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If you were told before this season’s opening kickoff that only one AFC division would sport at least a .500 total record amongst its four teams going into the Sunday afternoon of Week 6, wouldn’t you assume in an almost reflexive manner that it would most certainly have to be either the AFC North or AFC East?
No one would blame you for thinking that. Unfortunately, however, you’d be sadly mistaken.
The AFC North, boasting mainstays such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, actually have just a 9-11 combined mark at this point in the season. The AFC East, with the defending conference champion New England Patriots and three other tough-nosed teams right behind them in the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, also have a total of nine wins and eleven losses on the year.
Then there is the AFC West, which, at 7-12, finds itself underachieving yet again, meaning that the only AFC division that currently is not under the .500 plateau – and also has the best record in the conference – is the AFC South at 10-10.
A late win by the Tennessee Titans over the Steelers on Thursday night is the only reason that the AFC South sits in this current position, as opposed to the AFC North, but they’ll take the recognition nonetheless.
If you’re going to talk AFC South and success, the Houston Texans have to be mentioned immediately. Better yet, the Texans should always be mentioned when discussing successful teams in general. After all, they are only one of two teams – the Atlanta Falcons being the other – who is still undefeated at 5-0.
Responsible for half of their division’s overall wins, the Texans are not surprised at all by what they’ve accomplished thus far. They did receive a scare from the New York Jets last Monday night when they were able to hold them off late for a 23-17 victory, but that and the 31-25 Week 3 win in Denver against Peyton Manning and the Broncos have been the only two matchups to have caused the Texans to break a true sweat.
With Arian Foster maintaining his status as one of the top running backs in the league, a defensive unit that ranks fourth overall with only 73 total points surrendered and the third-best scoring offense at 29.8 points per game, the Texans’ Super Bowl aspirations are, and will continue to be, more than realistic.
Then there are the Indianapolis Colts, who, conversely to the Texans, actually have surprised many, including their own fans, with a 2-2 record going into Week 6. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Indianapolis with changes at general manager, head coach, and quarterback in Ryan Grigson, Chuck Pagano and rookie Andrew Luck, respectively.
Pagano will not coach for the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a form of adult leukemia during the team’s Week 4 bye, but expect the Colts every week to fight as hard as they can just for him. That never-say-die attitude manifested itself into the ultimate storybook come-from-behind win last Sunday over the Green Bay Packers, which owner Jim Irsay guaranteed after initially announcing Pagano’s illness to the media.
Luck has shown fantastic poise late in games, and the Colts could actually be sitting pretty at 3-1 had it not been for an 80 yard game-winning touchdown pass by Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert towards the end of the teams’ Week 3 showdown. If Indianapolis continues to play the way that they have demonstrated they’re capable of, they could definitely find themselves competing for one of the conference’s two Wild Card slots.
Finally, there are the Titans and Jaguars, who are struggling just as much as they were expected to. Despite pulling off a very inspirational victory over the Steelers this past Thursday, the Titans find themselves at just 2-4 and in next-to-last place in the AFC South. Second year quarterback Jake Locker is set to return next week after injuring his shoulder in a Week 4 loss to the Texans and sitting out the last game. Locker has only thrown for less than 800 yards in four starts this season.
The Jaguars (1-4) aren’t giving the people of Jacksonville any reason to pray that their team won’t pick up and leave for Los Angeles within the next few years, as has been rumored. Jacksonville ranks dead last in scoring and 24th in points allowed. There have been those occurrences where Gabbert shows flashes of brilliance, but more often than not he looks overmatches out there.
Neither the Jaguars nor the Titans should be .500 teams at season’s conclusion, but make sure to keep a close eye on what the Texans and Colts are up to. Those two make the AFC South worth watching.
Image Courtesy of daveynin