As we head into week 10, the AFC South remains the most competitive division in the conference, and with a Colts loss, it gets even more dicey. Injuries have plagued all four teams, and the fight through the final stretch won’t be an easy one for anyone. Let’s take a look around the division and see how every team stacks up ahead of week 10.
Houston Texans (6-3) (2-1 Div)
The Texans are up against their easiest opponent all season in week 10—a bye week. They enter their bye at 6-3 and atop the AFC South. So far this season the team has been an offense-first team, led by Deshaun Watson and keeping themselves in every game they play by their ability to move the ball both through the air and on the ground.
The issue that may be starting to slowly creep up on them is in terms of injury and depth. J.J. Watt is done for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, leaving a huge hole on an already struggling defense. On offense, their left tackle Laremy Tunsil has been struggling with a shoulder injury and missed their last game. That’s a big problem because his arrival from Miami coincided with a big upswing in the beleaguered line’s play.
Additionally, Will Fuller is struggling to get healthy after suffering a hamstring injury and the hope is that he can get back following the bye week. Watson’s great play can cover over a lot of issues, but losing a handful of key players as they head into a three game stretch consisting of the Ravens, Colts, and Patriots, could really make the Texans’ path to the playoffs a tough one. They really need to be healthy coming out of their bye week.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) (1-2 Div)
The Jaguars made the decision as they head into a week 10 bye to announce that Nick Foles, the quarterback they signed in the offseason, will take back the reins from mustachioed sensation Gardner Minshew. Minshew has been a great find for the Jags and really has managed to keep the offense rolling despite minimal weapons and the loss of Nick Foles.
The injury bug hasn’t hit the Jags quite the same way, but their receiver corps has certainly felt the sting. Marquise Lee was sent to IR last week with a shoulder injury, though he was having very minimal impact this season. More importantly, Dede Wesbrook suffered a neck/shoulder injury and the hope is that he would be able to recover during the course of the bye week.
When you couple the offensive struggles with a defense that hasn’t been dominant this season and shipped off its best player, you get a unit that is struggling to be relevant. Leonard Fournette is having a resurgent season, despite his painfully slow lateral movement. There is little choice but to place their hopes on Fournette’s shoulders, because even with Nick Foles back, this offense is likely to struggle.
The one bit of good news for the Jaguars is that they don’t have quite as tough a schedule as the Texans. It will present issues in its own right, however. They will face Colts and Titans in back to back divisional road games, before heading home to take on the Bucs.
Tennessee Titans (4-5) (0-2 Div)
The Tennessee Titans have a problem at offensive line. The unit that was once the best in the division is now broken and even the switch to the slightly more pocket-aware Ryan Tannehill isn’t fixing the issues. They rank 22nd in offensive DVOA and 12th in defensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders, and they’ve given up a league high 38 sacks through 9 games.
Unfortunately for the Titans, the road isn’t getting any easier. They’ll host the Chiefs in week 10, and while they might not yet have Patrick Mahomes back in the lineup, this is a tough and well-coached Chiefs team that will absolutely stretch the Titans’ defense and has the weapons to beat them.
From there, they’ll play the Jaguars and the Colts, both games that they absolutely cannot afford to lose, because a loss would place them almost certainly out of any chance at a playoff spot. With two divisional losses already sustained, the Titans have the toughest road to the playoffs, and there is very little to suggest they can suddenly turn their momentum.