Heading into week 13, the AFC South is completely inverted from where it was at the end of last season. The Jaguars playoff run last year has started to look like a fluke, and Deshaun Watson is proving, when healthy, he is ready to dominate the league.
The Texans, who got off to a tough 0-3 start, have won eight straight games, becoming the first team in modern NFL history to do so and claiming the top spot in the division. The Jaguars, however, have now lost seven straight games, falling to 3-8 on the year.
In the midst of all of this, Andrew Luck has made a roaring comeback, making an MVP case for himself during the Colts current five-game winning streak. The Titans, on the other hand, have remained in the middle of the pack, showing glimpses of hope with statement wins over teams like the Patriots (whom they routed 34-10), but they currently sit with a 5-6 record.
So what exactly has led to the complete flip-flop of the AFC South?
- Texans (8-3)
Deshaun Watson was making a promising case for MVP last year during his rookie season before his short campaign came to an end after tearing his ACL. The Texans weren’t winning a lot of games during that span despite his contributions, but Watson showed signs of the greatness that was to come. They were also without one of the league’s best players, J.J. Watt, for more than half of the season due to a tibial plateau fracture.
With arguably the best defensive player in the league and a promising young-gun back under center, the Texans have solved their early season woes and have outscored opponents 214-148 over the course of their eight-game winning streak. With two divisional games left, they are poised to claim the No. 1 spot in the AFC South.
- Colts (6-5)
Andrew Luck finally looks like his old self, returning as the full-time starter after nearly two years of shoulder trouble. The Colts started the season 1-5 but have rallied their own five-game winning streak to get to 6-5 behind Andrew Luck’s latest performances. Luck has posted an average rating of 126.8 over this current winning streak and is making a strong case for league MVP.
With Marlon Mack providing support in the backfield and T.Y. Hilton playing some of the best football of his career, the Colts are scorching hot. They have three divisional games left on their schedule that will ultimately determine their final position in the division. If they are able to win out, the Colts could position themselves at the top of the division or earn a wildcard spot.
- Titans (5-6)
The Titans snuck into the playoffs last year with a wildcard spot after posting a 9-7 record before ultimately losing to the Patriots in the divisional round. Despite a record-winning last season, the Titans haven’t shown many signs that they are a legitimate postseason threat. With a new head coach, Mike Vrabel, the Titans need to discover their identity and get more production out of Mariota to post wins on a more consistent basis.
The Titans haven’t gotten the performances they expected out of Mariota, who has only thrown nine TDs on the season, but with the versatile backfield combination of power and speed with Henry and Lewis, they have a lot of versatility. They have severely struggled with consistency losing 21-0 to the Ravens earlier in the year while following up with a pounding of the Patriots, 34-10, a few weeks later. One game below .500, the Titans are settling into the No. 3 seed where they belong.
- Jaguars (3-8)
The Jaguars made waves last season when their defense stood at the top of the league and their offense was able to find a rhythm. With the ongoing drama of Ramsey on defense and the thin, depleted offense, the Jaguars have begun to implode, dropping seven games in a row.
Arguably the most disappointing team this season, the 3-8 Jaguars have a litany of problems. With Fournette missing significant time this season with a hamstring injury, the Jaguars weak- run game exposed their mediocre passing game. Blake Bortles has been nothing shy of abysmal, which has lead to him getting benched for the second time this season. Bortles has thrown 13 TDs to 10 INTs this season and leads the league in turnovers since his arrival to the league. After a promising 3-1 start, the Jaguars have ruined any chances of making the playoffs, hinting that last year’s promising playoff run may have been a fluke.
The AFC South has been nothing short of entertaining this year with the best few weeks ahead. With the Texans and Colts both on extended winning streaks, the division is still up for grabs after being turned on its head.
Feature image courtesy of: Fox 26 Houston
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