It’s truly a three-man race to Tampa Bay in the AFC
In a stellar rebound from struggles less than a week ago, the Indianapolis Colts proved their worth in playoff talks with a 34-17 against the Tennessee Titans. Philip Rivers regained the confidence under center, throwing for 308 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the defense excelled despite playing on a short week.
Take nothing away from Frank Reich’s team that’s now tied for first place in the AFC South, but this is more on the Titans. Entering Week 10, Tennessee hoped to prove they were a legitimate contender in the race for the AFC.
In the race for first place, the AFC has gone from a quartet to trio in the span of 60 minutes. And while the Buffalo Bills improved to 7-2 last Sunday against the Seahawks, inconsistencies on both sides of the ball will likely cost them a title in 2020. When looking at the AFC playoff picture, it’s the Chiefs, Steelers and Ravens, followed by a whole bunch of pretenders
Tennessee’s struggles will keep them irrelevant
Taking on the Colts’ defense is one tall task for any running back, but Derrick Henry has been a monster against AFC South opponents. Tonight was no different as the former league-leading rusher led the team with 103 yards off 19 carries and average 5.4 yards per run. The problem is he can’t be the only offense against a quality unit.
Depending on the afternoon, Ryan Tannehill can be building off his 2019 campaign or regressing at a speeding rate. Going 15-of-27 for 147 yards and a touchdown wasn’t enough to put the Titans in spitting distance of the Rivers-led Colts.
Tennessee improved on stopping third downs thanks to the addition of slot defender Desmond King. Fourth down efficiency is another story. The Colts connected on 50% of plays when going for it on fourth down, one of which led to a scoring drive. After that, poor execution on special teams ultimately cost the Titans 14 total points before the start of the final quarter.
When looking at the three contenders, each flaw is correctable. The Chiefs need to remain healthy otherwise, they’re the most complete team in the NFL. The Steelers need to hope that Ben Roethlisberger will make smart plays instead of going deep. Outside of that, their top-three defense will get them out of multiple jams.
Although Lamar Jackson has regressed following his MVP season, he still is finding ways to win. Last Sunday against Indianapolis’ defensive front, he went 10-of-10 in the second half and added a score on the ground with his legs. Add in the league’s top run game and a quality defense, there’s little more to ask for when looking at the Ravens’ core entering the back half of the year.
The Colts earned the right to call themselves a playoff team following Thursday’s win in the Music City. Tennessee’s 5-0 start will keep them around the picture for several more weeks.
Tennessee had a shot to cement themselves as a top talent in the AFC. Instead, they’ll be an opening act on the way to the final performance between one of these three teams before the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay.
Cole Thompson – fansided.com