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Early AFC South lead is on the line when the Colts visit the Titans

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC South continues its slow march to division mediocrity. While the Jacksonville Jaguars were in the driver’s seat to hold onto their sole lead of the division, they were unable to beat the Los Angeles Rams at home. It was a sloppy game that included a special teams touchdown, numerous fumbles, and a showdown between two quarterbacks who couldn’t decide who was worse and two young running backs who did their best to out-perform one another.

You remember the Rams from Week 1 right? The team that embarrassed the Colts and former starting backup quarterback Scott Tolzien? Yeah, they’re 4-2.

The Houston Texans were able to obliterate the Cleveland Browns at home, which placed them in a current tie with the Jaguars for first. There’s no telling how long Deshaun Watson can keep up his current level of play but it should go without saying that if he doesn’t cool down at some point, my “best and worst” of the division story from last week will get tossed on its head.

Tonight the Indianapolis Colts travel to Nashville to face the Titans and, in AFC South fashion, the winner of the game will not only tie for the division lead, they will also hold the best division record and be in first by way of tie breakers. The loser, no matter which team it is, will be alone in last place and will also have the worst division record.

If Marcus Mariota suits up for the Titans tonight, it will require some intelligence from defensive coordinator Ted Monachino to maintain the edges and stay away from his slant and stunt sets. Going with two defensive linemen at any point against the Titans offense really doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

The Colts secondary will be nearly at full strength and will be able to play against a team whose most dangerous current receiving threat is tight end Delanie Walker. It’s not that Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews aren’t good receivers, they are both above average, but the Colts biggest weakness is when linebackers are asked to cover across the middle and for some reason Monachino or Pagano insists on having rookie Malik Hooker cover tight ends — with bad results.

If Indianapolis defense can find a way to shutdown DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry on the ground and force an injured Mariota to try to win the game with his arm and put enough pressure on him to make him rush, the offense might be able to stay in it. If Marlon Mack can get a couple of big plays and T.Y. Hilton can continue his streak from last week and his history of abusing the Titans, it’s not impossible for Indianapolis to shock Tennessee at home.

No matter the outcome, the winner of this game will hold a tenuous lead in the AFC South and the loser will be left looking up at everyone else.