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Can Titans win the AFC South?

The Tennessee Titans might just be the biggest surprise of the 2016 National Football League season this side of Dak Prescott. Few believed the Titans could get out of the top 10 draft order, let alone challenge in the admittedly bad AFC South. It seemed this team was at least a year away with few household names on the roster and not a single recognizable face on defense.

Yet, going into Week 11, here we have Tennessee in the thick of the race. The Titans would certainly need to win the South to make the playoffs, but that chore seems more nad more likely by the minute. With the Jacksonville Jaguars at 2-7 and out of the running, the South is a three-horse match race between the Titans, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts.

This weekend, Tennessee travels to Lucas Oil Stadium for its rematch against the Colts. Back in October, the Fighting Andrew Luck’s went into Nashville and won, making this a de facto must-win for the Titans. A loss, and the Colts would be 5-5 and holding the all-important tiebreaker, while Tennessee would be 5-6 with a brutal 1-3 record within the division.

So how realistic are the Titans’ chances of winning the South? Let’s look at the schedule and make some judgement calls.

The next two games are on the road, starting with the aforementioned Colts affair. The Chicago Bears are next on the docket, with that contest proceeding a bye week. After the break, Tennessee faces the Denver Broncos at home before traveling to take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The final two games feature a road game against Jacksonville before a Week 17 matchup with the Texans in Tennessee.

In contrast, here is the upcoming schedule for the 6-3 and division-leading Texans…

Week 11: at Oakland
Week 12: vs. San Diego
Week 13: at Green Bay
Week 14: at Indianapolis
Week 15: vs. Jacksonville
Week 16: vs. Cincinnati
Week 17: at Tennessee

For a realistic shot at winning the South, the Titans need to start by sweeping their remaining divisional games. If they did that, it would mean at least eight wins and a South record of 4-2. If the Titans could then beat the Bears, losses to the Broncos and Chiefs would leave them 9-7.

Meanwhile, Houston could be in for a brutal second half. The only easy win comes Week 15 against Jacksonville. Should the Texans lose to the Colts and Titans, it would mean a record of 4-2 in the South. It is easy to see four losses here, with Indianapolis, Tennessee, Green Bay and either Cincinnati or San Diego being another.

If these things were to happen (and who knows if they will, but this is the beauty of it all), Tennessee and Houston would go to a common opponent tiebreaker. We won’t get into all that because there are so many variables, but the above leaves us with the following conclusion…

The Titans have to take care of business in the division, but they have a real chance to play in the playoffs.

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