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Three team race between Texans, Colts, and Titans in AFC South really heating up

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts lost this week, but they caught a break as the Houston Texans also lost.

The Texans lost 21-13 to the Chargers as Brock Osweiler’s last second Hail Mary fell incomplete, dropping Houston to 6-5 on the year. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans won 27-21 over the Bears this afternoon to improve to 6-6, meaning that there are now three teams within one game of each other in the AFC South division.

The Texans lead the division at 6-5, while the Titans jumped the Colts into second place with a 6-6 record. The Colts then drop to third place after their loss Thursday night as they are 5-6. And then in last place, of course, is the Jacksonville Jaguars at 2-9 (they lost once again today).

  1. Houston Texans (6-5)
  2. Tennessee Titans (6-6)
  3. Indianapolis Colts (5-6)
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)

The Texans, Titans, and Colts are all incredibly close entering the final five weeks of the season, making for quite a bit of intrigue over the final month. Especially since the AFC South is unlikely to earn a wild card spot thanks to the AFC West and the Miami Dolphins (among others), it’s likely three teams battling for one playoff spot. The Colts are very much in the midst of that battle, but they have very little margin for error - which is why the Texans’ loss today helps them out quite a bit.

The Colts own the tiebreaker over the Titans as they swept the season series, meaning as long as they finish with a better or equal record with Tennessee they will finish above them in the standings. Given this year’s Colts team that’s far from guaranteed, but they’re at least in good shape in that regard. It’s a different story with the Texans, however, as the Texans currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker record and the best the Colts can do is neutralize it (by winning their absolutely huge mid-December matchup with Houston). That would then make the tiebreaker the division record, and the Texans are currently 3-0 against the division while the Colts are 2-2. So the Colts would need to win their final two AFC South games and have the Texans lose their final three in order to win that tiebreaker. Odds are they’ll either lose the tiebreaker or tie in the tiebreaker, which would then send it to common games.

Want a concise summary of all of that? Basically, the Colts will likely need to finish with a better record than the Texans instead of just finishing with the same record. Furthermore, the remaining AFC South matchups will be absolutely huge, especially the Colts vs. Texans game on December 11. If the Colts beat the Jets next week on Monday Night Football and the Texans beat the Packers at Lambeau next week, the Colts could then even their record up with the Texans by beating them at Lucas Oil Stadium in that key game with three games remaining. If the Colts win and the Texans lose next week, the Colts could take the division lead from the Texans in their head-to-head meeting. If the Colts lose either of the next two games... well, they’d be in trouble (especially if they lose that game against Houston). But as you can see, there’s a very reasonable scenario in which they could be in first place in just two weeks - but that would require them to string together some wins. Regardless of what happens, it’s shaping up to be an interesting final month in the AFC South.