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The South has risen

How Jags, Texans and Titans caught up to Colts

Posted: Friday September 28, 2007 11:02AM; Updated: Friday September 28, 2007 12:29PM
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Matt Schaub has brought new life to the Texans' offense. He has a passer rating of 100.9 after three games.
Matt Schaub has brought new life to the Texans' offense. He has a passer rating of 100.9 after three games.

In its first five seasons of existence, the AFC South was the NFL's version of simple division. Any way you did the math, the bottom line always came out the same. It was the Indianapolis Colts, and then everyone else.

The AFC South was owned by the Colts. From 2002 to 2006, the Colts went 60-20 (.750) in the regular season, won four division titles and went to the playoffs every year. Last season, of course, Indianapolis won its long-awaited Super Bowl championship.

Indy's three division opponents -- Jacksonville, Tennessee and Houston -- weren't collectively just also-rans, they were almost afterthoughts. During that same five-year span, the Jaguars, Titans and Texans combined to go 104-136 (.433), making just three playoff trips with one division title (Tennessee in 2002). They produced just four winning seasons out of a possible 15, as opposed to the Colts' five-of-five showing in that category.

But have you seen the AFC South lately? Somebody's all grown up and no longer looking like the little kid brother(s) that you remember them as. This isn't Peyton Manning and the three dwarfs any more. Through three weeks of the 2007 season, the AFC South is on the rise and making a strong case as the NFL's best and toughest division. To wit:

• Every AFC South team boasts a winning record through three games, which represents half of the AFC's eight winning teams. The AFC South is the only division in the NFL with more than two winning teams.

• The AFC South is a combined 9-3, with all three of those losses resulting from head-to-head play within the division. No other division in the league has more than seven combined wins.

• The division is 6-0 against non-division opponents, with a 4-0 mark against NFC teams and a 2-0 record against the AFC.

• Houston is 2-1 after three games for the first time in its six-year franchise history. Tennessee is 2-1 for the first time since 2003, and the Colts are 3-0 -- so what else is new? -- for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

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