Monday December 14th, 2015

The Colts, Texans and Jaguars are still alive in the underwhelming AFC South race. So, of course, it's the Titans who could wind up deciding the division winner.

Tennessee (3–10) still has two chances to play spoiler: Week 16 when it hosts Houston and Week 17 when it visits Indianapolis. The Jaguars actually need the Titans to do just that if they're going to steal the South crown.

Pats right back atop AFC as defense thrashes outmatched Texans

Before all that, though, comes a Week 15 showdown between the Texans and Colts, in Indianapolis. Both of those teams currently control their own destinies; the winner next Sunday merely has to follow up with two more victories to close the season and it will claim the division.

So, how can 5–8 Jacksonville get to the top of the heap? Here is the simplest path to a Jacksonville division title:

The Jaguars finish 3–0 (including a Week 17 win at Houston)

Texans beat the Colts in Week 15

The Titans beat the Texans in Week 16

The Colts lose to either the Dolphins in Week 16 or the Titans in Week 17 

That's all possible, though that is certainly a lot that must happen over the season's final three weeks.

The reason why the Jaguars face such a complicated road to the playoffs dates back to a Week 13 loss at Tennessee. Because of that outcome (plus one loss each to Houston and Indianapolis), the Jaguars are sitting on three losses within the division. Houston and Indianapolis each have one.

Were the Colts to win either next week vs. Houston or in Week 17 vs. Tennessee, they would secure their fourth AFC South victory—one more than is mathematically possible for the Jaguars to claim, which would eliminate any hope Jacksonville has of swinging a crucial tiebreaker.

NFL Playoff Picture, Week 14: Chiefs, Jets hold serve in wild-card race

A Texans' win over the Colts in Week 15 would prevent Indianapolis from reaching that four-win mark within the division. But it also would improve Houston's AFC South mark to 3–1, meaning that the Texans could eliminate the Jaguars from contention by beating Tennessee in Week 16 and hitting four intra-divisional wins.

Long story short, because the Jaguars do not have any hope of flipping the division-record tiebreakers in their favor with either Indianapolis or Houston, they simply must finish with a better record than both.

If the Colts win next week, they must lose their next two in order for Jacksonville to leapfrog the with an 8–8 finish. The Colts also would complete a sweep of the Texans in this situation, so the division would be firmly in their control.

If the Texans win next week, they must lose at Tennessee in Week 16 in order for the Jaguars to have a shot at a winner-takes-all showdown in Week 17.

Any other scenarios would put the top two teams clear of Jacksonville, eliminating its hopes of pulling off a miracle, division-stealing finish.

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