NFL AM: Which Terrible AFC South Team Will Host A Playoff Game?


Three-Way Tie Atop The AFC South

With the Indianapolis Colts’ 41-10 blowout victory over the hapless New York Jets Monday night, there is now a three-way tie at the top of the AFC South.

If you’re a glass-half-full type of guy or gal, you can appreciate a three-headed race for a division title that’s completely deadlocked with four games to play.  If you’re like the rest of us, you just shake your head that the clubhouse leaders are all 6-6 and none of the three is particularly likely to come close to winning a playoff game.

So which team will take home the division crown and not have their head coach and/or general manager fired at the end of the year?  

Let’s look at the schedules.

Houston’s has games remaining at Indianapolis (6-6), at home against Jacksonville (2-10), home against Cincinnati (4-7-1) and then on the road at Tennessee (6-6).

Indianapolis will host Houston (6-6) before traveling to Minnesota (6-6) and Oakland (10-2), and then finishing the season at home against Jacksonville (2-10).

Tennessee will battle reigning Super Bowl champion Denver (8-4) at home, before taking on Kansas City (9-3) at Arrowhead, followed by a trip to Jacksonville (2-10) and finishing at home against Houston (6-6).

Clearly, Houston has the scheduling advantage as their remaining opponents currently have a .383 winning percentage.  Indy’s opponents have a .500 winning percentage, while Tennessee’s opponents winning percentage is .521.

Although anyone can beat anyone in the NFL, the AFC South seems to be a little different.  Both the Texans and Titans have just two wins against teams who are above .500, while the Colts haven’t defeated anyone over .500.

If things go the way they should, Houston will beat the Jaguars and Bengals, and their games against the Colts and Titans should determine the division.  The Colts will likely lose to the Raiders and likely beat the Jaguars, while their games against Houston and Minnesota will determine their fate.  Tennessee is more than likely to drop their next two games against Denver and Kansas City respectively, before beating up on Jacksonville and then the season finale with Houston could be their chance to be a spoiler, or possibly even a division champ.

When we look at the actual teams, the Colts clearly have the best quarterback with Andrew Luck, while the Titans’ Marcus Mariota is next as he’s steadily improving, and the Texans Brock Osweiler has been…not so good.

Houston probably has the best roster composition, as they’re very solid throughout, even without J.J. Watt.  Tennessee has the next-most good players, followed by Indianapolis, who’s roster is a complete mess outside of Luck and T.Y. Hilton.

When we take it all into account, Houston seems to have the best chance of the three to win the division…and probably the worst chance of the three to win a playoff game.  The Texans wouldn’t be favored, even at home against any prospective playoff team.

This could go down as a historic season as the AFC South could very well be the worst collective division in NFL history.

God have mercy on your souls.

Bryce Petty To Start The Final Four Games

The New York Jets season has been lost for quite some time, but it seems as if head coach Todd Bowles just got the message.

The embattled second-year Jets head coach confirmed after his team’s 41-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts that second-year quarterback Bryce Petty will start the final four games of the season.

“Barring injury, he’ll play all four,” Bowles said of Petty during his postgame press conference.  “It’s the final quarter of the season, and that’s the time slot we have for him.  We can get a good look at him, see if he grows any.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me,” said Petty. “I didn’t want it to be this way. I would much rather have us in the same situation we were in last year – (on) the brink of making the playoffs. What I do know is that opportunities are few and far between in this league, so you’ve got to capitalize on them any chance you get. I’m going to work my ass off and be the first one in and the last one out. That stuff hasn’t changed for me. I’ll make sure that I prepare and we go get some wins in the next four games. They’re big games for us.”

Bowles pulled starter Ryan Fitzpatrick at halftime for perhaps the final time as the veteran went 5 for 12 for 81 yards with an interception.

The Jets new starter, Petty, didn’t fare much better.  He went 11 for 25 for 135 yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions.

“He was against the odds,” Bowles said of Petty after the game. “They were up a bunch so they played a prevent defense. He threw a couple of good balls. He threw some bad balls. Obviously, you don’t want to turn the ball over, but we were down 31-3. Those things are going to happen.”

Although the book hasn’t been completely written on Petty, through two preseasons and a few regular season appearances he hasn’t once looked the part of an NFL starter, or even close to it.  Although he entered the game in a tough spot as the Jets were getting blown out, he was almost completely inept against a Colts defense that entered Monday ranked 30th in the league.

It seems like an obvious solution for New York to get the highest drafted quarterback they have on the roster, which is rookie Christian Hackenberg at least prepared to backup.  Bowles wouldn’t even commit to Hackenberg backing up following the game.

“We’ll discuss that tomorrow,” Bowles said.

Hackenberg might not be completely ready, but how much worse than Petty can he actually be?

New York has a 3-9 record.  If Hackenberg is terrible and they lose the rest of their games, they get a better draft pick.  By the looks of the effort (or lack thereof) they displayed on Monday night, the only thing this team has left is the NFL Draft next April.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.