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Who Will Win the AFC South? It Comes Down to defense

With a key AFC South Battle last Thursday between the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts, we’ve seen a preview of what could be an exciting finish to the 2020 season in that division. The winner of the AFC South will certainly EARN the home playoff they game to receive and the winner will probably be the one with the best defense.

Both teams are now 6-3 following the Colts 34-17 win against the Titans. Another key matchup between each other is set for two weeks from now. The Colts play the Green Bay Packers on Nov 22 before hosting the Titans on the 29th while the Titans play the Baltimore Ravens, the team that beat the Colts on November 9th, 24-17. Let"s take a closer look at the defense of each contending AFC South team.

Colts Defense Ranked First In The NFL

It’s been there all season, but the game against the Titans showed why the Colts are where they are. The defense did not allow a point in the 2nd half against Tennessee, one week after having the same thing happen to them against Baltimore.

Colts GM Chris Ballard was not happy with last year’s 16th overall NFL finish on that side of the ball, despite having the presence of players like Darius Leonard. It was Ballard’s trade for DeForest Buckner that started the ball rolling for Indianapolis. Buckner has worked well with Justin Houston, who led the Colts with 11 sacks last season. Buckner has 2.5 Sacks and 22 solo tackles so far this season. 

The Colts also added Jordan Glasgow at Linebacker through the draft to complement Darius Leonard. Glasgow has 5 tackles so far this season while Leonard was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 and a Pro Bowl selection in 2019. His two-year total includes 294 tackles, 12 sacks, and seven interceptions. Darius Leonard and safety Khari Willis have been the two stars for this Colts defense that is certainly the best in the AFC South.

Titans Defense A Weak Point As We Enter Week 11

For as good as the Colts defense has been this season, the Titans has been the opposite. Despite starting 5-0, the Titans always had to outscore opponents to win games. In week Two, the Jacksonville Jaguars rolled up 480 yards of offense while the Minnesota Vikings racked up 464 yards of offense in Week 3. Tennessee scored 33 and 31 points, respectively, in those games to mask their defenses’ inability to stop other teams. 

When the Titans scored only 17 against the Colts, their defense couldn’t step up.

It’s not as though the Titans have no talent on that side of the ball, it is quite the opposite. Titans defensive lineman and 2019 first-round pick, Jeffery Simmons, is one of the best in the league and currently has two sacks to go with 16 solo tackles.

Tennessee also acquired defensive back, Desmond King, a few weeks ago from the Los Angeles Chargers for a sixth-round draft pick in 2021. With 0.3 yards per coverage allowed, as well as 24 tackles and one sack, King has already made an impact on the Titans defense. 

The Titans defense still ranks 19th in the NFL despite having acquired King. Although they are making incremental improvements, they still have the third-lowest pressure rate (17.9%) in the NFL.

What"s Left For the AFC South?

As we approach Week 11, it"s basically a two-horse race in the AFC South with the Colts and Titans sporting 6-3 records after each had a bye.

As of now, the Colts hold a 2-1 division record while the Titans are currently 1-1 in the division.

The Colts and Titans are similar in that they rely on one part of their team rather than having balance across the board. It"s defense in the Colts case and the offense in the Titans case and when either isn’t firing, they are more susceptible to a loss.

The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars sport 2-7 and 1-8 records so they won"t figure in winning the AFC South, but could play spoilers as each they play the Colts and Titans before the end of the season.

Follow me on Twitter for more great content @lebaneb.

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