By Kiefer O’Boyle
We’ve just passed the quarter mark of the season and that means it’s time to evaluate how our AFC South teams have fared thus far. Before that let’s look at the division standings as they are entering week six:
Tennessee Titans 3-2
Houston Texans 1-4
Indianapolis Colts 1-4
Jacksonville Jaguars 0-5
Probably the most stark realisation for any neutral reading will be the fact that no team has a positive record, and in terms of collective wins they are ranked lowest of all divisions in football. So fair to say it’s been a pretty turgid start for the South and to be frank it doesn’t look like that is changing anytime soon
Tennessee Titans- Grade C+
On the face of it, going through a tough opening five fixtures 3-2 is actually a reasonable return for the division favourites. However, looking deeper than the record and there are a lot of issues this team will have unless something changes soon. Weeks 1 and 4 saw a defence simply incapable of stopping a mobile QB who can prolong a play in the form of Kyler Murray and Zack Wilson. This secondary stepped up in week 2 against the Seahawks when they had to but no more. Looking ahead it is by far the biggest area of concern for coach Mike Vrabel and it will ultimately stop the Titans from going anywhere in the playoffs.
Week 4 was a downright disaster for the Titans losing to the then winless and hapless New York Jets. It was a classic banana skin game, and it was grimly predictable that the impotent Jets offence was able to move the ball against Tennessee. This was the type of game the Titans have been winning in the last couple of years and it’s usually the signature of a good team. Can we call the Titans a good team at this stage? I would be very hesitant.
On the positives, the performance in Seattle against the Seahawks showed the Titans we all recognised. The hard running, consistent and stable offence run by Tannehill and Derrick Henry, who broke out, gave glimpses then that they can give anyone in the NFL problems.
Houston Texans- Grade D+
First off the bat to the surprise of a lot of people, the Texans are not the worst team in football (at least with Tyrod Taylor under centre). In fact, they aren’t even the worst team in their division- we’ll chat about the team that holds both those unfortunate accolades in a while. As well as that, the Texans got their win out of the way early in week 1 against the aforementioned Jaguars so the pressure really was off coach David Culley for a while anyway. Week 2 saw them run the Browns close until QB Davis Mills replaced Taylor. Since then, we have seen the Houston Texans we all expected to see in the run up to the season. Losing convincingly against the Panthers and being shut out 40-0 against the Bills has really put into perspective where the Texans and indeed the AFC South are in the league.
In terms of the few positives, the team are clearly playing for David Culley, who has been put in an ultimate no-win situation in a franchise that can’t even be said to be in rebuild mode yet given their lack of draft talent.
Indianapolis Colts- Grade D-
Yes the Colts had a tough opening schedule but hold on, let’s not make excuses for a team that has been and claims to still be a division winning, playoff calibre team. The Colts were convincingly beat by the Seahawks in week 1, came close to the Rams but the score line flattered them, and they were abject against the Titans in a game which would usually have eliminated them from playoff contention in any division but the AFC South. In week 4 they finally picked up their first win against the Dolphins. The Dolphins who had Jacoby Brissett doing everything in his power to hand the game to Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. The schedule doesn’t really ease up with the Ravens and 49ers in 2 of the next 3 games sandwiching the Texans.
In terms of the positives, em well I really don’t know. Carson Wentz has played well in some games but is consistently under huge pressure from opposition defences. Reich is focusing heavily on the pass game as well so getting Jonathon Taylor and Nyheim Hines going should help relieve the focus on Wentz.
Jacksonville Jaguars- Grade F
Ladies and Gentlemen, the first overall pick of the NFL 2022 draft goes to….your Jacksonville Jaguars. Let’s start with the blatantly obvious, the Jaguars are a bad team, and so far they’re badly coached. Trevor Lawrence has played fine in places and awfully in others but that has to be caveated with fact that the weapons around him in skill positions are not good and not putting him in the correct position to be successful. Coach Urban Meyer has had a bad week for other off-field reasons, however on the field he seems to lack a plan for how this offence ought to work. Will it cost him his job? Probably not anytime soon but if I was behind the scenes in Jacksonville I would be worried about the lack of growth of Lawrence should this turmoil continue.
The stuff that has went on this week is the kind of thing which goes on in dysfunctional and poorly run teams. A lot of the rumours from NFL reporters who have sources inside the dressing room have claimed the team are not happy with the overall coaching situation. Like bad teams, this is the type of catalyst that could turn a bad season into a disaster. Watch this space.