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State of the AFC South: Week 13

The division race is heating up down the stretch.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, we watched the Colts fail time and time again to put away their competitors (Houston) in the AFC South. Most of this was due to a paltry offense and an inconsistent, but not awful, defense.

This year, that story is the same, except the roles are reversed. Houston was in control of the South with a 6-3 record as the Colts and Titans failed to string together a run. Now, with four weeks to play, all three teams are even heading into the home stretch.

Houston Texans (6-6)

Looking Back: Technically, the Texans are still in first place via tie-breakers. Still, they looked mighty unimpressive against the Packers on Sunday. In the snow, Brock Osweiler couldn’t throw at all against a much maligned Packers defense. The running game, though, for the Texans worked early, as they converted multiple third and longs on the ground.

Looking Ahead: It’s a huge game for the Texans this week as they head to Indianapolis. A win essentially puts the division on ice for Houston. Last year, in this same spot, the Texans came into Indy and came away with their first win in the city, ever. Last time these teams met, the Texans struggled for the first 55 minutes or so before capitalizing on the Colts meltdown to win the game. This time, Houston might have to rely more on their running game, as Osweiler has proved virtually ineffective in recent weeks.

Prediction: It should be close, but the Colts get revenge for last year’s home loss.

Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

Looking Back: On Monday night the Colts put together arguably their best performance since shutting out the Bengals two years ago (in my opinion). The Colts have now won three straight with Andrew Luck started, and was in a winnable position with Scott Tolzein against Pittsburgh. Against the Jets, everything worked and the Colts will look to continue that against Houston.

Looking Ahead: It’s a huge game for the Colts this week as they host the visiting Texans. The last two times Indy met Houston they lost at home for the first time ever to the franchise, and then choked away a huge lead this season. If the Colts are building momentum, this is the game to show it. A question might lie on the defensive side as D’Qwell Jackson has been suspended for the rest of the regular season due to PEDs. This could be a major hole in the Colts defense, specifically against the run.

Prediction: As I said, I think the Colts win. Regardless of the defense, I don’t think Houston can outscore Indianapolis.

Tennessee Titans (6-6)

Looking Back: The Titans were on the bye.

Looking Ahead: The Titans stay at home after the bye week as they host the Denver Broncos. Denver is also in the midst of the playoff hunt and are coming off a very uninspiring win against the Jaguars. I haven’t read if it will be Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian at QB this week. But it might not matter. The Titans have been played tough football as of late, led by a stout defense.

Prediction: It will be low scoring. I’m going to pick the Titans in this one though.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)

Looking Back: As was the case many times this year, Jacksonville had a shot to win the game. But Blake Bortles turnovers did the team in yet again. Bortles leads the league in interceptions, and I believe turnovers as well. The game eliminated Jacksonville from playoff contention.

Looking Ahead: The Jaguars stay home this week to face the reeling Vikings. I think this game could go the same way as last week. The Vikings sport an iffy offense and a good defense. Expect the defense to make enough plays off of the turnover prone Bortles to get the Vikings a much needed win.

Prediction: In case you couldn’t tell, I like the Vikings in this one.