The AFC North isn’t the only AFC division where all four teams are mathematically alive for the playoffs. The southern division’s race is heating up as well in this November/December playoff push.
Now with three teams above .500, the AFC South has a race that’s beginning to tighten up and grow more intense. Here’s a look.
What Happened in Crucial Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans Game?
The most pivotal divisional showdown took place in Houston’s NRG Stadium on Sunday.
In an epic quarterback duel between Trevor Lawrence and hotshot rookie C.J. Stroud that saw both men surpass 300 yards, it was Lawrence’s Jacksonville Jaguars who escaped 24-21.
Lawrence shredded the Houston Texans’ defense with 364 yards, while Stroud ended with 304 while tossing two touchdowns. Lawrence not only threw a touchdown pass but ran one in to combine for a pair of scores, as did Stroud as well. But a missed field goal ultimately decided the outcome of the battle for first place in the AFC South.
Houston would’ve leapfrogged the Jags in the standings had the Texans won. They would’ve swept the season series and taken control of the division lead at 7-4.
Now, Jacksonville extends its division lead to two games. But, there’s another division opponent suddenly gaining steam.
How Red Hot Are the Indianapolis Colts?
The Jags are the division leader and proverbial team to beat in the division. The Indianapolis Colts, however, earned the title of the most red-hot AFC South team.
Once 3-5, new head coach Shane Steichen now has his team in the postseason hunt — winning three in a row. This time, the Colts held off the defending NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Steichen, an offensive guru, has even had to navigate his team without their top quarterback option Anthony Richardson. But, he’s handed the keys to veteran Gardner Minshew II — who has responded by guiding Indy to four of its six wins. Minshew has spearheaded an efficient air attack that has watched him complete 63.7% of his throws.
But he’s gotten help from a familiar impactful face on the Colts: Jonathan Taylor. The Pro Bowl running back has scored three touchdowns during the three-game winning streak, and he controlled the clock with 91 rushing yards versus the Bucs.
The defense has added to this playoff boost. After surrendering 37, 39, and 38 points in their last three losses, the Colts haven’t allowed more than 20 points since. Gus Bradley has gotten his unit to allow an average of 13 points per game over this stretch.
Where Does the AFC South Playoff Picture Now Stand?
Now, the division has two teams with six wins and the leader with eight victories.
But even the last-place team, the Tennessee Titans, is not officially out of the playoff race — winning its game over the Carolina Panthers to go improve to 4-7.
But the Colts’ late surge has created a larger logjam in the AFC Wild Card playoff race. Indianapolis is now among three teams with a 6-5 mark alongside the Colts and Texans.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, has positioned itself in the chase for the AFC’s best record. The Jags currently share identical 8-3 marks with conference leaders in the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens.
Every team in the division has a crucial showdown on Dec. 3 to keep their hopes alive. The Colts get the Titans in the lone division battle. Elsewhere, the Texans host a resurgent Denver Broncos team at home while the Jags host the Cincinnati Bengals for Monday Night Football.
Right now, securing the division has to become the top priority for the Jags with the Texans lingering around and the Colts on a hot streak. Jacksonville gets, arguably, its biggest tests upcoming with the Bengals, Browns, and Ravens all on deck over the next three weeks.
Meanwhile, if the Colts and Texans are still in the race by Jan. 7, that Week 18 season finale could be for the final Wild Card spot if both continue to trek upward.
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