If the NFL season ended today, the Texans would win the AFC South for the second year in a row and would be hosting a playoff game in January. However, Houston can’t crown themselves champions yet, as the Colts and Titans are currently nipping at their heels.
The Titans should improve to 6-6 on Sunday, as they will face a depleted Bears squad who lost their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, for an extended period of time. If Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota continues to play quality football and avoids negative plays, the Bears’ secondary will be in for a long day.
After falling off the face of the earth in 2015, Titans running back DeMarco Murray has been giving opposing defenses all they can handle in 2016, and has rushed for exactly 1,000 yards so far while scoring on the ground eight times. With Murray at the helm, Tennessee ranks 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards, picking up an average of 141 yards a game.
The Colts, meanwhile, took a step back on Thanksgiving, getting blown out by the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. This dropped Indianapolis to 5-6 on the season, padding Houston’s grip on the division. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck hasn’t been completely healthy the past two seasons, but that’s no excuse for the poor and inconsistent play by Indianapolis.
The Colts’ defense has been pathetic this season, letting opposing offenses blow them up on a weekly basis. Indianapolis’ defense ranks near the cellar of the NFL in yards allowed per game, giving up an average of 395. The Colts make anybody’s offense look stellar, and this should crush their playoff hopes when it’s all said and done.
The Jaguars have virtually no shot at winning the division this season and are the only team that Houston has been able to beat away from NRG Stadium. Gus Bradley will most likely be fired after this season is over, as Jacksonville has held an abysmal 14-44 record since he took over as head coach. The Jaguars, who haven’t won a game in over a month, have way too much young talent to be this bad.
Of the six games remaining on Houston’s schedule, three of them are against division rivals. Houston is 3-0 versus the AFC South in 2016 and a 6-0 finish against these teams would all but lock up the division title for the second year in a row. However, the Colts and Titans won’t go down without a fight – especially on their home fields.
Indianapolis nearly beat the Texans in Houston earlier this season and the Texans had rally back from a 23-9 deficit with 7:04 left in regulation in order to force overtime. In overtime, Houston kicked a field goal in sudden-death to finally put this game away by a score of 26-23. The Texans struggle to win on the road against the Colts and won their first ever game in Indianapolis last season when Luck was injured.
No game should come easy against a division rival, but the Jaguars, who are hot garbage right now, will most likely get thumped by the Texans in Houston. However, Jacksonville will shake up the AFC South race if they manage to do the impossible and pull off the upset.
It’s possible the Texans and Titans will play for all the marbles in Week 17. In Week 4, Tennessee gave Houston all they could handle, as the Texans would barely pull away by a score of 27-20. Neither team scored a point in the fourth quarter, showing how tough the Texans and Titans play each other. Both teams relied heavily on their rushing attacks in this game, so don’t expect round two between these rivals to be much different. This will be a ground-and-pound game.
Current AFC South Standings:
- Houston Texans (6-4)
- Indianapolis Colts (5-6)
- Tennessee Titans (5-6)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)
Predicted AFC South Standings:
- Houston Texans (9-7)
- Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
- Tennessee Titans (7-9)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)