A Look Around The AFC South

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A Look Around The AFC South: 11.20.18

Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) injuries his leg on a sack by Houston Texans strong safety Kareem Jackson (25) and defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) injuries his leg on a sack by Houston Texans strong safety Kareem Jackson (25) and defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

Houston Texans

The Texans became the first team since 1925 to win seven straight after starting 0-3 with a victory over Washington on Sunday.

They go for a franchise record for consecutive wins when they host AFC South rival Tennessee next Monday night. Despite their streak, they know that they have plenty more work to do to get to where they want to be.

"We've done a great job of digging ourselves out of a hole, but we don't want to be known for a record that was set in 1925," coach Bill O'Brien said. "My point is we haven't done anything. We've got a very, very difficult opponent coming in here on Monday night that beat us earlier in the season. We've got to get back to work because in the end, what have you done?"

Houston's 23-21 win over the Redskins on Sunday was its second straight win by two points after the team beat the Denver Broncos 19-17 on Nov. 4 before its bye week. The Texans did some good things in Sunday's win, but also committed three turnovers to underscore O'Brien's point they need to continue to improve if they hope to continue winning.

O'Brien likes to remind his team of the competitive balance in the NFL and how close many of Houston's games have been this season.

"It's been a slim margin," he said. "I think guys have improved in their individual play, I think that we make more plays now in critical moments than we made earlier in the season, I think we're coaching better, but I think ... our guys understand (that) if we don't continue to work, put the time in, understand the detail of each play, the situation that we're in, then we're going to be back where we were."

Houston has been able to pile up so many wins in part because so many players have made big plays. Sure, stars like J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney have had their share of important plays over the last seven games. But the Texans have also gotten key contributions from their lesser knowns.

On Sunday that player was third-round pick Justin Reid, who returned an interception 101 yards for a touchdown. It was the second-longest interception return for a touchdown in Texans history and longest since a 102-yarder in 2004. The play also tied for the second-longest interception return for a touchdown by a rookie in NFL history, trailing a 103-yarder by Pete Barnum in 1926.

Watson loves that so many different players have been contributing during the streak.

"It's top-notch," the quarterback said. "Somebody is going to step up and make a play. It's what got us to seven wins in a row, so it's pretty incredible."

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Bad penalties, bad decisions, bad coaching.

And bad losses.

They occurred all over the NFL on Sunday. The Jaguars , Cardinals, Chargers and Falcons all will be shaking their heads the way their fans are about how they blew games.

At least the Panthers went down gambling to win, missing a 2-point conversion — the pass play would have worked but Cam Newton missed a wide-open receiver in the end zone. The others either made suspect choices or played not to lose.

And, naturally, they lost.

"This is as tough as it gets," Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said after his bunch blew a 16-0 lead to Pittsburgh and lost on a last-second touchdown by Ben Roethliberger. "There are going to be some games you definitely lose and you'll definitely win. But when it comes down to that last play, and you're on the losing side of it, those hurt, especially in a situation where we're a desperate team in need of a win."

And a team that got too many field goals, yet got comfortable with that 16-point edge. Jacksonville stopped being as aggressive as it had been earlier in dominating the Steelers, and pretty much dropped from postseason contention at 3-7.

"If people are in here and they're content — not saying anybody is — but if people are content with losing and things not going right," star cornerback Jalen Ramsey said, "then that's not the type of guys you want on the team and that's not the type of environment you want to have."

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Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans need the extra day off before their next game both to allow injuries to heal and figure out what went wrong in their worst loss this season.

Marcus Mariota is recovering from a stinger that knocked him out of the Titans' 38-10 loss to the Colts, not the elbow injury announced during the game. Coach Mike Vrabel said all tests were positive on defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who returned to Nashville on Monday. Pees spent a night in an Indianapolis hospital after an issue forced him from the coaches' box early in the game.

Vrabel also said he is hopeful Mariota will play when the Titans visit Houston on Nov. 26 and Pees also will return to work, even his boss plans to limit the coordinator to banker's hours of 9 to 5.

"I just want to make sure that he's getting plenty of rest and that we're not rushing anything," Vrabel said. "We do have an extra day with the Monday night game."

Whether Mariota misses his third start this season depends on how quickly he recovers from what Vrabel called a bad stinger with a hit to the head. Mariota was hurt when sacked for the fourth time late in the first half, and he did not return with what was announced as an injury to his elbow. Mariota was forced from the season opener after hurting his right elbow.

Mariota was hit in the head, and Vrabel said the independent neurologist evaluated the quarterback and cleared Mariota.

"Like a lot of players, he got a bad stinger," Vrabel said. "So, we'll have to see where he's at."

Vrabel said that may include Mariota getting a second opinion. Mariota did not speak to reporters after the game because he was receiving treatment, and the quarterback was not in the locker room Monday when it was open to the media. Vrabel said a stinger can leave some numbness down the arm, and Mariota dealt with some numbness in his fingers after his elbow injury.

His coach hopes Mariota will be available against the Texans. Mariota missed the first game between these teams in Week 2, a 20-17 win by the Titans and backup Blaine Gabbert.

"We're hopeful that he'll check out and feel good enough to play on Monday," Vrabel said. "Just being less than 24 hours after the game, some of these things take a little bit of time to cool down and really just treat and diagnose."

Vrabel said he told Pees, 69, not to come to work once back in Nashville. Vrabel thanked the Colts and Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard for checking on Pees and his wife while the Titans flew home Sunday.

"Everything that would be really worrisome has been ruled out from the neurologist in Indy," Vrabel said.

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