State of the AFC South Following Week 6

John Shipley

Week 6 is in the books for the AFC South, with the division going 2-2 for the week. This was in part due to a divisional clash between Houston and Tennessee, though the week also saw Jacksonville drop its fifth straight game.

So with us now six games into the season, what does the AFC South look like and what could it mean moving forward? We break it down here.

AFC South standings

  1. Tennessee Titans (5-0, 2-0): The Titans won a 42-36 overtime thriller against the Houston Texans on Sunday, an impressive showing from the offense. 
  2. Indianapolis Colts (4-2, 0-1): Indianapolis recovered from an early deficit to score 21 points in the second quarter and put Cincinnati away in a 
  3. Houston Texans (1-5, 1-1): As aforementioned, the Texans lost 42-36 in overtime to the Titans on Sunday.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars: (1-5, 1-2): For the fifth straight week the Jaguars walked away from a matchup with an ugly loss, leading to more and more questions about the future. The Jaguars' latest loss was a 34-16 debacle against the Detroit Lions. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

What to like: Well ... this one is tough to pick for the Jaguars. They have lost five straight games, giving up 30 points in each contest and players seem frustrated with the ugly turn the season has taken. If there is a positive to point out with how things currently stand, it is that the Jaguars moved up in draft position this week. As things stand today, the Jaguars would hold the No. 4 pick in the NFL Draft next year, up two spots from the week before. Jacksonville got a lucky break this weekend by seeing the Falcons and Giants earn their first wins of the season, though it will be hard to see the Jaguars reach the Jets in the race for the No. 1 overall pick. On the bright side for the Jaguars' chances at the top pick, they are preparing to enter the toughest stretch of their schedule.  

What to dislike: Gardner Minshew and the offense's regression to the mean was always the likely outcome, but it doesn't make it less unfortunate for the Jaguars. Minshew currently holds just the 30th highest passing grade for Pro Football Focus, and the tape shows he missed several open receivers against the Lions on Sunday. Overall, the things he did well last year just have not been as prevalent this year. With that said, Minshew has still done plenty of positive things, he just hasn't done them to the consistent level the Jaguars need him to if he is going to prove he is a franchise QB. He obviously still has time to turn things around, but it is fair to say he and the offense are in a rut right now. It isn't all his fault, though. There were a few missed blocks and dropped passes on Sunday, with the team never really looking in sync at any point. That is on the coaching, too.

Next opponent: The Jaguars will travel to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.

Indianapolis Colts

What to like: Philip Rivers had a big bounceback game against the Bengals. The Colts started off horrifically slow, going down 21-0 to the lowly Bengals early in the game, but Rivers helped the Colts fight back and eventually take a commanding lead in the fourth quarter. Rivers completed 29-of-44 passes (65.9%) for 371 yards (8.4 yards per attempt) with three touchdowns and one interception. After a Week 5 in which Rivers made mistake after mistake, he served as the driving force for the Colts' comeback victory. That is the type of Rivers the Colts were hoping to see when they signed him, so perhaps it is a sign of things to come.

What to dislike: Even against a poor run defense, the Colts still couldn't get their running game going. The Colts rushed 15 times for 59 yards, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. 21 of those 59 yards came on one run, so the Colts got just 38 yards on the other 14 carries. Despite having a big-time back in Jonathan Taylor and one of the NFL's best offensive lines, the Colts simply can't get their run game on track no matter who they play.

Next opponent: The Colts have a bye week in Week 7.

Houston Texans

What to like: Romeo Crennel made a bold call to for two points with 1:50 left in the game and with a seven-point lead over the Titans. Conventional wisdom says kick the field goal and go up by eight points, but Crennel knew his defense wasn't stopping the Titans at all on Sunday. The Titans ended up recording 601 total yards, 8.6 yards per play and 31 first downs, so it is fair why Crennel thought his best shot to win the game was to get the two points. The Texans failed to convert and ended up losing the game, but I still want to applaud Crennel for being bold and aware enough to know that his team needed to sneak a win out of the Titans. It didn't work, but it was an understandable and aggressive process. Sometimes that is all you can ask for. 

What to dislike: Well, we already covered it. The Texans defense gave up 601 total yards, almost 9 yards per play and a first down on almost half of Tennessee's plays. Other than a three-and-out to start the game, the Texans didn't force the Titans to punt a single time. Houston's defense had a good game against the Jaguars in Week 5, but the step up in competition pointed out the numerous flaws that are still prevalent with the Texans. Firing Bill O'Brien fixes some things, but it won't fix a defense that is lacking in talent at key spots.

Next opponent: The Texans will host the 4-1 Green Bay Packers in Week 7.

Tennessee Titans

What to like: Hats off to Mike Vrabel for his clock management magic at the end of regulation against the Texans. Essentially, Vrabel understood that his defense was giving up a score one way or another, so he took a penalty (12 men on the field) on purpose to stop the clock. This saved a ton of time and helped set up the Titans' game-tying score with just seconds left. Vrabel continues to look like the next great coach in the AFC, and it is the little things like this that build his case. 

What to dislike: While the Houston defense got nothing done against the Titans, the Houston offense made Tennessee's pass defense look just as bad. Deshaun Watson completed 75.7% of his passes for 335 yards (9.1 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns, giving him a passer rating of 138.9. If Tennessee is going to make noise against teams like the Chiefs and Steelers, they will need a stronger defense on the backend.

Next opponent: The Titans will have a premier matchup on Sunday, posting the 5-0 Pittsburgh Steelers. 

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