effective. It is a mystery to me why when it seemed like Miller was getting six to eight yards with regularity that Alfred Blue had 13 carries in this game. Watson also added 70 yards on nine carries and scrambled for a touchdown. He was lucky that a long run did not end in a fumble when he was fighting for extra yards, but overall he generally ran intelligently.
There was a nice offensive spread in this game, with nine receivers sharing 23 targets and with the running backs splitting time to keep both of them fresh. It was a well balanced offensive performance and provides a lot of optimism for what the Texans offense can do going forward.
This game has all but ended the Titans chase for the division, as they now sit three games behind the Texans. However, they are still very much in the Wildcard conversation, but will need better performances on both side of the ball. For the Texans, they remain two games ahead of the Colts for the division and get past another potential stumbling block game. They are now virtually a lock for the playoffs and sitting in a pretty position for the division. Their run game the last two weeks has been a huge plus and their passing game is just solid. The fact I have not even mentioned their defense despite a good game tells you how good they have been this season. They will be a tough team in the playoffs if they play in this manner.
Indianapolis Colts 27 vs. Miami Colts 24
The Colts made extremely hard work of this and the Dolphins made sure it was not as easy as many expected. As soon as it was announced Ryan Tannehill was starting expectations should have been lowered. Tannehill is a big upgrade on Brcok Osweiler and it showed. Tannehill was not spectacular bur completed 17-of-25 for 204 yards with two touchdowns and did not commit a turnover. Between his solid play and the run game adding 113 yards on 25 carries the offense did what they needed too.
However, the Dolphins were in this game because of defense. Cameron Wake seemed to get into Luck’s face at crucial times and was rewarded with the first sack of Luck in six weeks. Luck’s numbers look good, as he completed 30-of-37 passes for 343 yards with three touchdowns. He also caught a four yard reception on fourth down when lined up as a wide receiver.
Turnovers were nearly the Colts downfall in this game. Luck threw two interceptions, Jordan Wilkins lost a fumble and Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal. The official turnover count will show the Colts were -2 but in reality they were -3. They can consider themselves lucky to have escaped from this game with a win to climb to 6-5 on the season. However, they need to be smarter with the ball for the rest of the season if they are to have a shot at winning the division.
Jacksonville Jaguars 21 @ Buffalo Bills 24
The biggest highlight from this game was the mass brawl and that probably tells you everything you need to know. The teams combined for 42 passes, 187 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. They rushed the ball 74 times for 393 yards and four touchdowns. There was also a missed field goal by Josh Lambo just minutes after the Jaguars had a touchdown wiped off. There was also an interception by Blake Bortles which ultimately may have contributed to his benching for next week.
Overall this was a game between two bad teams who are unlikely to win many more games between them this season and you could tell anytime you watched even a minute of it.
- The Texans are now virtually assured of a playoff spot and remain two games ahead of the Colts for the division. Their matchup later this season could be a playoff game preview.
- The Colts survived a bad game against another playoff contender. They are now the favorites for the second Wildcard and still have an outside shot at the division.
- The Titans cannot afford to lose more than another game or their season is over. Even then the Wildcard spots could be slipping away from them if they lose their next game against the Colts in a few weeks time.
- The Jaguars are done. Plain and simple.
Image credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports