After dropping 50 points on the Indianapolis Colts last week, it’s the Jaguars who are puffing their chests out in the AFC South. There’s one problem: Jacksonville is a full game back with two weeks to play.
Jacksonville is peaking, while the Texans and Colts are just trying to stay afloat. Both teams will field backup quarterbacks heading into their biggest game of the year, and the Colts even had third-string QB Charlie Whitehurst take first-team reps in practice this week.
The Texans looked like the team to beat three weeks ago, but key injuries have put their season in jeopardy. J.J. Watt and Brian Hoyer are arguably Houston’s two most important players, and in the past two weeks Watt has broken his hand and Hoyer has had multiple concussions.
Just like it has been for over a decade, this is still the Colts’ division to lose. A win over Houston gives them the tiebreaker over Houston, greatly increasing their odds to win the division. Andrew Luck was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, so they’ll only have to hold out a little longer with Hasselbeck and Whitehurst.
If the Colts do beat the Texans, then they’ll have the tiebreaker and this whole division will likely be wrapped up. If Houston wins, things could get very messy. Take a look at the current standings, and scroll down for a look into the AFC South’s Crystal Ball of Mediocrity.
Here’s how it stands going into today’s games:
AFC South Standings
1. Houston Texans — 7-7
2. Indianapolis Colts — 6-8
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — 5-9
4. Tennessee Titans — 3-10
The following are in accordance with the NFL’s tiebreaking procedure:
1. Head to Head: Colts and Texans split, Texans over Jaguars (week 17), Jaguars and Colts split
2. Win percentage in division: Colts (3-2), Texans (3-1), Jaguars (2-3)
After all six divisional games are played, the third divisional tiebreaker is record against common opponents. The tiebreaking procedure varies depending on whther two or three teams are tied for the lead. For a full tiebreaking procedure, click here.
Texans: at Titans, at Jaguars
Colts: at Dolphins, vs. Titans
Jaguars: at Saints, at Texans
Most Likely Scenario: The Colts win today, aided by another random performance from Old Man Andre Johsnon. AJ had his best game of the year by far in the last matchup, and I’m pretty sure he’s been hibernating since then. Also, J.J. Watt is playing with one hand. In two weeks they get back Andrew Luck, stomping the Titans in Week 17 to crush the Jaguars playoff dreams. With Luck at full strength, the Colts are once again a dangerous AFC contender.
Hypothetical But Totally Plausible: J.J. Watt takes out Matt Hasselbeck, and Charlie Whitehurst takes the Colts down in flames. The Texans win with T.J. Yates, and get a game up in the standings. Jacksonville slips against a Falcons team that had it’s hustle called into question, and falls off the wagon because Jacksonville. T.J. Yates and the Texans host a home playoff games, where they are beaten comfortably by either the Steelers or Chiefs.
Crazier Things Have Happened: Jacksonville runs the table. Not totally unrealistic, and given the quarterback situations of the Colts and Texans, it’s clear the division is Jacksonville’s for the taking. Blake Bortles has thrown eight touchdowns without an interception, and they face three opponents with losing records to end the season. Two road games to end the year is tough, but the Jaguars are checking all the right boxes for a darkhorse playoff team.