INDIANAPOLIS — With the postseason now upon us — and the Houston Texans still alive after a victory over the Oakland Raiders on Saturday in the Wild Card Round — let’s take our weekly comprehensive look around the AFC South Division:
After taking care of the Raiders, 27-14, in the Wild Card Round Saturday in Houston, the Texans now are focused on their matchup against the NFL’s top team of 2016.
The win against the Raiders, who were without MVP candidate and quarterback Derek Carr, did little to shake the Texans’ struggles offensively. Although Brock Osweiler, who had been benched the previous two weeks, started the game and didn’t make many mistakes, he only threw for 168 yards against Oakland’s secondary, which has certainly had its struggles.
Osweiler, however, was able to get a decent connection going with top receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had 67 receiving yards and a touchdown, but those who follow Bill Belichick and the Patriots know that New England’s defense is typically focused on stopping the opposing team’s top threat, so the Texans will need to get more out of the rest of its offense on Saturday, or it could be a long day in Foxborough, Mass.
The Texans already struggled against the Patriots earlier this season, losing 27-0 in a Week 3 game in which New England was forced to play its third-string quarterback, Jacoby Brissett.
The line on Saturday’s game? The Patriots are 15 1/2-point favorites, according to the Associated Press. But don’t tell that to Texans head coach Bill O’Brien.
"What does that matter? The only thing that matters is what takes place in between the lines on Saturday night," he said. "No, I don't really go too much to the Vegas betting line. I don't think that would be really a good motivation tool this week."
Jacksonville's coaching search landed someone from its past and present.
The Jaguars can only hope the old-school combination leads to better results in the future.
Owner Shad Khan hired Doug Marrone as head coach Monday and brought back Tom Coughlin to oversee football operations. Marrone replaces Gus Bradley, who was fired in late November after going 14-48 in three-plus seasons.
The Jaguars (3-13) also gave general manager Dave Caldwell a two-year contract extension. So Marrone, Coughlin and Caldwell are now signed through 2019, giving the new regime a three-year window to, at the very least, make Jacksonville relevant in the AFC South.
"I have confidence that one day soon we'll look back on today's news as the moment that inspired and ultimately established the Jacksonville Jaguars as a football team that wins, week to week and season to season," Khan said in a statement. "The results will speak for themselves in time, but with Tom coming in to join Dave and Doug, there is no question the Jacksonville Jaguars are a stronger football team today."
Marrone and Caldwell will report to Coughlin, meaning Jacksonville's first coach is now in charge and will have final say in personnel decisions.
Marrone is the fifth head coach in franchise history, following Coughlin (1995-2002), Jack Del Rio (2003-11), Mike Mularkey (2012) and Bradley (2013-16).
"I think Doug has earned the respect of the offensive players, and I'm excited for him to get this opportunity and the direction of this team," quarterback Blake Bortles told AP in a text message.
Coughlin, a winner of two Super Bowls in 12 seasons with the New York Giants, will serve as executive vice president of football operations. Coughlin, who led the Jaguars to four playoff appearances in his first five years, will have final say in the NFL draft and in free agency. Caldwell has been the primary decision maker in all personnel moves the last four years.
"I am honored to welcome Tom Coughlin back to Jacksonville, where winning was customary under his leadership," Khan said. "I know he expects the same in his return to head our football operations, and that's good news for us and Jaguars fans everywhere. The extension of Dave Caldwell's contract speaks to his excellent work thus far and the continued importance of complementing our talented and promising roster."
Khan, who hired Jed Hughes of Korn Ferry International to help with the search, also interviewed Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mike Smith, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin for the head coaching job.
He ended up keeping Marrone, who served as Jacksonville's interim coach for the final two games. The Jaguars won one and blew a late lead in the season finale at Indianapolis. Players seemed to rally around him, but after the loss to the Colts, rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey said a "complete flip will serve us good."
(Story via The Associated Press)
A year ago, the Tennessee Titans went into the offseason needing a new general manager and a permanent coach while holding the No. 1 draft pick in the NFL.
Now they can tick off the mistakes that cost their them first playoff berth in seven seasons.
That's how quickly the Titans turned around a franchise that had been cycling through quarterbacks, coaches and losing seasons since the last playoff victory in January 2004. And they want much more out of 2017.
"Honestly, I'm going to be ready for Week 1," Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "We got our foundation. We know that we have to do. We can get better, a few wrinkles here and there, add some new pieces, and we're going to be a well-oiled machine."
The Titans finished 9-7, the same record as AFC South champ Houston. But a 2-4 divisional record cost the Titans, who went 5-2 against playoff teams this season. The season's lone double-digit loss was the costliest, Dec. 24 at Jacksonville , ending Tennessee's playoff hopes.
"I think they understood how close we were," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "It wasn't about one game, one loss — Jacksonville. It was about things we did in those other losses that may have been the difference, as well. But a lot of positives came from this season."
General manager Jon Robinson, who traded both for AFC rushing leader DeMarco Murray and turned that top draft pick into more selections, will have more ammunition for his second offseason. The Titans have two first-round draft picks and two third-round selections from their trade with the Rams, along with more than $24 million in space as this season ended.
(Story via The Associated Press)