Just when the AFC South appeared ready to climb out of the NFL’s doldrums, Week 14 happened. One week ago two teams were at least sitting at .500, but now all are below .500 and it’s possible the division winner won’t have an even record by the end of the season.
As of now, only three teams are capable of claiming the AFC South and just one proved victorious in Week 14. There are three weeks left in the season and the best mark any of the three contenders can attain is 9-7 and it seems possible the division will be decided by the NFL’s tiebreaking procedures.
The key tiebreaker might very well be win-loss record in common games against the AFC East and NFC South this year.
Here’s a breakdown of the three contenders, with the last-place and 3-10 Tennessee Titans technically still in the hunt, but highly unlikely to make a push and in need of a serious drop from everyone else in the division.
Included are each team’s overall and division record, as well as who they’ll face in the final three weeks of the season.
1.Indianapolis Colts (6-7 overall, 3-1 division, 4-5 conference)
After a very ugly loss to the Jaguars, the Colts are still on top because of Houston’s loss to New England and their 27-20 victory over the Texans back in Week 5. They also own the division record tiebreaker and have the opportunity to sweep the Texans and likely lockdown the division with a victory against them in Week 15.
But Indianapolis must win at least two more games, with one at least being against Houston, in order to cancel out the possibility of a meltdown.
Of the three contenders, the Colts are smack in the middle in terms of remaining opponents’ record, but two of their final three games are at home, and when they do hit the road they’ll face a Dolphins squad that’s presently 2-3 at home.
Indy has a 2-5 record in common games, which it can improve by beating Miami, otherwise Houston would take the tiebreaker due to its 3-5 mark against common foes.
Combined record of remaining opponents: 14-24
vs. Houston, Sun. 12/20
at Miami, Sun. 12/27
vs. Tennessee, Sun. 1/3
2.Houston Texans (6-7, 2-1, 4-5)
A victory in Week 15 improves Houston’s division mark to 3-1 and sets their in-conference record back to .500, handing them key tiebreakers over Indianapolis and cancelling out the head-to-head tiebreaker. Should Miami fall to the Giants on Monday night, the Texans will have the easiest remaining schedule left in the division, though they will hit the road for the next two weeks.
Houston’s schedule could be both beneficial and a detriment. They only face division foes for the next three weeks. A sweep wraps up the division, but beating the Colts puts Houston in excellent position to claim the AFC South for the first time since 2012.
Combined record of remaining opponents: 14-25
at Indianapolis, Sun. 12/20
at Tennessee, Sun. 12/27
vs. Jacksonville, Sun. 1/3
3.Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8, 2-3, 5-6)
The Jaguars looked impressive in Week 14, but where was that firepower earlier this season when they could have used it to play better against the rest of the division and the conference? Jacksonville has only one game, Week 17’s trip to Houston, to improve its division mark, otherwise it will need to win out in order to climb the standings. That Week 13 loss at lowly Tennessee might have been the turning point for the Jaguars postseason and division chances, since they could have had a shot at 4-2 in the division.
Jacksonville has the toughest final slate, although they draw the downward-spiraling Falcons and the Saints' poor defense -- both very winnable games before they head to Houston.
Winning out is the Jaguars best chance, but taking out Atlanta and New Orleans also serves Jacksonville’s record in common games improving it from 2-4 presently to 4-4 before the Week 17 showdown with Houston.
Combined record of remaining opponents: 17-22
vs. Atlanta, Sun. 12/20
at New Orleans, Sun. 12/27
at Houston, Sun. 1/3
Prediction: With the easiest record and J.J. Watt on its side, Houston winds up running the table and taking the division. The Texans simply have the defense to outlast the Colts and Jaguars.