Titans Maintain Four-Game Lead at Season's Midway Point
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts couldn't make up ground in the AFC South on Sunday.
But what they could do – and did – as the season hit the midway point may have been just as imant to the team's postseason hopes:
They won, and as a result, stayed in the middle of the AFC playoff picture.
The Colts (4-4), the five-time defending AFC South champions, are four games behind the division-leading Tennessee Titans (8-0), but the victory over the Patriots left them tied with the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos for the seventh-best record in the conference.
The Colts are among 12 teams in the AFC with five, four or three victories. Tennessee is the only AFC team with more than five victories.
The four division champions and two wild-card teams make the postseason from each conference.
A look at the rest of the AFC South and AFC:
Tennessee Titans (8-0)
Last week: The Titans beat the Green Bay Packers, 19-16, in overtime at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday.
Next week: At Chicago (5-3) Sunday.
Recent trend: The Titans are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history, and have won a league-best 11 consecutive regular-season games, tying a franchise record. Their four-game lead is their largest since the 2002 inception of the AFC South. Until this season, they hadn't led the South since 2002, when they won the first title in the division's history.
What happened Sunday: After missing a potential 47-yard game-winning field goal on the final play of regulation, Pro Bowl kicker Rob Bironas kicked a 41-yard field goal with 9:36 remaining in overtime to keep the Titans unbeaten with a home victory over Green Bay. The Titans drove 55 yards on 10 plays in overtime.
Statistically speaking: The Titans have won five consecutive games against NFC teams, and on Sunday, they allowed two sacks of quarterback Kerry Collins. That doubled the Titans' sacks allowed total this season. They have allowed four sacks this season, fewest in the NFL. The two sacks Sunday snapped a streak of five consecutive games in which Tennessee had not allowed a sack.
Coming up: The Titans visit Chicago (5-3) Sunday. They will visit Jacksonville (3-5) November 16, then play host to the New York Jets (5-3) on November 23. Tennessee will visit Detroit (0-8) on Thanksgiving Day.
Quote to note: "I was hoping for exactly what happened. We'd win the toss and get another shot at it. I don't miss many, so I definitely wanted another shot at it to put us in the lead and go home with the victory, 8-0.''
--- Titans Kicker Rob Bironas
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5)
Last week: The Jaguars lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 21-19, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Next week: At Detroit (0-8).
Recent trend: The Jaguars had won three of four games – with the only loss to Pittsburgh in Jacksonville on Sunday Night Football three weeks ago – but they now have lost back-to-back games to Cleveland and Cincinnati. They are under .500 after eight games for the first time since 2003, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's first season.
What happened Sunday: The Jaguars, playing the first of back-to-back games against winless teams, fell behind 21-3, rallied to remain the only team in the NFL to have every game this season decided by seven or fewer points. But they didn't rally enough to win, with quarterback David Garrard throwing an interception that set up a first-half touchdown and also throwing no touchdowns. The Jaguars allowed Bengals running back Cedric Benson 104 yards rushing and allowed the Bengals 312 total yards overall.
Statistically speaking: After ranking second in the NFL in rushing a year ago, the Jaguars are 17th this season and they struggled in that area again on Sunday. Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 33 yards on 10 carries and Pro Bowl running back Fred Taylor rushed for 12 yards on five carries. It was the sixth time in eight games this season – and the eighth time in 10 games overall – the running back duo has rushed for less than 100 yards.
Coming up: The Jaguars visit Detroit (0-8) Sunday before playing host to division-leading Tennessee (8-0) on November 16. They will play host to Minnesota (4-4) on November 23 before back-to-back road games at Houston (3-5) and Chicago (5-3).
Quote to note: "We're not functioning with a high level of confidence. We're missing a spark, and we're trying to find it. It hasn't been good enough, and I've said it enough different ways. I'm not in a good mood right now.''
--- Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio
Houston Texans (3-5)
Last week: The Texans lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 28-21, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn., Sunday.
Next week: Home against Baltimore (5-3).
Recent trend: After winning three consecutive games to pull into a three-way tie for second place, the Texans lost on Sunday to the Vikings, 28-21. The three-game winning streak was the first in franchise history.
What happened Sunday: With backup Sage Rosenfels filling in for starting quarterback Matt Schaub – who missed the second half with a knee injury – the Texans committed three turnovers en route to a loss at Minnesota. Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte threw three touchdown passes. Rosenfels completed 21 of 29 passes for 224 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Statistically speaking: Wide receiver Andre Johnson, after four consecutive games with more than 100 yards receiving, was held to 62 yards and a late touchdown on four receptions Sunday. After four consecutive home games, they lost for the fourth time in as many road games. The Titans are 12-40 on the road in seven seasons and 4-24 since 2005.
Coming up: The Texans will play host to Baltimore (5-3) Sunday. They will visit Indianapolis (4-4) and Cleveland (3-5) the following two weeks before playing host to Jacksonville (3-5) on December 1.
Quote to note: "If we can just eliminate those mistakes, we're as good as any offense, any team in this league, "We thought we were pretty equal to this team. We thought this was a team we could play four quarters with. We did that, but they made the plays and we made the mistakes."
--- Texans Quarterback Sage Rosenfels
Buffalo (5-3): The Bills were one of the NFL's hottest teams in the early season, starting the season 4-0 for the first time in more than a decade. The early lead disappeared last week, when they were tied with New England for first place. On Sunday, the Patriots and Bills were joined by the Jets atop the division, with Buffalo losing to the York Jets. It was the third loss in four games for the Bills, who complete a three-game stretch in the division at New England Sunday.
New England (5-3): Entering their game Sunday night at Indianapolis, the Patriots had a chance to take sole possession of first place in the AFC East. Instead, the Colts won a back-and-forth game, 18-15, to drop the Patriots – the five-time defending AFC South champions – into a three-way tie for first place. New England held a 12-7 third-quarter lead before a 52-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri provided the game-winning points.
New York Jets (5-3): The Jets have been up and down at times this season, but Sunday they moved into a tie for first place in the AFC South with New England and the Buffalo Bills. And they did it by beating AFC East-leading Buffalo, 26-17, in Buffalo. The Jets sacked Bills quarterback Trent Edwards five times and Abram Elam returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown.
Miami (4-4): A year ago, the Dolphins were in the middle of one of the most difficult seasons in franchise history. This year, they're winning by taking advantage of turnovers and playing consistently. The Dolphins, who won just one game last season, scored 13 points off turnovers Sunday in a 26-17 victory over AFC West-leading Denver. Miami intercepted Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler on two of his first four passes and Will Allen returned the second 32 yards for a touchdown that made it 13-0.
Pittsburgh (5-2): The Steelers visit Washington Monday.
Baltimore (5-3): Facing a very real possibility of slipping to .500, the Ravens instead scored 24 points in the final 16 minutes on Sunday to rally for a 37-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns Sunday. Baltimore trailed 27-13 with just over a minute remaining in the third period, but took a 30-27 lead when kicker Matt Stover converted a 22-yard field goal with 5:40 remaining. Linebacker Terrell Suggs' 42-yard interception with 2:43 remaining clinched the Ravens' third consecutive victory. Baltimore hasn't lost since losing to Indianapolis, 31-3, in Week 6.
Cleveland (3-5): They have fought since early in the season to get back to .500 and get back in the playoff chase. They had a chance to do just that on Sunday, leading 27-13 late in the third quarter, but wide receiver Braylon Edwards dropped a long touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter with the score tied and Baltimore pulled away for a critical AFC North victory. "We didn't finish,'' Browns running back Jamal Lewis said. "That's the lesson of the day – finish.''
Cincinnati (1-8): The Bengals entered the game having lost back-to-back games by the widest combined margin in franchise history. They also entered it trying to avert the second 0-9 start in franchise history, which they did by taking a 21-3 lead on the Jacksonville Jaguars and holding off a late rally for a 21-19 victory. "We (were) 0-8, but I think we (were) a good 0-8 team, if that's possible,'' wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. "I was just telling them: 'Are we going to the playoffs? Probably not. But we're all men and play with pride. Basically, play with pride and let's try to make this thing look somewhat respectable.'''
Denver (4-4): After one of the most impressive starts in the NFL, the Broncos are struggling at midseason and their lead in the AFC West has dwindled to one game. They have lost four of their last five games, and on Sunday against Miami, they rushed for 14 yards on 12 carries in a 26-17 loss. On Sunday, the Broncos allowed the Dolphins 13 points off turnovers. In the last five games, Denver has allowed 60 points off turnovers and has not scored a point off takeaways during that span.
San Diego (3-5): The Chargers were idle this past week.
Oakland (2-6): A difficult season continued to get worse for the Raiders Sunday. Earlier in the season, the Raiders changed coaches, replacing Head Coach Lane Kiffin with offensive line coach Tom Cable. The Raiders beat the New York Jets in overtime on October 19, but the week before that, Oakland lost to New Orleans, 34-3, and in the last two weeks they have lost to Baltimore 29-10 and Atlanta, 24-0, on Sunday. Against Atlanta, the Raiders gained negative yards and no first downs in the first half and their 77 yards offense was their lowest yards total in 47 years. "During the week, we look like we're a Super Bowl team, and we come out there and we're near the laughingstock of the league, and it's ridiculous,'' Raiders safety Gibril Wilson said. "The people in this locker room have to look at themselves in the mirror and see exactly what they're bringing to the table, and if they're not bringing anything to the table, then get off the ship, period.''
Kansas City (1-7): The Chiefs have come close several times this season, and came very close Sunday, leading 24-3 with just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter. Kansas City allowed Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia passed for 339 yards and Clifton Smith ran back a kickoff 97 yards for a score. "It's getting a little unbearable, to tell you the truth,'' Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez said.