AFC South Roundup: Week 8

For the first time since Week 1, the Titans are no longer considered the favorites to win the AFC South according to Football Outsiders DVOA metrics, which give the Colts a 58.8% chance of taking the division now. The Titans playoff odds remain a healthy 75%, but the loss to the Bengals obviously dampened some enthusiasm around this team.

Still, with each team at 5-2, this is anyone’s race and we are just nine days away from the first clash between these two squads at Nissan Stadium on Thursday Night Football. They’ll meet again just 17 days after that in Indy so it’s not hyperbole to say that November will be the most important month of the season for the AFC South outcome.

With the Texans and Jaguars mercifully on bye, let’s take a look at what the Colts did in Week 8 as well as a few changes that could be coming for Houston and Jacksonville.

Indianapolis Colts (5-2)

Week 8 Result: 41-21 win over the Lions

The Colts controlled this game from start to finish, though it wasn’t as lopsided as the final score would suggest. The Lions were down 20-14 and driving in Colts territory at the end of the 3rd quarter when a Darius Leonard strip sack of Matthew Stafford gave the Colts the ball back. Indy drove down and scored a few plays later and then got a pick-six to push it into blowout territory on the very next play.

That being said, it was another impressive outing for the Colts defense. They sacked Stafford five times, two each for Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis in addition to Leonard’s strip sack.

Offensively, the Colts grinded things out, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry on the ground and 7.7 yards per attempt through the air. Philip Rivers avoided the crippling mistakes that have haunted him over the past two years and spread the ball around to 11 different receivers effectively.

Notable Injuries: Jonathan Taylor (ankle), T.Y. Hilton (groin), Ashton Dulin (knee)

All three of the players listed above left the game with injuries. Taylor struggled mightily when he was in the game, gaining just 22 yards on 11 carries and hasn’t become the dominant force that many thought he might be behind the Indy offensive line.

T.Y. Hilton’s disappointing campaign also continued. He caught just two passes for nine yards before leaving with a groin injury. The Colts top receiver has been held under 30 yards in four of their seven games in 2020 and now might miss time with an injury. It’s fair to question whether the 31-year old speedster is the same player that went to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 2014 to 2017.

Houston Texans (1-6)

Week 8 Result: Bye

There is nothing worth discussing about the Texans besides what they may or may not do at the trade deadline. According to reports, they are willing to talk about any player on the roster besides Deshaun Watson, Laremy Tunsil, J.J. Watt, and Tytus Howard.

The most interesting piece is wide receiver Will Fuller, who has been heavily rumored as a potential target for the Packers to pair with Davante Adams. Fuller is a pending free agent so it makes sense for Houston to offload him to the highest bidder at this point.

They could also send away Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Whitney Mercilus, and several others, though some of the contracts involved with those players are not very palatable for teams looking to conserve 2021 cap space.

Long story short… the Titans will likely see a very different looking Texans team in Week 17 compared to the one they saw in Week 6. However, if Fuller goes to Green Bay, that just means Tennessee will see him one week earlier when they visit Wisconsin in Week 16.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

Week 8 Result: Bye

With Gardner Minshew suffering an injury to his throwing hand, the Jags are turning to 6th round rookie Jake Luton at quarterback instead of veteran backup Mike Glennon. In other words… the tank is officially on.

Jacksonville has no interesting trade assets, so it’s hard to see them making any deadline moves for more draft picks. Instead, they’ll be improving their draft stockpile the old-fashioned way.

Standings and Looking Ahead

The current AFC South standings are as follows:

  1. Tennessee Titans (5-2, 2-0 in AFCS)
  2. Indianapolis Colts (5-2, 0-1 in AFCS)
  3. Houston Texans (1-6, 1-1 in AFCS)
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6, 1-2 in AFCS)

The Jaguars and Texans are playing each other this weekend with Houston checking in as 6.5-point road favorites in Jacksonville, but who cares what happens in this game?

The Colts will host the 5-2 Ravens in one of the best matchups of the week and are currently 3-point home dogs against Lamar Jackson and company. This is — shockingly — the first game the Colts have played against a team that currently ranks within the top 14 in DVOA, so it’s a big test for an Indy squad that has largely feasted on cellar dwellers to this point.

The Titans will also be returning home and hoping to avoid their first three-game losing streak since October 2018. Despite a disappointing showing in Cincinnati, Tennessee is currently 5.5-point favorites against the 5-3 Bears.

These two weeks could send the standings in wildly different directions. One realistic scenario sees the Titans entering Week 11 at 7-2, two games clear of the Colts and in strong control of the division tiebreaker. Another sees the opposite happen, with Indy seizing control of the division heading into the back half of the season.

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