Last Tango in Tennessee…Possibly

Last Tango in Tennessee…Possibly

With their win in Indy on Sunday, the Texans likely put paid to the aspirations of the Colts for this season. It’s hard to see them going by both Tennessee and Houston with the remaining slate favouring Houston, being tricky for Tennessee and much harder for Indy. Though each of the three play the Jags so, you know, silver linings.

We enter Week 15 with these two battle-scarred and far from perfect Texans and Titans units at 7-6. Like two stags in heat, their antlers locked, their hoofs scrambling for purchase on the parched earth, the noise of their grunts and horns clashing a cacophony of terrible proportions. The Titans the emerging force, the Texans a stuttering hero, tired and with a serious wound to one of their limbs (that limb is Brock Osweiler, folks).

What is going to determine the eventual winner of the AFC South this year? We’ll look at some head-to-head factors and which team has the advantage over the closing weeks of the season.

The Qube

This isn’t even close. Though Marcus Mariota has been up and down this season, he has shown exceptional ability in the pocket, outside the pocket, and the sort of game smarts you would expect from a top 10 QB. He has also struggled but this seems to be a symptom of the quality of pass catchers around him and coaching/game planning that doesn’t always seem to put him in the best situations to succeed.

The Texans, meanwhile, have a guy who is painful to watch. Whatever the statistics say, Osweiler has been a huge disappointment, bordering on bust, for the price paid and the tools around him. Watching Osweiler is painful, it’s not a fun experience. As a neutral, one might think it would not be as nerve-wracking but it’s fair to say watching Osweiler play the QB position induces panic and angst. He never looks in control, never poised. He stares down receivers, he makes DeAndre Hopkins look pedestrian and he makes the offence weaker. The Texans are succeeding even though Osweilier is bad. Not quite Blake Bortles bad, but bad.

The Coach

Would I take Bill O’Brien over Mike Mularky? Yes. Is he necessarily having a better season? No.

O’Brien will long be remembered for backing Brian Hoyer to the hilt in the opening scenes of Hard Knock’s in 2015 only to bench him after three quarters of the season opener. Signing Osweiler on tape alone now seems like a REALLY bad idea. So why would one still prefer OB to Mularky?

Part of it is confidence. Though sometimes a head coach can make the wrong decision, you have to have confidence in them. Mularky does not inspire confidence, from his interviews through to his decision-making. When you look to the sideline, do you have confidence in the dude in the headset with the laminated sheet and a red flag hanging out of his back pocket?

This season, Mularky seems to have grown into the role and the Titans are exceeding the early season expectations of many but the thing is, it feels like, seeing the talent in one place, they should be doing better. At this point it is fair to comment that this writer didn’t exactly ring with effusive praise of the Titans, but the talent has made me rethink my assessment. Some of that is the coaching, some is that I was down on players because of the coaching…

With OB, he has a Qube that is hampering his offence on an otherwise decent team. Yes, he was an instrumental part of the choice of Osweilier, without seeing him in person, but he also has built an otherwise high potential offence and the defence is playing well, keeping their team alive in tight games.

This section is a little confused but that reflects the coaches themselves. This writer has OB ranked far higher than Mularky but limited credit where limited credit is due.

The Schedule

It’s a tough two weeks for both teams. Week 17 is a Titans-Texans showdown at Nissan Stadium in Nashville (totally understand the need for sponsorship but why the hell it isn’t called Titans Stadium or Titans Field is beyond me). For the love of all that is good in this world, that Week 17 clash needs to be for something, it needs to matter, it needs to be a win-and-in play-off. That is what will make this season of dirge, this AFC South maelstrom of torpidity worth it. For me, for this season of watching far too much AFC South football that hasn’t contained Andrew Luck, enough Nuk Hopkins or far too much Blake Bortles, please let this game be for the division. Let’s see if it is possible for Week 17 to be meaningful.

The Titans are on the road both weeks, first at Arrowhead to face perhaps the most complete team in the NFL right now, before retreating to the warmer and more accommodating climes of North Florida for a tilt with the Jags. You would expect the Titans to go 1-1 over those two heading into the final week.

For the Texans, it’s back-to-back home jousts against the Jags and Bengals. There is a good chance they go 2-0 here with the Bengals not the former strength they once were and possibly out of total contention by then.

If this happens and we get to Week 17 wit h the Texans 9-6 and the Titans 8-7 then the Titans will, of course, have to win. If they do, both teams would be 9-7 and have split the series 1-1.

Thus the tie-breaker would fall to their respective divisional record whereby the Texans would sweep in with a 5-1 record versus a 3-3 record for the Titans.

So, the Texans have the advantage. For Tennessee to win the Division, they need to go 2-0, rely on the Texans to lose one of those matches against the Jags or Bengals and then beat the Texans themselves.


Houston have control of their season, they don’t need to rely on others to make the play-offs, winning out, or winning one of the next two and then in Tennessee will do. The Titans do need help. For the sake of entertainment, let’s hope the Jaguars can do one good thing this year and stick an upset on the Texans.

The end of the AFC South season can’t come too quickly for many (purists and arm chair fans alike). There are springs of optimism for all four teams, which we will explore in depth through the offseason. For now, bend your will to making Week 17 at least meaningful, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean good football…


Gareth Duxbury

Gareth joined the team in 2016 and covers the AFC South for the site. He has been following the NFL for over 15 years, though first encountered the game through Channel 4’s hourly recap programme in the late 1980s, and over the last couple of seasons begun to write about the draft through his own blog. Gareth tweets from @GDux3 and you can also follow him on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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