The AFC South is all square after four weeks.
The four clubs each own a 2-2 record, with tiebreakers currently putting the Indianapolis Colts atop the division and the Jacksonville Jaguars bringing up the rear.
With the Jags widely expected to run away with the division, it’s semi-surprising to see the teams bunched up to open the campaign, particularly with two teams starting rookie quarterbacks.
While Anthony Richardson’s play and that of the Colts’ defense deserves attention, and the Titans under Mike Vrabel continue to defy expectations, the C.J. Stroud-led Houston Texans are the most surprising team in the division through four weeks.
It’s not just that the Texans won their past two games. It’s HOW they won said contests. Houston skated to a 20-point victory in Jacksonville and followed it up by demolishing Mike Tomlin’s Steelers by 24 at home. Along the way, Stroud has improved each week, finding the right reads, protecting the football, and ending each game with a massive flourish.
For a team expected to experience another rebuilding season with DeMeco Ryans in his first season and a rookie under center, it’s a very encouraging start. But Ryans wasn’t ready to smell the roses when asked about the four-way tie at 2-2.
“Yeah, with the standings, we really don’t care,” he said Monday, via the official transcript. “It doesn’t come to mind to me when you talk about the standings. It’s just literally one game at a time, one week at a time. How are we improving throughout the week? That’s our main focus, and the outcomes of the season [and] where we’ll end up, it’ll take care of itself if we continue to focus on our preparation.”
After a blowout loss to Baltimore to open the season and a division loss to Indy in Week 2, Ryans has his club stampeding in the right direction.
Stroud is excelling despite an atrocious offensive line situation dealing with significant injuries — a lesson to New York Giants fans that, indeed, an offense can function even if top-shelf talent is on the sidelines. Young receivers Nico Collins and Tank Dell are making splash plays.
And the defense under Ryans is a speeding missile with a football-seeking radar. Will Anderson has already flashed the ability to wreck games. Jonathan Greenard has been all over the place the past two weeks. The secondary has held up despite injuries. There are still some holes and miscues, but they play fast, and when they arrive on time, oh boy, do they bring the heat.
It’s still a long season with more highs and lows, critical injuries, game-changing plays, and everything in-between to come. Houston’s depth issues and youth might show as we go through the season, but right now, after four weeks, a solid foundation under Ryans has been laid.
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