NASHVILLE – With five games remaining, the AFC South race effectively is down to three teams.
The Tennessee Titans, following their 42-20 victory over Jacksonville on Sunday, are one of those three – and they have the chance to move up.
At 6-5, they are tied with the Indianapolis Colts for second place, one game behind Houston. Indianapolis holds the tiebreaker by virtue of its victory at Nissan Stadium back in Week 2, but the Titans and Colts meet this Sunday at Indianapolis. The winner will be alone in second with just the final quarter of the season to play.
“Now, Indianapolis,” linebacker Rashaan Evans said Sunday. “… It is going to be a big game for us. What better way than to go out there, and be able to play in that stadium, and having the challenge playing against those guys who beat us? So, we’ll be looking forward to it.
“… It’s a playoff game [every week] from now on. … We are going to stress that and emphasize that, every single day from now on.”
Adding to the intrigue of Week 13 is the fact that Houston (7-4) plays New England, which is tied with San Francisco for the NFL’s best record. If the Texans lose that one, they will fall into a tie with the Titans-Colts winner at the top of the standings. In that scenario Houston would still have the tiebreaker over Tennessee based on a better division record. Indianapolis would have get the nod over Houston based on one more division win.
The Texans and Colts already have split their season series. The Titans and Texans will play twice in the season’s final three weeks.
“It’s week-to-week at this point of the season,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “We’re heading into … December. These meaningful games late in the year, they’re huge. Every single year it comes down to the same thing. It’s who can play well at the end of the season and get in the dance. We have to take it one week at a time. Big game coming up this week.”
A look at the current AFC South standings, with each team’s record against the division and the conference:
|Team||Record||vs. Division||vs. AFC|
Houston 20, Indianapolis 17
Tennessee 42, Jacksonville 20
This week’s games
Tennessee at Indianapolis
Houston vs. New England (10-1)
Jacksonville vs. Tampa Bay (4-7)
The only other division that has three teams with a winning record is the NFC West. All three of those teams – San Francisco (10-1), Seattle (9-2) and the L.A. Rams (6-4) – are among the top seven in the conference.
The Titans and Colts, on the other hand, account for half of a four-team logjam that covers the sixth through ninth slots in the AFC. Indianapolis is eighth and Tennessee is ninth, which means it still has work to do. As with the division standings, though, a win over the Colts on Sunday guarantees a move up.
“Our mindset is that we are still trying to get in,” tackle Jack Conklin said. “You know it is one game at a time. We’ve got to go to Indy now and get another win. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle and that’s our mindset. Everyone starts looking at it and it is still a battle. We are still in the hunt. We still have got to keep fighting.”