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State of the AFC South: Week 16

With two to go, the division is still up for grabs

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

With two games to play in the season, we still don’t have a clear cut favorite on who will win the AFC South.

The Texans have been in control for most of the season, and still control their own destiny. The surprise team has been the Titans, who also control their own destiny.

Let this sink in for a minute. The Titans or Texans could finish 10-6. No one saw that coming.

The Colts still lurk in third, but will need some major help if they want to claw their way back into the division lead.

Week 15 was a tumultuous week for some teams in the division as well. Let’s get to it.

Houston Texans (8-6)

Looking Back: For most of the game, it appeared that the Texans would falter at home to Jacksonville. This would have been a devastating defeat. In the process, the Texans benched $72 million QB Brock Osweiler in favor of one Tom Savage. All Savage did was throw for a team season high yardage, and lead the Texans to a comeback victory. Bill O’Brien has already stated that Savage will start again this Sunday. Overall, Houston did look like a much better team, that had a legitimate passing threat with Savage running the show. Could this be a move that pays huge dividends for the Texans?

Looking Ahead: The Texans get to stay at home for Week 16 as they welcome the Bengals to town. Cincinnati has been one of the more disappointing teams in the league this year. A blown game against Pittsburgh last weekend only heightened that disappointment as the Bengals were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The question will be how the Bengals play defense against a QB that hasn’t put much on film. I expect the Cincinnati defense to bring lots of pressure.

Prediction: The Colts fan in me really wants the Bengals to get this one. But I really like Savage, and I think he leads Houston to a win.

Clinching Scenario: The Texans can clinch the AFC South this weekend. If they win, and the Titans lose to Jacksonville then the Texans are your South champs. If the Titans win, then this game doesn’t matter for the Texans; they would have to win in Tennessee next weekend.

Tennessee Titans (8-6)

Looking Back: When the Titans scored the equalizing touchdown against the Chiefs, it looked like overtime, or a Chiefs walk-off field goal, was in the near future. Then, the Titans gave Colts fans everywhere a glimmer of hope when they went for two and the win. It failed miserably. The Titans defense stood tall, though, getting the ball back and setting up former Chief Ryan Succop for the game winning field goal. The Titans have won 8 games on the heels of their defense and running game. Without a doubt, they’re the surprise team of the season (I think).

Looking Ahead: The Titans stay on the road this week as they head to Jacksonville, a place where the Jaguars haven’t won in over a calendar year. In their previous meeting, the Titans hung 36 on Jacksonville in a blowout win. I would expect it to be closer this time. But if the Titans can continue to play good defense, and force some mistakes, then they should win the game.

Prediction: Teams who just fired their coaches are tricky to predict. Either the Titans will win in a blowout, or lose in a close one.

Clinching Scenario: The Titans can’t clinch, but a win keeps them alive in the playoff hunt. I don’t think a loss mathematically eliminates them from the Wild Card, but it would be virtually impossible to make the playoffs with a loss this weekend.

Indianapolis Colts (7-7)

Looking Back: For the second time in three weeks, the Colts blew the doors off of a good defensive team on the road. What? Too bad that Texans game was sandwiched in-between. But really, the Colts dominated the Vikings. I thought it was their best complete performance since they physically manhandled San Francisco in 2013.

Looking Ahead: The Colts head out west this weekend to take on the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are in the thick of the AFC West hunt, and clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2002. The only concern for the Raiders has to be the status of Derek Carr’s thumb injury; as he can’t take snaps from under center. Obviously, this will limit the Raiders attack a little bit. Regardless, Carr will be the best QB the Colts defense has faced since Thanksgiving.

Prediction: It could happen, but I just don’t see the Colts winning on the road in Oakland.

Clinching Scenario: Obviously none. A win by Houston or Tennessee eliminates the Colts from the South division race. A loss by the Colts completely ends their chances.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

Looking Back: Poor Jacksonville. It looked like they had a huge upset win in hand, but that slowly deteriorated as the game went on. The collapse led to the firing of Gus Bradley not too soon after the game. For the last two games, the Jaguars will be coached by Doug Marrone.

Looking Ahead: The Jaguars play their last home game of the season against the Titans. As I noted earlier, this game depends on how the Jaguars respond to Bradley’s firing. Will they come out inspired? Or will they come out as a team that has quit? It could go either way.

Prediction: Like I said, this game will be a Titans blowout or a close Jacksonville win.