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Checking in on the AFC South

Division foes see highs and lows during Jaguars bye week

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars fans had the opportunity to watch all three division rivals during the team’s bye week. The Tennessee Titans faced the national spotlight on Thursday Night Football, while the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts represented the South on Sunday.

The Jaguars entered their off week in firm control of first place in the division. It’s a welcome feeling after Jacksonville hit its bye week last season with a measly 3-7 record that included losses to the Colts and Texans.

Comfort is a refreshing change of pace in Duval County, but the road gets rough starting next week. For now, that’s enough talk about the Jaguars. It’s time to swing around the AFC South and see how the other teams fared in week nine.

Titans fall short in the Steel City

Losing a road game to the Pittsburgh Steelers… Couldn’t be the Jaguars.

Things were said to be looking up after Tennessee “found” its quarterback in week eight when Will Levis threw four touchdowns. The second-round rookie fell back to earth on Thursday Night Football, tossing zero touchdowns and a costly fourth-quarter interception.

Levis’ QBR notably dropped from a 130.5 in his first start to 66.4 against the Steelers. The loss isn’t all on him, of course.

Tennessee’s defense was lackluster at best. Pittsburgh running backs Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris combined for 157 yards and a touchdown. Their combined production, plus a resurgent performance from Diontae Johnson, was enough to propel the Steelers to a 20-16 victory.

Looking forward, Tennessee will play against five AFC South opponents in the back half of the season. They currently sit at the bottom of the division with a 3-5 record.

Stroud goes bonkers, leads Texans past Bucs

As one of my friends told me on Sunday, C.J. Stroud has reached dawg status.

In what might have been the most entertaining game of week nine, the Texans scrapped their way to a 39-37 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It features a record-breaking performance and a running back kicking field goals. Like, come on, what more would you want?

Stroud threw for 470 yards and five touchdowns. His passing yardage broke the mark set by former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck for most in a game by a rookie.

The No. 2 overall pick’s most important pass came with six seconds left in the game. Stroud tossed a 15-yard game-winning touchdown to Tank Dell to cap a gutsy 75-yard drive.

More importantly, though, former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Dare Ogunbowale stepped into the spotlight in a way he never anticipated. The Texans’ starting kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn left the game with a quad injury in the second quarter.

Soon after, Ogunbowale would line up for a 29-yard field goal to put Houston up 33-30.

“I never expected to be doing that, but the guys were riding with me and had my back,” Ogunbowale said in an ESPN article.

As for the rest of the season, the Texans seem to be a real playoff contender. Jacksonville is still securely atop the division, but if Houston gets hot a wild card bert is more than possible.

Colts beat up on bottom-feeder Panthers

It was all about Indianapolis cornerback Kenny Moore II on Sunday. The sixth-year defender snagged not one, but two pick sixes against the Carolina Panthers.

Once again, it was a rough day at the office for the No. 1 overall selection in this year’s draft, Bryce Young. Moore took two of his three turnovers to the house, the first 49 yards…

And the second 66 yards…

The highlight plays made the difference in a game that saw the Colts end a three-game losing streak. Indianapolis has already lost to the Jaguars twice this season and only has two more divisional games on the schedule.

With a 2-2 record in the conference, it’s still possible for the Colts to shake things up. Their remaining slate of games is generally favorable, and former Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew has shown enough to keep them in the mix most weeks.