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A Look Around The AFC South: Week 16

Intro: Take a comprehensive look around the AFC South after the 16th week of action in the 2016 regular season.


INDIANAPOLIS — This one is over.

For a second straight season, the Houston Texans have earned the AFC South Division title, thanks in large part to, of all teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as the Oakland Raiders.

The Texans (9-6) on Saturday defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 12-10, in a mostly-ugly game at NRG Stadium, and officially took the division title when the Jaguars blew out the Tennessee Titans, 38-17, as well as when the Raiders took care of the Indianapolis Colts, 33-25.

Prior to Saturday's action, both the Titans (8-7) and the Colts (7-8) were hanging on to various scenarios that could've seen them playing for the AFC South crown in the final week of the season. The day got off to a promising start for the Colts when the Titans lost to the Jaguars, but Indy's loss to the Raiders was all she wrote for the Colts and their unlikely postseason hopes.

Now, the Week 17 games might not be as exciting as they could've been had things gone a little differently on Saturday. But every AFC South team, maybe other than the Texans, has pride on the line on Sunday in the two divisional battles featuring the Colts-Jaguars and the Titans-Texans.

But before we jump too far ahead in to those Week 17 games, let's take a comprehensive look around the AFC South during Week 16 of the 2016 regular season, via the AP:• Jacksonville Jaguars 38, Tennessee Titans 17:
The Tennessee Titans delivered their worst performance of the year at the most inopportune time.

The Jacksonville Jaguars played their best game much later than anyone expected.

The result was a 38-17 drubbing that left the Titans (8-7) and Jaguars (3-12) considering what might have been.

Blake Bortles played without pressure, able to exhale after popular coach Gus Bradley was fired, and threw for 325 yards and a touchdown. He also was on the receiving end of a 20-yard trick play that essentially sealed the victory and ended Jacksonville's nine-game losing streak.

"Man, I've been telling Blake all week, 'This is your team. Act like it,'" left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. "The more you keep saying that, the more people believe it and the more he believed it. He played lights out today. When he plays like that and we block like we blocked, the sky's the limit for us. It's a shame it's taken this long to close a game out like we did. But it's a great experience."

The game was an awful experience for the Titans. Quarterback Marcus Mariota broke his right leg in the third quarter, ending his season, and they squandered one of the team's most important games since 2008.

"That breaks my heart, man," Tennessee offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said. "Love him. That guy's an awesome dude. For that to happen to him, it's unfair."

The Titans had won three in a row and seven of 10 entering the game. All they needed to do was beat reeling Jacksonville to set up an AFC South title game next week against Houston. Instead, they lost, and the Texans beat Cincinnati to clinch the division for the second straight year and eliminate Tennessee.

Coach Mike Mularkey knew facing Jacksonville six days after Bradley was dismissed would be unpredictable, unsure whether the Jaguars would perk up or pack it in.

The Jags played inspired football from the opening kick, rallying around interim coach Doug Marrone, dedicating the game to Bradley and avenging that embarrassing loss at Tennessee in late October.

"It was a number of things. It was all those things," Beachum said. "We're a team that hasn't been given any respect. We had a chance to go out and earn respect today, and you earn respect by winning games, closing games out and beating teams. In the National Football League, it's a pride thing. They blew us out on national television on Thursday night. We came back and showed how prideful we are and how much we respect each other and honor each other."• Houston Texans 12, Cincinnati Bengals 10:
The Houston Texans have had more than their share of bad luck this season with J.J. Watt playing just three games before season-ending back surgery and high-priced offseason pickup Brock Osweiler playing so poorly that he was benched last week.

But on Christmas Eve the Texans got a break that allowed them to hold on for a victory and clinch their second straight AFC South title.

The Bengals converted a fourth down play to keep a drive alive late in the fourth quarter, but four plays later, former Texan Randy Bullock's 43-yard attempt sailed wide right as time expired to secure Houston's 12-10 victory.

"It was meant to be," Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins said.

Tom Savage threw for 176 yards in his first career start after helping the Texans (9-6) rally for a win over Jacksonville last week after taking over when Osweiler was benched after throwing interceptions on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter.

The Texans knew they were in the postseason with a win after the Titans fell to the Jaguars earlier Saturday. But it didn't look good for them early with Savage completing just two passes for 13 yards and them trailing 3-0 at halftime.

Savage was able to move the offense much better in the second half, but Houston still struggled in the red zone.

"It was just taking a deep breath and realizing what we have on defense, what they're doing for us," Savage said. "All week it's just protect the ball and find a way to win and that's what we did. The guys really rallied around me and made some huge plays for me."

The Texans had a first down at the 6 early in the fourth quarter before the offense stalled and they settled for a 22-yard field goal that put them up 6-3. Quintin Demps got his career-high fifth interception when he picked off Andy Dalton's pass two plays later, but Houston couldn't move the ball and had to punt it away.

Cincinnati (6-8-1) regained the lead when Dalton found Brandon LaFell on a short pass and he took it 86-yards for a touchdown that made it 10-6 with about 11 minutes left.

A 24-yard touchdown run by Alfred Blue put the Texans back on top with about 9 minutes left, but the extra point was blocked to leave Houston up 12-10. That score was set up by a 21-yard reception by Hopkins.

Veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph said the adversity they went through this season makes clinching the division even sweeter.

"I think it makes you a stronger team, he said. "Everyone rallies together and fights for each guy on this team and the coaching staff and I think today was a prime example of it."

Dalton finished with 268 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception.

"The way this season's gone, when we've needed to make a play, we haven't been able to do it," Dalton said. "It's not one thing that's caused it. It's just the way things have gone this year. It's kind of been how our season's been, and it's unfortunate it's been that way."

Lamar Miller missed his first game this season because of an ankle injury and Blue had 73 yards rushing in his place.

After a terrible first half on offense, Houston finally got a little something going after halftime and tied it at 3-3 with a 25-yard field goal early in the third quarter.

The first half was an offensive struggle for both teams with a combined 12 punts. The Texans were a bit worse than the Bengals though and had just two first downs and 34 total yards with minus-5 yards passing because of three sacks.

The Bengals had a 3-0 lead at halftime after a 43-yard field goal by Randy Bullock at the end of the second quarter.

The Texans didn't cross midfield their first drive of the third quarter when Will Fuller caught a 14-yard pass that got them to the Cincinnati 47.

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