The AFC South race is going to come down to the wire, as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, and Houston Texans all sit tied atop the division with identical 8-7 records with two weeks to go in the regular season.
Right now, the Jaguars hold the tiebreakers with a 2-0 record against the Colts, a 1-1 record against the Texans and a gleaming 4-1 record against the division. They also possess the easiest remaining schedule of any of the three teams, but the Jaguars still have plenty of flaws, making the division race wide open. Here’s a look at each of the three contenders, and the cases for and against their ability to take home the division crown.
Right now, the Jaguars are overwhelming favorites to win their second straight division title, listed as high as -150 at various sportsbooks. The Colts slot in behind them as a +325 longshot, while the Texans bring up the rear at +350. Be sure to use a sportsbook promo code like these Deposit Match Bonus Offers if you want to bet on the AFC South race or any other team or sport so that you know you’re locking in the best possible odds of winning big.
Jacksonville’s near-perfection in the division gives them a healthy boost over their competitors, as does their remaining schedule. They’ll host the pitiful 2-13 Carolina Panthers at home this Sunday, before hitting the road to take on the Tennessee Titans, who at 5-10 are the only team in the division without a prayer of making the playoffs.
Even with star quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s status in doubt against Carolina following an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder suffered in last week’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville’s cake walk of a schedule should help them limp to the finish line… and it’s not like the other teams in the division race have healthy quarterbacks either.
Right now, the Jaguars are on a four game losing streak that started when Lawrence got banged up against the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this month. He also dealt with a concussion scare prior to the shoulder injury, meaning Lawrence hasn’t been at his best during the toughest stretch of the season. Whether he suits up or if the Jaguars have to turn to backup C.J.
Beathard down the stretch, the schedule and standings are in their favor. If the next man up can do his job, the Jaguars should be a shoe-in for the AFC South title. Both Houston and Indianapolis need to win out, and for the Jaguars to lose at least one game, for their easiest path to the division title. Here’s how that could happen.
The Colts, much like the Jaguars and Texans, have dealt with more than their fair share of quarterback injuries this season. Indianapolis selected quarterback Anthony Richardson with the No. 4 pick in the draft this offseason, and the young signal caller—widely viewed as a project due to issues with his throwing mechanics—shocked the world with a hot start to his career, accounting for 7 touchdowns to just two turnovers in four starts despite dealing with a pair of injuries. The second, an AC sprain, ended his rookie campaign just five weeks in, and the Colts have rolled with backup Gardner Minshew ever since.
He’s been perfectly good as a backup: he isn’t standing on his head to help the Colts win games, with 14 touchdowns to nine interceptions in parts of 15 games this season, but he hasn’t been bad enough to sink their playoff hopes.
The Colts close their season with home games against the Raiders and Texans. Playing in Indianapolis will help, as does their ability to control their fate to some extent if they win over Houston, but neither of those games is a gimme.
Stop me if you’ve heard this storyline in this article already. The Texans have a young quarterback playing well this season with rookie C.J. Stroud, but he’s missed the past two weeks due to injury and the team’s chances have taken a nosedive in the interim.
Stroud could return as early as this weekend with a home game against the Titans. Backup quarterback Case Keenum managed an overtime win against Tennessee two weeks ago, then got benched against the Browns on Christmas Eve because of an ugly performance.
If Stroud can’t play, whether the Texans give Keenum another shot or roll with third-stringer Davis Mills remains to be seen. Tennessee is far from a premier opponent, although gunslinging rookie quarterback Will Levis has the potential to make big plays whenever he’s on the field.
Last but not least, the Texans close their season against Indianapolis, giving themselves a chance to make their case in the division race.