Four weeks in -- 2015 NFL season -- AFC South


Wanted to get this started after week four… and then a few fun things happened, and I found myself needing to beat the Thursday night game with the posting. So… we’ll kick things off with the AFC South and get that up before the Colts and Texans meet. Then we’ll have a general NFL overview, a column about the Patriots, and a look at the other seven divisions. (Fingers crossed, before Sunday’s games begin) Let’s get to it…

This is the worst division in the NFL.

Remember the NFC South last year? And all the fun we had for a time thinking a team might take the division with 6 wins? Yeah… it isn’t quite that bad here… but there is absolutely nothing worthy of watching right now.

Don’t believe me? Ok… quick… who’s in first place?

Now… if you didn’t look it up or scroll down to check… one of two things just happened in answering that question.

First possibility… you didn’t know. You’ve heard good things about Tennessee (week one against Tampa), you’ve heard so-so to bad things about Tennessee (both of the other games), and you’ve heard nothing about Tennessee (bye week). Houston either has a quarterback, has two quarterbacks, or has no quarterbacks on their roster, and it’s not a good sign that the coaching staff doesn’t seem to know if it’s one, two or none. Jacksonville beat Miami, which last spring seemed an impossible result since the Dolphins were headed to the playoffs and even an AFC East crown if Brady missed time, but we’ve come to find out is a victory that honestly doesn’t mean much of anything. And the Colts… well… sure… the Colts.

And second possibility… you did know. And you are both stunned (like I was when I realized the results of last Sunday’s made them a division leader, and then stared at the standings long enough for it to really register), and, you also have way too much time on your hands.

The trick is, the leader in the division right now is not going to be challenged. They’re just too good for the other three teams in this division… all of which will likely struggle to be playing for an even record as December arrives, so let’s not even consider for now a place where nine to eleven wins might be possible.

Indianapolis (2-2)

Not only are the Colts leading the division… they aren’t sharing the lead right now (a game ahead of everyone, and, both of their wins are division contests). A win on Thursday night, and they’ll be 3-0 in the division and effectively not just in control of the AFC South, but on cruise control for the playoffs.

And that’s a good thing.

Because as of right now, this team is in no way, shape or form a contender in the AFC and they need to get their crap sorted out. Another dozen games might allow them to do that. Unfortunately… I don’t know if they can… and we’ll probably be ready to gauge what kind of a playoff team they’ll be after the next ten or so days.

First up… biggest thing… there is a huge organizational struggle taking place right now. The general manager and head coach are spending most of their time denying reports that they don’t get along… and yet everyone seems to think Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano are, at best, tolerating each other. In fact, most people have begun to play the match game between Pagano and where he’ll be coaching next season. On top of that, ownership (read Jim Irsay) is a way-too-much-hands-on owner, meaning neither Grigson nor Pagano really has sole authority over their responsibilities, and, as the offense struggles (despite those noteworthy offseason signings) you can bet there aren’t many people in the Indianapolis offices thrilled though they reside in first place right now.

This promises to be an ongoing soap opera for the year. As many of you understand though… winning cures a lot of problems. So take care of Houston and things quiet down a bit. Then win the next game and… oh yeah… the next game.

And second… here come the Patriots. You know how New England has been stomping the Andrew Luck Colts the past few years? Well… umm… I probably don’t need to tell you that many people think it’s possible the Patriots might actually be motivated to play hard when these teams meet on October 18th. In fact, a lot of people seem to think it’s going to be very, very ugly.

Now… there’s a reason they play the games. If Indy beats Houston and New England, then start watching them closely because they could correct their path and be headed toward the playoffs as a solid candidate for the Super Bowl. It will speak volumes about them if they can withstand an angry Patriots club and win that game. Huge win.

If they lose though… and good lord, if they lose badly… then this ship if sinking. Slowly… because the division will keep them afloat and carry them into the playoffs. But sinking in such a way that teams like Cincinnati, Denver, New England, and Pittsburgh will be heavily favored in January.

Keep in mind… the Colts were supposed to take the leap this year… maturity… strength… move into the hushed tones reserved for conversations about the elite teams. Management struggles and looking second tier against the Patriots will not inspire confidence.

Tennessee (1-2)

They looked miserable against the Browns. Just miserable. And yet…

Would you believe they are averaging just shy of 30-points per game? How about… would you believe Marcus Mariota has 8 touchdowns against 2 interceptions, while putting up about 275-yards passing per game?

Now… they give up too many points… I don’t think they’re ready to pull many upsets against teams like Carolina, Atlanta, and New England… so losses like that Cleveland game will hurt them, because when you aren’t likely upsetting any of the teams you shouldn’t beat, every game you could win matters even more.

The signs are really encouraging though. In fact… keep December 13th in mind. I don’t think the Titans are going to the playoffs. But the Jets are going to be fighting for a wild card (if not the AFC East division), and on that day New York hosts Tennessee. Could be a great game.

Jacksonville (1-3)

The stats are a bit off thanks to the game against New England. But… the Jaguars can’t score and they can’t stop other teams from scoring. As of right now… 31st in the league for points scored, and 25th for points allowed. Yuck.

But let’s take away the loss to the Patriots. Against the Colts, Panthers and Dolphins, no opponent scored more than 20 points. That’s not too bad. Their victory over the Dolphins came the week after Miami beat Washington. You know… when those Miami players might just have still cared. And with Tampa, Houston, and Buffalo coming up (Tampa is an in-state road game, Houston is at home, and Buffalo is in London)… it’s not outrageous to think they could win a couple of these, because none of those three look like offensive juggernauts.

Do I think they’re a winning team? No. I don’t. In my opinion this team has holes, is middle-of-the-league at best, and likely would accomplish a lot by getting to 7 or 8 wins. But… if the Colts continue to flop around and the Texans continue their spiral of death… they could get those 8 wins.

Houston (1-3)

Not sure what to say.

On one hand, I think over the course of a full season, the Texans will end up with a better than average defense that honestly will frighten a lot of opponents. (J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork and Brian Cushing are a pretty good start to building a decent defense.)

I also like the way their schedule looks. They’ve already played Kansas City, Carolina and Atlanta, which leaves only New England as a game that on the surface looks tough to believe they could win. (I mentioned the Jets before… and we’ll get to them when we cover the AFC East… as good as they’re playing though, let’s just say history suggest their current quarterback will fade as the year moves along and I don’t know if they’ll have an answer for that.)

The problem is the whole Hoyer-Mallet mess. It’s honestly at a point where if they said before a game that regardless of how things were going they intended for one quarterback to play the first half and the other the second half, I don’t think many people would be surprised. It’s that crazy.

I loved watching Hard Knocks with these guys. I like their coaching staff. And I think they have some tremendous talent. What I see missing is conviction and confidence. Amnd just one place to start looking for that is at quarterback… and not by saying they’re going to watch film after every game, or flip from week to week, or have guys looking around to see if they’re still in after a bad quarter of play. Make a decision. Back that starter up. If you think you have a good team, step one is believing the opponents need to adjust to you.

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