Tennessee Titans

Titans eying the top of the AFC South standings

October 16 2016: Tennessee Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) during game action. The Tennessee Titans defeated the Cleveland Browns 28-26 at LP Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tn. (Photo by Greg McWilliams/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Greg McWilliams/Icon Sportswire)

Just two weeks ago, it was hard to imagine the Tennessee Titans would have a shot at being relevant in the AFC South for the third consecutive season. But something happened over the last two weeks, and now the Titans are heading into a critical match-up with division rival Indianapolis this weekend.

The Titans have now won two-straight games and have looked much more impressive in the process.

Both the offense and defense have been playing complementary football, and it’s helped the Titans outscore Miami and Cleveland a combined 58-43. And if not for a late push by the Browns on Sunday, that margin would be even greater.

Marcus Mariota has come alive over the last two weeks, tossing three touchdowns in each game while only turning the ball over once. He’s also run for 124 yards on 14 carries and scored a rushing touchdown against Miami. The Titans have combined to run for 372 yards over the last two weeks, and their defense held the Dolphins and Browns to a combined 91 rushing yards.

Now the Titans are 3-3 and at .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2013. They’re in second place in the AFC South behind the Houston Texans and have a chance to remain there if they can defeat the Colts this Sunday.

Indy is coming off an embarrassing collapse on Sunday Night Football where they allowed the Texans to erase a 14-point deficit over the last two and a half minutes of the game to force overtime. And the Texans were able to complete the comeback there, winning 26-23.

The Texans were able to avoid a slip up in the division, but are the Titans now the front-runners after two impressive performances in back-to-back weeks?

Yes, the Titans have looked like a completely different team on offense over the last two weeks, but look at the two teams they’ve played. They just defeated a winless Cleveland Browns team and beat a Dolphins team that was 1-4 at the time. Those aren’t exactly impressive wins over stellar teams. To the their credit, though, they’ve won those games. They’ve been the better team two weeks in a row. But that doesn’t make them the lead horse in the AFC South race.

Houston owns a win over the Titans already thanks to a 27-20 Week 4 victory. And now the Texans have a victory over the Colts as well, giving them a perfect division record and an extra cushion. The Texans haven’t looked consistent for most of the young season, but they’ve looked better overall than the rest of the teams in the division to this point.

Until someone in the South can actually beat them, they will remain the front-runners.

But that doesn’t mean the Titans aren’t moving up.

The Titans can prove themselves as legitimate contenders in the AFC South by defeating the Colts this Sunday. Are the Colts a particularly good team? Not to this point they haven’t been. A win over a division foe, however, would be huge for the Titans, especially since the Texans have to take on Denver this Sunday as well — which will likely end in a loss for Houston.

So if things go the Titans’ way on Sunday, they could end up trailing only the Texans by division record in the standings.

The Titans may not be the front-runner in the AFC South right now, but thanks to the poor quality of the division overall, they aren’t far from taking over that spot.

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