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AFC South confused


This past weekend's results are cause to take a look at the state of the AFC South.

Let's see: The Colts and Titans lost and the Texans and Jaguars won. Wait a minute; it's not supposed to be that way, especially late in the season. The top two teams in the AFC South each lost, while the bottom two teams in the division each won. What? No way.

But that's what happened this past weekend.

• The Colts moved the ball up and down the field in rallying from a 31-10 deficit, but with the game on the line and only a yard separating them from victory, they couldn't get it done.

• Tennessee lost to the Jets on Monday Night Football. Are you kidding me? The Jets?

• Houston beat Atlanta; no real surprise there.

• The Jaguars beat the defending Super Bowl-champion Bucs, which should qualify as an eye-opener, but not as a sharp stick in the eye.

So, that's the way it is in the NFL, you say. Unpredictability is the norm. Upsets are a way of life.

Yeah, it is that way, but true Super Bowl contenders shouldn't lose to the Jets, and truly great offensive teams shouldn't get stoned on two plays from the one-yard line. The fact that the Titans did lose to the Jets begs this question: Might we have just witnessed the Titans' first shift toward decline? And that the Colts couldn't move a yard in two plays at crunch time in a home game against a legitimate postseason favorite begs this question: Why have a quarterback eat up $15 million of salary cap space if he's going to give the ball to someone else on the deciding play of the game?

Frankly, the Titans' and Colts' futures aren't real bright this week. They represent the top half of this division, but there are a lot of reasons for each team to have grave concern about its future. The Titans have the worst cap situation in the league and they're staring down the barrel of a major contract negotiation with Jevon Kearse. The Colts' cap situation is OK for now, but trouble is just around the corner.

Peyton Manning is in the final year of his contract. He'll become an unrestricted free agent next March if the Colts don't get a new deal done. Oh, they'll get a new deal done, all right, but look out below because Manning has all of the leverage and that's going to cost the Colts a major chunk of their salary cap future.

What do you do if you're Jimmy Irsay, you have the smallest stadium and the lowest revenue stream in the league, and you're attempting to persuade the city and state to dig deep to keep the Colts in Indianapolis? On the one hand, signing a quarterback who's 0-3 in playoff games to the richest contract in professional football history in the league's worst revenue situation makes no sense at all, but not signing him won't win the fans' favor.

Life in Houston and Jacksonville are much better than life in Nashville and Indianapolis this week, even though the Titans and Colts will play for the division lead this Sunday, while the Texans and Jaguars will square off in a game that could decide last place.

Crazy league; what's up is often down, and what's down is sometimes up.

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