State of the AFC South Following Week 15

State of the AFC South Following Week 15

Only two weeks remain in the 2020 NFL season. Through 15 weeks, we now have a clear idea of which teams are playing for January football, and which teams are building for the future. 

How does each AFC South team stack up in these areas through Week 15? We try to determine it here. 

AFC South standings

  1. Tennessee Titans (10-4, 4-1): The Titans are on a roll in recent weeks, continuing their winning ways with a 46-25 win over the Detroit Lions.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (10-4, 3-2): Things likely were a bit closer than the Colts would have liked in Week 15, but they still walked away with a 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans.
  3. Houston Texans (4-10, 2-3): Two more weeks and the Texans’ lost 2020 season will be over. The latest loss in the franchise’s worst season in years was the aforementioned defeat at the hands of the Colts. 
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13, 1-4): Jacksonville suffered its worst blowout loss of 2020 due to a 40-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on the road, their 13th straight loss.

Jacksonville Jaguars

What to like: The Jaguars didn’t put up much of a fight in Week 15, but they still walked out of the weekend as the NFL’s biggest winners. Thanks to the New York Jets stealing a 23-20 road win over the Los Angeles Rams, the Jaguars have been propelled to the No. 1 overall draft slot for the first time this season. The Jaguars had been given the inside track to No. 2 overall for weeks, but the Jets winning their first game has given the Jaguars’ chances to select Trevor Lawrence some new life.

What to dislike: Poor DJ Chark. He had one of his better games of the last several weeks against Baltimore, catching four of five targets for 53 yards. But he should have had an even bigger day, and plays like the one below have become a common occurrence when Chark has gotten open for big plays in 2020. His 49 catches for 644 yards and four touchdowns are all way down from last year, but it has become clear that is more so due to the circumstances surrounding the entire offense than it is due to his play.

Next opponent: The Jaguars host the 7-7 Chicago Bears in Week 16.

Indianapolis Colts

What to like: For some reason, Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl. That exclusion doesn’t change the fact that Buckner has been one of the league’s most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL this season and he continued this against the Texans on Sunday. Buckner turned in the performance of his life, recording a career-high three sacks and four quarterback hits while also notching two tackles for loss. If not for his dominance in the middle of the Colts’ defense, perhaps Indianapolis wouldn’t even be on the brink of a playoff spot. 

What to dislike: The Colts don’t have many things working against them right now. Philip Rivers is playing safe, efficient football. Jonathan Taylor is hitting his groove. The offensive line is protecting and paving holes. But if there is any one specific flaw of the Colts from the past week to question, it is the fact that the Colts allowed David Johnson to have his best game as a member of the Texans. Johnson has been mostly ineffective this season but was able to give the Colts trouble all day, racking up 11 catches for 106 yards. He didn’t do much on the ground, but he made big play after big play against the Colts’ second level. 

Next opponent: The Colts will next travel to play the 11-3 Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Houston Texans

What to like: Houston doesn’t have much going for them on the field in 2020, making this a tough spot to fill with positives each week. For now, we will opt to give Houston credit for granting an interview to former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell for their own coaching vacancy. Caldwell is a horribly underrated coach, as made evident by the complete crumbling of Detroit as a team since his firing. He does excellent work with quarterbacks so he would make a good fit with Deshaun Watson as well. Overall Caldwell has been deserving of more looks as a coach for some time, and it is a good sign for Houston that they are one of the teams who may finally consider him.

What to dislike: No rookie class is making a smaller impact in 2020 than Houston’s. It is shaping up to be one of the worst classes in recent memory, with none of their five picks carving out a role on the roster through 14 games. Not a single one of the five rookies was on the stat sheet following Sunday’s loss to the Colts, which is a bit baffling considering Houston’s roster isn’t exactly stocked with veteran talent.

Next opponent: Houston will next host the 3-10-1 Bengals.

Tennessee Titans

What to like: Ryan Tannehill doesn’t get the national recognition that Derrick Henry does, but he is hitting his stride at the same time as his All-Pro running back. Tannehill has been remarkably efficient over the last two seasons leading the Titans’ offense and this was once again the case on Sunday against the Lions. Tannehill completed 21 of 27 passes for 273 yards, giving him 10.1 yards per attempt, a 145.8 passing rating, and the highest EPA per play of any quarterback in the NFL last week. He is getting hot at the right time and may be the third-best quarterback in the AFC playoffs this year, behind only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.

What to dislike: Once again, the Titans were unable to get any pass rush going. They finished with zero sacks against a Lions’ offense that has a mediocre offensive line, with Harold Landry’s five pressures the only tangible impact any Titans defender made in terms of disrupting the quarterback. The Titans have failed to generate pressure all season long and this was once again evident against the Lions, bringing into question whether the Titans have any chance of getting after the quarterback with their current roster construction.

Next opponent: The Titans are traveling to play the 11-3 Green Bay Packers in Week 16.

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