EYE ON THE PRIZE

With the Colts and Titans playing Monday night at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., only two games involving the AFC South were played Sunday afternoon. The Jacksonville Jaguars lost and the Houston Texans won, leaving the two teams tied for third place seven games into the season.

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Jaguars, Texans Tied for Third Place at 3-4
INDIANAPOLIS – For nearly two months, the Tennessee Titans have been the hottest team in the NFL, and in that time, they took control of the AFC South.

On Sunday, the rest of the division got a bit tighter.

With the first-place Titans (6-0) and second-place Colts (3-3) scheduled to play at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Monday night, only two games involving the South were played Sunday, but those two games forced a tie for third place in the division.

In one, a contending team lost a big game at home.

In another, a team that started the season slowly took a major step toward getting back into the postseason chase.

The Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4), a wild-card team and division runner-up two of the past three seasons, lost to the Cleveland Browns, 23-17, at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. The loss left the Jaguars – who were expected to contend for a division title – three-and-a-half games behind Tennessee.

The Houston Texans (3-4), who finished .500 last season for the first time in their seven-year history last season, continued to overcome a slow start. On Sunday, they won a third consecutive game for the first time in franchise history, dominating the Cincinnati Bengals, 35-6, in Houston.

A look at the rest of the AFC South and AFC:

AFC SOUTH

Tennessee Titans (6-0)

Last week: The Titans play host to the Colts Monday night.

Next week: Home against Green Bay (4-3) Sunday.

Recent trend: The Titans are 6-0 for the first time in franchise history, and have won a league-best nine consecutive regular-season games. Their three-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: The Titans play host to the Colts Monday night.

Statistically speaking: The Titans not only were the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team through six games, they were dominant in doing so. Through six games, they led the NFL with a point differential of 83, and had allowed 66 points, the fewest in the NFL.

Coming up: The Titans play host to Green Bay (4-3) Sunday before visiting Chicago (4-3) the following week. They will visit Jacksonville (3-4) November 16, then play host to the New York Jets (4-3) on November 23.

Quote to note: "They (the Colts) are still trying to find their rhythm, and hopefully they won't get on sync against us."

--- Titans Linebacker Keith Bulluck

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)

Last week: Lost to Cleveland, 23-17, at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday.

Next week: At Cincinnati (0-8).

Recent trend: The Jaguars had won three of their last four games – with the only loss to Pittsburgh in Jacksonville on Sunday Night Football two weeks ago – but a loss to the Browns left them under .500 after seven games for the first time since 2003, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's first season.

What happened Sunday: The Jaguars fell behind 7-0 and 17-7 in the first half, then rallied in the second half to tie the score, 17-17, midway through the fourth quarter. Trailing 23-17, the Jaguars drove to the Browns 26 in the final seconds. Quarterback David Garrard completed 25 of 42 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns, but his three passes from the 26 fell incomplete, including one that wide receiver Matt Jones bobbled in the end zone before dropping.

Statistically speaking: After ranking second in the NFL in rushing a year ago, the Jaguars are 14th this season and they struggled in that area on Sunday. Running back Fred Taylor rushed for 24 yards on eight carries and running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 29 yards on 12 carries. Jacksonville finished with 113 yards rushing, with 59 coming on seven carries by quarterback David Garrard. It's the fifth time in seven games this season the running back duo has rushed for less than 100 yards.

Coming up: The Jaguars visit Cincinnati (0-8) and Detroit (0-7) the next two weeks before playing host to division-leading Tennessee (6-0) on November 16. They will play host to Minnesota (3-4) on November 23.

Quote to note: "Whenever we're at home, we want to come out with a W and we want to give our fans something to be excited for. I thought we had it today. I thought we were going to pull it out. We dug ourselves a hole, but we dug ourselves out of it. We had some costly errors there at the end that really hurt us."

--- Jaguars Quarterback David Garrard

Houston Texans (3-4)

Last week: The Texans beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 35-6, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Sunday.

Next week: At Minnesota (3-4).

Recent trend: After losing their first four games – including a 31-27 loss to Indianapolis in which they squandered a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead – the Texans have won three consecutive games to move to within a game of .500, and into a tie for third place in the AFC South. The three-game winning streak is the first in franchise history.

What happened Sunday: The Texans, a week after a 28-21 victory over Detroit, got off to another strong start on Sunday. This time, they took a 14-6 lead, then outscored Cincinnati, 21-0, in the second half. It was the largest margin of victory in the Titans' seven-year history.

Statistically speaking: Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson finished off a strong October with yet another strong performance. He had at least 100 yards receiving in the first three games of the month, and on Sunday, he caught 11 passes 143 yards. He finished the month with 593 yards receiving in four games.

Coming up: The Texans, after a rare stretch of four consecutive home games, will visit Minnesota (3-4) Sunday, then will play host to Baltimore (4-3) the next week. They will visit Indianapolis (3-3) and Cleveland (3-4) the following two weeks.

Quote to note: "It just seems like everything is working."

--- Texans Wide Receiver Andre Johnson

AFC East

Buffalo (5-2): After leading the AFC East throughout the season, the Bills lost to the Miami Dolphins Sunday – and lost their sole possession of first place. Buffalo led 9-7 at halftime, but fell behind by a point entering the fourth quarter and lost, 25-16. The Bills committed four fourth-quarter turnovers and lost for a second time in three games.

New England (5-2): Playing after a short week following a 41-7 victory over the Denver Broncos the previous Monday night, the Patriots were without running back Laurence Maroney, safety Rodney Harrison and quarterback Tom Brady, all of whom are out for the season with injuries. New England rallied on Sunday from a 16-13 fourth-quarter deficit for a 23-16 victory at home over St. Louis. Quarterback Matt Cassel completed 21 of 33 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown.

New York Jets (4-3): How tough a day was it for the Jets early? Quarterback Brett Favre, acquired in an off-season trade from Green Bay, was booed by the hometown crowd. After that, he rallied the Jets to move them to with a game of first place in the division. Favre, who threw three interceptions – including one that was returned for a touchdown – threw a 15-yard touchdown to Laveraneus Colts with a minute remaining in a 28-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. It was the 41st fourth-quarter comeback of Favre's career.

Miami (3-4): The Dolphins took a major step toward tightening the AFC East on Sunday, rallying from a halftime deficit to beat the Bills for the first time in the teams' last five meetings. Miami has tripled its victory total from a year ago. Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington completed 22 of 30 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and linebacker Joeyer – who has 10.5 sacks this season – had two sacks, a forced fumble and a fourth-quarter safety.

AFC North

Pittsburgh (5-2): Despite a slew of injuries, the Steelers have maintained the lead in the North throughout the season, and on Sunday, they led the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants most of the game. But after leading 14-9, the Steelers allowed 12 fourth-quarter points – including two on a safety when the backup long snapper snapped a punt snap out of the end zone – in a 21-14 loss. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw four interceptions and was sacked five times.

Baltimore (4-3): The Ravens, after three consecutive losses, have won their last two to solidify their spot in the AFC playoff chase. On Sunday, they beat the Oakland Raiders at home, 29-10, taking a 19-0 lead at halftime. They outgained the Raiders, 221-35 in the first half. Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco completed 12 of 24 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown and also caught a 43-yard touchdown and ran for a 12-yard touchdown.

Cleveland (3-4): After a slow start, the Browns have won two of three games and have inched their way back into the playoff chase. On Sunday, they took a huge step in that direction with a 23-17 victory over Jacksonville. The Browns, who haven't committed a turnover in the last three games, took a 17-7 lead at halftime and held off a late rally.

Cincinnati (0-8): A difficult season for the Bengals continues. On Sunday, they sustained their widest margin of defeat of the season in a 29-point loss to the Texans in Houston. They are now 0-8 for the first time since 1994. The worst start in franchise history was 1993, when they started 0-10. "We don't have the type of individuals to just lay down," Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco said. "And they're not going to allow us to lay down.''

AFC West

Denver (4-3): The Broncos were idle this past week.

San Diego (3-5): An up-and-down early season continued on Sunday for San Diego. The Chargers traveled to London and trailed 16-3, 30-17 and 37-20 before cutting the lead to 37-30 late in the fourth quarter. San Diego drove to the Saints 32 with 1:18 remaining, but a Saints interception ended the rally. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers completed 25 of 40 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns and running back LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 105 yards on 19 carries, his second 100-yard performance in the last 12 games.

Oakland (2-5): The Raiders lost for the fourth time in the last five games on Sunday, falling behind the Baltimore Ravens, 19-0 and 22-3, before losing, 29-10. Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell completed 15 of 33 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown with an interception, with 36 of the yards coming in the first half. "In the first half, we just got our tails whipped on the line of scrimmage – on both sides of the ball,'' Raiders interim head coach Tom Cable. "And there's really no other way to put it. That's the bottom line."

Kansas City (1-6): The Chiefs' season continued to get more difficult Sunday. Quarterback Tyler Thigpen, making his third NFL start, completed 25 of 37 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns and the Chiefs led the Jets on the road late before losing, 28-24. The Chiefs played without their top two quarterbacks – Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard – each of whom are out for the season, and without suspended running back Larry Johnson.

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