Kiefer O'Boyle looks at the AFC South ahead of Week 14.
Going into Week 14 is a good time to sit back, pause and take stock as we head into the holiday period. Particularly if you’re Urban Meyer you’re looking forward to getting away from the NFL and passive aggressively cutting a turkey on Christmas morning as your family watch on wondering if the turkey represents the personification of any number of Jaguars players. For the rest of us, this is the make-or-break time for our teams unless you are a Jets or Bears fan, your season was over close to Labor Day. Let’s take a look at our respective AFC South teams and look at what can and cannot happen over the coming weeks towards the end of the season.
Tennessee Titans (8-4)
So, the Titans have been the best of the AFC South to no-one’s surprise however to the surprise of quite a few, they were also the best of the AFC conference for a few weeks. Listen to this stretch of wins- Bills, Chiefs, @Colts, @Rams, Saints. That’s a truly amazing set of wins and it really did paint the Titans as true Super Bowl contenders and Derrick Henry as the best player in the NFL. Then came the injuries and injuries to big players like Henry inevitably lead to losses. Losses to Houston and New England have since followed that stretch and put a slight dampener on Titan hearts. With the Titans coming off their bye and being given a cupcake like Jacksonville as their next opponent is a chance for the Titans to come back healthier and get off the snide with a W.
I would imagine with that win the Titans should all but comfortably tie up the South division. The question now is how hard to the Titans push to get that all important playoff bye. It could give them vital time to get healthy and possibly get Henry back in contention to start? Playoff football is won by players like Henry and without him, they will find it very difficult to win in places like Buffalo in mid-January. The one concern for the Titans is that they are not immune from absolutely laying an egg against totally inferior opposition. Losses against the Jets and Texans show that and it’s a worry that you can never ever quite trust that they’ll show up. Now having said that, there are few teams in the NFL that are excluded from this- (Packers, Bucs, Week 14 Pats?...anyone else?)
Indianapolis Colts (7-6)
The ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team. Some weeks they look like a team that could do serious damage and go far in the playoffs if they got hot and the next week they look dysfunctional, poorly coached and too reliant on Carson Wentz who, with the best will in the world, is prone to game turning turnovers and mistakes. Now credit where it is due, Wentz has been good this season- very good in parts. He has almost entirely eradicated bad turnovers this season which has cost the Eagles in the past. This is probably down to good coaching from Frank Reich and also having a very good run game in Jonathon Taylor and Naheim Hines which takes the pressure off Wentz. Speaking of Taylor- he has taken the step up everyone was expecting to become one of the NFL’s premier RB’s and should he keep up his form and if Reich would actually give him the ball, could he be in contention for an MVP award which is wide open.
Where are the Colts now then? Well, the division is still mathematically possible but improbable to say the least particularly when the Colts’ next two fixtures are the Patriots and Cardinals after a week 14 bye. Can they make the playoffs? Definitely. If they could somehow win 1 of those 2 games, they finish the season with the Raiders and Jags. If they could get to 10-7 they are almost guaranteed a playoff spot. 9-8 could probably still get in but would need a bit of luck. Once they get in, the Colts will be a dangerous team to meet.
Houston Texans (2-10) & Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)
You know you have to take the good with the bad and speaking of bad, there ain’t not more bad than the Texans and Jaguars, who seem to have entered into a blood pact to make sure they make everyone who watches their games vow to never ever watch them play again. These two teams, who are currently propping up the AFC Conference, have very little to play for at this stage. The Texans in particular have very little to look forward to in the future other than a high draft pick and losing 31-zip to the Colts in week 13 just shows how far the Texans are off the pace. That’s not to say the Jags are much better. They have had some close games and have impressed in spurts but it has come far too seldom for anyone’s liking after the hype of Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer entering the season. A big question mark hangs over both their heads as they go into next season. Lawrence has been underwhelming to say the least but that does have a massive asterisk beside it saying *look at the players around him before making a judgement. The Jags wont do anything hasty, and they will hope that year 2 is when real progress can be made.