An exciting day in the AFC South culminated under the lights of the final Sunday Night Football of the season. The Colts and Titans went head to head in a winner takes all playoff decider. The winner of the game would not only join the Texans in the playoffs but be heading to Houston to face them next week. In the end it was a comfortable score line for the Colts in Tennessee and they continue to defy the odds as they return to the post season in 2018.
Let’s take a look at last weeks games and what we can takeaway from them.
Houston Texans 20 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 3
This had the potential to be a really exciting start to a playoff defining Sunday and for a period it delivered. The Jaguars went up 3-0 and the game was still 3-3 as we entered the second quarter. It was at that point that the Texans took the game by the scruff of the neck. Houston scored 14 points in the second quarter and essentially put the game to be by half time.
The key is that they won but there is a lot to remain concerned about here, mostly on the offence. Watson did enough, completing 25-of-35 for 234 yards, but it was unspectacular. He leaned heavily on DeAndre Hopkins, with 12 receptions for 147 yards on 16 targets. However, Watson was sacked six times and hit 12 in total. He ended the season the most sacked quarterback and his offensive line remains a major issue.
The Texans offensive line is going to make any defensive line look good in January. If teams can successfully bracket Hopkins then the passing game could get really ugly. The highest targeted guys after Hopkins were DeAndre Carter and Vyncint Smithm with five each. There is no other real receiving weapon and if Watson has to get rid of the ball quick he will need people other than Hopkins.
The run game should help but even that struggled outside of Watson. The young quarterback took some horrendous hits on his 13 runs for 66 yards. That is not sustainable, and if it continues he is very likely to get hit. They need Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue to combine for more than 68 yards on 20 carries because play action will be huge for them, especially if they have to go on the road.
For the defence it is all positive. They shut down Blake Bortles as they should do. Carlos Hyde was limited to just 13 yards on 10 carries and suffocated the life out of the Jaguars. They need these kind of performances going forward, with the potential they could face face Andrew Luck, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes in January.
Not going to spend a huge amount of time on this as I will break them down more extensively after the Super Bowl. However, we learned that this offence has to change and drastically. The whole thing is slow and boring. They need fresh faces pretty much everywhere. They will have a new offensive coordinator, they need a new quarterback and they need more talent in their skill positions. Defensively it is fine and they just need to get everyone back on the same page for next season.
Indianapolis Colts 33 @ Tennessee Titans 17
The Colts took a seven point lead in the first and then just kept the Titans at arms length for the rest of the game. 33-17 is maybe a little flattering with 10 points coming in the final four minutes but there is no doubt who the better team was here.
This was a complete team performance right across the roster. Luck threw for 285 yards with three touchdowns. Marlon Mack rushed for 119 yards on 25 carries and added a touchdown. Three receivers had 60 or more receiving yards. Another three had over 20 and a total of 10 people were targeted.
Defensively they held the Titans to just 165 passing yards and 93 rushing yards. They did not sack Blaine Gabbert but they managed to pick him off twice. On special teams, Adam Vinatieri nailed his kicks as usual and Rigoberto Sanchez averaged nearly 50 yards per punt, including a punt which went out of bounds at the three yard line.
Again I will dive into this in more depth later but this was a tough game. They were without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota and were always sledding uphill. This game demonstrated they are in the right direction but the key is that they need Mariota on the field and performing to his full capabilities. If they had had that here they might have snuck away with a close win.
It has been a stunning season in the AFC South and this was a fitting finish. The Colts and Titans having a defacto semi final to decide who would face the Texans in a division championship type game next week. It has been a fun season, full of twist and turns and I hope to see another stunning game in the Wildcard round.
Image credit: AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith