The Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars are falling by the wayside while the Tennessee Titans have been surging over the last month. And while all this has been happening, the Houston Texans have remained atop the AFC South.
And they can take a stranglehold over the division with a win over Jacksonville on Sunday.
Houston hasn’t exactly had the most stellar season so far in 2016. The Texans have lost in bad ways but have also found their way to a 5-3 record and remain in first place in the AFC South for the entire season. In fact, Houston is the definition of an inconsistent, up-and-down team for this year. The Texans have lost by a combined score of 85-22 in their three losses, and have won their five games by an average of just 6.6 points.
The Texans have been inconsistent on offense and defense this season. Quarterback Brock Osweiler hasn’t been what Houston hoped for, and the absence of J.J. Watt on defense has been evident this year.
Yet here the Texans are, in the driver’s seat of the AFC South. And a win over the lowly Jaguars would give them an even firmer grasp on the division.
Houston has already played two division rivals in the first half of their schedule, and they own two victories after those two games. The Texans defeated the Titans 27-20 on October 2nd and came from behind to dispatch the Colts 26-23 in overtime two weeks later on October 16th. A win against Jacksonville would assure Houston at least a .500 record in the division and push them to a 6-3 record.
And the Texans are catching the Jaguars at their lowest point all season.
Jacksonville has now lost two consecutive blowouts to Oakland and the aforementioned Titans. The Jaguars defense had been playing more consistently, but the last two weeks have exposed their weaknesses. The Jaguars’ offense has been cold all season when they haven’t been in garbage time, save for one game against the Colts.
The Jaguars’ defense may be just what an erratic Texans’ offense needs to see. Jacksonville has allowed 28 points per game, 124.7 rushing yards a game, and has the third-worst third down defense in the NFL, allowing teams to convert 46.7 percent of the time on third down. Houston’s offense has struggled in three of their last four games and four of their last six dating back to their 27-0 loss to New England in Week 3.
For a Houston offense that’s had a disappointing start to the season, Jacksonville’s defense could be just the spark they need. And Jacksonville’s turnover-prone and sloppy offense could be the break the Texans’ defense needs as well.
Blake Bortles’ nine interceptions are tied for the third-most interceptions thrown this season. The Texans have only picked off opposing quarterbacks three times all season, the second-lowest total in the league. Bortles’ poor decision-making could be just what Houston’s turnover-starved defense needs in order to make a difference.
Even if the Titans were to defeat San Diego on Sunday, they would still trail the Texans by a game in the overall standings if Houston wins. And Houston still holds an edge over them thanks to their win in early October.
No matter how you look at it, a win on Sunday against the Jaguars would give the Texans a decisive edge in the division title race to start the second half of this season. The battle certainly wouldn’t be over, but Houston would have control.