With the Colts on bye week in week 6, they got a mixed bag of results in terms of their divisional wish list. The Jaguars and Titans both dropped their games, but the Texans managed a tough road win against the Chiefs, keeping themselves in position to be the strongest opposition to the Colts for the division.
With a big match-up between the Colts and Texans looming on Sunday, let’s take a closer look around the division at what is going on.
Tennessee Titans (2-4)
When the Titans started their season with a 43-13 win over the preseason darling Cleveland Browns, they could hardly have predicted what a mess they’d be in by week 7. After falling to 2-4 with two of those losses coming against divisional opponents, they have very little to be excited about. Through 7 weeks, they have given up 29 sacks, the most in the NFL.
They benched Marcus Mariota in the 3rd quarter of last week’s game against the Denver Broncos in which the Titans were shut out, and have since announced that Ryan Tannehill will be their starter going forward. Delanie Walker offered some thoughts on the move, though they came across as more than a little bit of wishful thinking.
Delanie Walker on Ryan Tannehill: Ryan was an elite QB in this league not longer than a year ago. He can take over a team. He can make plays. #Titans— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) October 14, 2019
This is a Titans team that is adrift without any clear sign that they can show immediate improvement. It seems unlikely that their coaching staff is in serious jeopardy, but if they don’t show signs of life, this could get ugly and would definitely make Mike Vrabel’s seat pretty hot to start the 2020 season.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4)
Minshew Mania has thoroughly taken hold of the Jacksonville fan base, and I for one am happy to hear it. I hope it has also taken hold of their front office. While Minshew has been efficient and hasn’t made mistakes for his team, it is premature to say he’s the answer at QB for this team, and he hasn’t proven he can carry them against top competition.
His go to target, second year receiver D.J. Chark, has been having a great year and is on pace to eclipse 1400 yards and 13 touchdowns. The question is: when teams begin to game plan for Chark, can he continue his production or will this offense flounder?
In years past, Jacksonville’s defense would have been good enough that a quarterback like Minshew would have been enough to make them a Super Bowl contender, but not so in 2019. This defense isn’t the lock down unit it was a couple years ago, and with the trade of Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams, they have gotten worse. They have been a middle of the pack defense and have little in the way of hope that they’ll improve dramatically.
On the up side, they will have a couple shiny new first round picks to play with over the next couple offseasons. They’ll probably need to use one on a cornerback to replace the one they traded away.
Houston Texans (4-2)
The Houston Texans look like the best team in the AFC South at the moment. Deshaun Watson is playing like a guy who wants to be in the MVP discussion, and they are fresh off a win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead that had a very similar feel to the game the Colts played against those same Chiefs the week before.
Despite losing Jadeveon Clowney ahead of the season, their production in the pass rush hasn’t fallen off, and the defense has still been successfully getting to the quarterback and forcing turnovers. A healthy Will Fuller has been huge for the offense, as he currently leads the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, taking pressure off DeAndre Hopkins to play the role of superman.
In Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson they have also found a nice 1-2 punch at the running back position that keeps their offense balanced and able to control the clock and hold onto leads and keep opposing offenses on the sidelines, as they did effectively in Kansas City. This is a formidable offense that is tough to make one dimensional.
The Achilles heel of this team for some time has been their offensive line. With the trade for Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, they’ve solidified that group. They aren’t a good offensive line, but they might be an adequate one, and if they can keep Deshaun Watson clean long enough for his receivers to work their way open, this team is tough to beat.
What may be their biggest weakness now is their defensive backfield. The team lost Bradley Robey, their best cornerback, to a significant hamstring injury against the Chiefs, and he is expected to miss some time because of it. They were already down their other starting cornerback, Johnathan Joseph, with his own hamstring injury. They may really need that high-powered offense, because their pass defense might not be able to stop anyone.