The AFC South Outlook: Three-way tie at the top puts Jaguars in position to break free or keep pace

The AFC South is living up to its mediocre reputation yet again this season.

The much-maligned group is in a three-way tie at the top following the first quarter of the season, with the leaders cannibalizing each others' successes, forcing a logjam for supremacy.

The Jaguars (2-2), Titans (2-2) and Texans (2-2) are currently in a triple threat match to win the next quarter of the season. Carrying a lead at the halfway point of the season offers something to build on, as most coaching staff's look to manage expectations through four-game stretches.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said the team resets itself after each four-game block. The team is set to do so with a .500 record, tied for the top spot.

With each team renewing its outlook for the next four matchups, it makes sense to look ahead to those games and figure out where each team stands.

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Jaguars

Current Record: 2-2

Next Four Games: @ Steelers, vs. Rams, @ Colts, @ Bengals

Prediction for Second Quarter: 2-2 (4-4)

Thoughts: The Jaguars suffered a letdown to end the first quarter and it will be interesting to see how the team bounces back. In previous seasons, the squad was unable to bounce back from adversity. The new staff is seemingly more capable than the previous one, especially at the top, which is why the Jaguars will match the 2016 win total by the halfway point this year.

Unfortunately, they face several good teams during this stretch. The Steelers at Heinz Field will easily be the toughest test yet and the Rams and Jared Goff have figured out how to win and come back in games. Those two squads are going to present challenges, even with Los Angeles traveling across the country. 

The final two games are where the Jaguars seem to reach the favor of the schedule. The Colts are a mess without starting quarterback Andrew Luck and it remains to be seen when he will return. The Jaguars should be able to get a division win on the road in Indianapolis.

The Bengals game is a toss-up at this point. The Jaguars will be coming off a bye week and the Bengals were so uneven in the first quarter of the season that they have a similar outlook to Jacksonville. For the sake of the search for division supremacy, let's give the Jaguars the slight edge.

If the Jaguars post a 2-2 record in the second quarter, they'll still be in place to compete for the division. A 3-1 surge would probably keep them around the top.

 

Texans

Current Record: 2-2

Next Four Games: vs. Chiefs, vs. Browns, @ Seahawks, vs. Colts

Prediction for Second Quarter: 2-2 (4-4)

Thoughts: The Texans have surged following a rough Week 1 effort. Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson has caught fire and has put the Texans back on the AFC South map. He will face two tests and two potential trap games in the next four weeks. 

The undefeated Chiefs will visit Houston on Sunday, and given recent history, it's fair to favor the road squad. The Browns will then come to Houston for a rookie quarterback vs. rookie quarterback showdown. Watson's performance has been far superior to that of DeShone Kizer and the Texans defense has begun to wake up. 

The trip to Seattle will be quite the test for the rookie. While outscoring the Seahawks seems feasible, Watson will need to deal with a heavy pass rush and tough environment. The Texans are in much better shape than the Colts, which should lead to a win for Houston.

Another 2-2 block would keep the Texans in the hunt and allow them to continue to ascend in the division race.

 

Titans

Current Record: 2-2

Next Four Games: @ Dolphins, vs. Colts, @ Browns, @ Ravens

Prediction for Second Quarter: 4-0 (6-2)

Thoughts: A lot of the Titans' success is based on quarterback Marcus Mariota's availability. For now, we will look at the schedule with Mariota in the lineup.

The Titans didn't show up against the Texans last week and they were blown out. Let's chalk that up to Mariota leaving mid-game and the defense being shell-shocked by Watson's breakout performance.

The Titans have the easiest second quarter in the division, and if Mariota is available, Tennessee should take advantage.

Miami has fallen off in back-to-back weeks and will not have a bye after London. The Colts are out of any sort of contention without Luck and they seem to pose little threat to the Titans. The Browns are in a similar position at this point.

The Ravens are the one team that may cause an issue because of Baltimore's ability to cause turnovers, but after two-straight defeats, it's hard to take them as a major threat. 

If the Titans go at least 3-1, they should continue to be the class of the division. It's hard to sell anyone short in the three-way tie just yet and the Titans need to bounce back from giving up 57 points in Week 4. 

 

Colts

Current Record: 1-3

Next Four Games: vs. 49ers, @ Titans, vs. Jaguars, @ Bengals

Prediction for Second Quarter: 1-3 (2-6)

Thoughts: The Colts - as previously mentioned twice - are seemingly hopeless without Luck at the helm. Jacoby Brissett has done the best he possibly could considering the circumstances, but the Colts just don't seem to be in the same discussion as the other three teams in the division. It's still not clear whether or not Luck will return in the second quarter of the season either.

After a respectable performance against the Seahawks, it's hard not to give them the edge over the 49ers at home. The Titans and Jaguars matchups will pretty much be playoff games for the Colts, as two losses (as expected) would likely wipe them out of the AFC South race. The nearby Bengals' recent resurgence should help Cincinnati pull off a win on the road.

A 1-3 record in the second quarter of the season would leave the Colts in the dust. That's probably where the team is without Luck.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

Listen to "Teal & Black Blitz with Mike Kaye and Mike DiRocco (Podcast) 10-2" on Spreaker.

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