The Jaguars, Titans and Texans are all in chase mode, but not really. The AFC South still belongs to the Colts. It is firmly in their hands and it's unimaginable that it won't be that way when the season ends.
A 29-7 win over the Jaguars at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on Monday night drove home the point. Six games into this season, the Colts are 6-0 for the third consecutive year. Three of those wins are against their three AFC South counterparts and all of them were on the road.
Does that tell you all you need to know about the Colts' stranglehold on the division? They are the three-time defending division champion and at this time next year they are likely to be four-time defending champion.
"That was a gratifying win; a big win for us to get our first three AFC South road games and have victories and to play a team that was hot as they were and come down here and win. That was huge," Colts head coach Tony Dungy said of the victory.
When the night began, the Jaguars were the league's newest darling with the league's newest hot quarterback. When the night ended, the Jaguars were left to start anew in their quest to become one of the league's elite teams, but they'll do so without their quarterback. David Garrard sustained what is thought to be a significant ankle sprain that will cause him to miss some time. The exact definition of "some time" will be offered by head coach Jack Del Rio in the next couple of days. The initial bits of information, however, did not sound encouraging.
"When he hit me, I didn't think it was that bad a deal," Garrard said of defensive tackle Ed Johnson's low hit. "It really didn't hurt, but on the way back to the huddle, I could just feel it give way. I really couldn't put any pressure on it. In 21 years of playing football, I've never been injured like that before, so it was something new to me to not be able to continue playing. It was definitely a hard pill to swallow, but I heal fast and I'll be back as soon as possible."
The Jaguars need Garrard to return to action soon if the team is to make a serious run at a playoff berth. Three weeks from now, the Jaguars are to play in Tennessee in what will be a key matchup between two teams with wild-card aspirations.
A division title? I think we know the answer to that question. The Jaguars, Titans and Texans have all had their chance and failed. The defending Super Bowl-champion Colts are that good. They deserve accolades.
"We're certainly familiar with it," Del Rio said of the chase mode in which the Jaguars now find themselves.
They could've claimed the division lead with a win over the Colts. The game was that big, but those are the kinds of games the Colts have made a habit of winning over the past several seasons.
"I think we're a little more physical and a lot faster," Colts safety Bob Sanders said in comparing the team that held the Jaguars to 117 yards rushing, as compared to the one that was steamrolled for 375 last December.
Yeah, when they left Jacksonville following that 44-17 embarrassment last year, the Colts didn't look much like a team on the verge of clinching another division title. When they left Jacksonville this time, there was nobody who would dispute their hold on the division.