The Colts have had a pretty tough stretch of schedule to start the season and have looked competitive, but only managed to come out of their first three games with one win. With a home matchup against the Houston Texans set for Sunday, it is time to take a look around the AFC South and see how things are looking for the Colts in terms of their divisional opponents.
Tennessee Titans (2-1)
The first stop is with the Tennessee Titans, who surprised people by beating Jacksonville in a real barn burner that finished 9 to 6. The divisional win over the Jaguars makes the Titans 2-0 in the division, which is no small thing. However, they’ll face a tough upcoming game with the Eagles heading to Nashville and they are unlikely to be held to just 6 points as were the Jaguars. However, the team has won the games they really needed to, and put themselves atop the division.
While they are in first place, they still have a ton of questions, not the least of which is that Marcus Mariota still can’t feel his fingers, which is a big deal for a QB. They’ll need to have great performances in spite of those problems, because the Jaguars aren’t likely to fall back far, and the Colts schedule is about to open up, which will make the top of this division a lot more competitive.
For now though, they are doing enough to stay ahead, while attempting to get healthy. If they can do that and get wins through good coaching and defensive play, they’ll just get tougher down the stretch.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)
The Jaguars are the most straight forward team in the AFC South. They have a bad quarterback and a ridiculously good defense. They can win against most teams on the strength of that defense alone, but when Bortles makes mistakes or when they can’t dominate a team defensively, they end up with stinkers like their last game.
With Leonard Fournette out, this team just doesn’t have any real offensive weapons, and no team is going to lose sleep over Bortles’ ability to beat them through the air. This loss hurts because those divisional games are precious, and the AFC South is shaping up to be a close and hard fought division.
A game against the Jets at home should help this team get back on track, because this isn’t a defense that a rookie quarterback wants to face, but that will be Sam Darnold’s task. The Titans have seemed to have Jacksonville’s number somewhat in the past couple years, so I don’t view this loss as indicative of a likely fall, but it does highlight their critical weakness, and shows that maybe they aren’t ready to be crowned top of the AFC like so many have claimed.
Houston Texans (0-3)
What is there to say about the poor Texans? They’re the team that should be good, but they haven’t won a game yet. They have what could be one of the most formidable defenses in the AFC, yet they rank somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of run and pass defense. They have a prolific talent in Deshaun Watson, but he is coming back from an ACL tear and forced to run for his life behind what is almost certainly the worst offensive line in football.
There is an argument to be made that this team could begin to round into form. All three of their losses have been by one score. They also started the season out with two road games, which certainly makes things tougher. Additionally, their offensive linemen are very young, which means that they could settle in and get more comfortable as the season goes on.
The reality is though, that this team needs to start winning now, and it needs its defense to become a serious difference maker if they want to hang with a division that has gotten much more competitive. With a road game against the Colts threatening to push them to 0-4, this is a season that is quickly getting away from them.
How the Colts fit into this picture (1-2)
The Colts have lost two games they should have won. They’ve been an inconsistent team that has been carried largely by their defense. Additionally, they’ve been hampered by injuries to their best offensive lineman, left tackle Anthony Castonzo, their best running back, Marlon Mack, and their best tight end, Jack Doyle. Add in that Andrew Luck is still getting familiar with a new offense and getting used to football after a year away with a shoulder injury, and you have some understandable inconsistency.
While there is plenty of room to be disappointed in the offensive performance as well as the team’s record, there is also plenty of room for optimism. The Colts schedule is favorable for the next several weeks, with the Texans coming to town, then a Patriots team who has suffered double digit losses in their last two games, and the Jets, Bills, and Raiders to round out the schedule heading into the bye week.
The Colts have a very young roster that is learning a new scheme on offense and defense. We haven’t seen them at their full potential yet, and Andrew Luck is still getting his bearings. When Anthony Castonzo is able to return and sure up the offensive line, I expect we will see this offense begin to take more of the shape we can expect of it down the stretch. The next few weeks will be critical in determining how this season plays out for the Colts.