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Where the Titans fit in the AFC playoff race at the midway point

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The division is now a two team race, and the wildcard race is just weird.

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images

AFC South Race

When Deshaun Watson went down with a torn ACL in practice last week most figured the Texans were probably going to crash out of the AFC South division. Well, after Tom Savage failed to complete 50% of his passes in a 20-14 home loss to the Colts, we can pretty much guarantee that the AFC South is now just a two team race. The Colts at 3-6 and the Texans at 3-5 would both have to win at least 6 or 7 of their remaining games to factor in to this race and that just isn’t happening with Jacoby Brissett and Tom Savage at quarterback.

So that leaves the Titans and the Jaguars battling down the stretch for the 2017 AFC South title. Both teams have had their bye and are sitting at 5-3 overall, 2-1 in the AFCS with the current tiebreaker going back to the Titans by virtue of their 37-16 head-to-head win in Jacksonville in Week 2. While the Jaguars are not the rival that most expected the Titans to have to battle for the division crown this year — remember they were benching Bortles for Henne in the preseason and considering cutting him altogether — it is time to start taking them seriously if for no other reason than their schedule. Check out the schedules for the back half of the season below.

Titans & Jaguars Remaining Schedules

Week Titans Jaguars
Week Titans Jaguars
Week 10 vs Bengals vs Chargers
Week 11 at Steelers at Browns
Week 12 at Colts at Cardinals
Week 13 vs Texans vs Colts
Week 14 at Cardinals vs Seahawks
Week 15 at 49ers vs Texans
Week 16 vs Rams at 49ers
Week 17 vs Jaguars at Titans

The Jaguars play just two teams with winning records for the rest of the season: the Seahawks and the Titans. The Chargers this week could present a challenge for Jacksonville, but outside of those three games they will mostly face the dregs of the NFL.

The Titans schedule isn’t a gauntlet by any means, but they do face the Steelers and Rams which figure to be tough matchups in addition to the final game with the Jaguars at the end of the season.

If I know anything about the NFL it’s this — you can’t go through the schedule and predict W’s and L’s with any kind of accuracy — but the Titans likely are going to have to at least match their 5-3 pace from the first half of the season if they want to win the division.

AFC Wildcard Race

The AFC South has only produced one wildcard team since 2008. The 2012 Texans won the division at 12-4 and the Colts took the top wildcard spot at 11-5. However, the division seems to be pretty likely to get two teams in this year given the way the AFC is shaping up right now.

Based on historical data in the handy table below, teams with a 3-5 record or worse have a less than a 10% chance of making the playoffs so let’s scrap the Texans, Colts, Bengals, Broncos, and Chargers right off the bat. If any of these teams were going to make a run I’d expect it to be the Chargers, but they have no room for error left.

FiveThirtyEight.com

After removing the 3-5 or worse teams and the division leaders (Chiefs, Patriots, Steelers, and Titans), you’re left with these teams vying for the two wildcard spots: Jaguars, Bills, Dolphins, Ravens, Raiders, and Jets. That’s a pretty weird group.

AFC Wildcard Remaining Schedules

Team Record Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Team Record Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Jaguars 5-3 vs LAC at CLE at ARI vs IND vs SEA vs HOU at SF at TEN
Bills 5-3 vs NO at LAC at KC vs NE vs IND vs MIA at NE at MIA
Dolphins 4-4 at CAR vs TB at NE vs DEN vs NE at BUF at KC vs BUF
Ravens 4-5 BYE at GB vs HOU vs DET at PIT at CLE vs IND vs CIN
Raiders 4-5 BYE vs NE vs DEN vs NYG at KC vs DAL at PHI at LAC
Jets 4-5 at TB BYE vs CAR vs KC at DEN at NO vs LAC at NE

As I mentioned above, nothing is a lock in the NFL as things can change drastically at any moment, but it sure seems like the AFC South getting two teams in to the playoffs is highly likely barring an implosion by either the Jaguars or Titans. The remaining schedules for the Bills, Dolphins, Jets, and Raiders all rank among the top 10 most difficult in the NFL heading in to Week 9 based according to NFL Trade Rumors. The Ravens, Titans, and Jaguars were all among the top 5 easiest.

That Week 17 matchup is going to loom large the rest of the season. Obviously if the Titans and Jags are either tied or separated by one game it could turn in to a division championship game. There is one possible scenario where the Titans could have the division locked up with just a one game lead over the Jaguars heading in to Week 17. They would need the Jags to finish Week 16 one game behind them both overall and in the division with one of their wins coming against the Chargers. That’s a hyper specific scenario, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as the weeks roll on. This week would be the least painful Jags win for the Titans hopes of winning the division for the rest of the season. With that being said, GO CHARGERS!