Houston Beats Cincinnati: What it Means for the AFC South


Houston outlasted the Bengals on Saturday, winning the franchise’s first playoff game.  T.J. Yates managed the game well and put forward a solid performance, relying on the strength of the Houston defense to secure the win.

On the opposite side, the Bengals failed to move the ball with Cedric Benson, benching him in favor of Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard.  Andy Dalton looked like a rookie and threw three picks in the biggest game of his career.

What does this mean for the AFC South?  What does this mean for the Jaguars?  Follow the jump to find out.

With the win over the Bengals, the Texans have established themselves as the premier AFC South team, a full head and shoulders above the rest.  Unlike when the Colts ruled the AFC South, no other team in the division really had a chance to make the playoffs.  The Colts imploded, the Titans dragged themselves across the finish line to end at just above .500 and the Jaguars floundered amidst coaching changes, shallow cornerback depth, and taking their rookie quarterback lumps.

Is this the beginning of a new era of AFC South dominance under the new Houston franchise?  Or was this all just a fluke?

What was established as not a fluke on Saturday was the Houston Defense.  They outperformed the Bengals’ offense and managed to make Jay Gruden look like he was out of his depth, forced to rely on an inconsistent running game and the arm of a rookie quarterback.  Jay Gruden’s offense, under his first year as offensive coordinator, turned around a franchise that looked like it was beginning to return to the dark ages.  Andy Dalton flourished, throwing just six picks on the year until Saturday, but they were unable to win in the spotlight of national television.

Why does this matter?

Jay Gruden is a popular choice right now for the Jaguars’ next head coach.  The Jags play the Texans twice a year.  The Bengals’ receiving corps is considerably more solid than the Jaguars’ and yet Dalton couldn’t move the ball on J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, and Glover Quin.  Will his offensive schemes shift if he assumed the Jaguars’ captainship?  Would his offense suddenly become more successful?  Would he be able to attract premium receiver talent like A.J. Green down in Jacksonville?  Is it worth it if he can?

The scrutinizing eye on the Jaguars’ next head coach is going to be big and the franchise depends on the mind and work ethic of the man they hire.  Is Jay Gruden the man that can lead the Jaguars to the top of the heap in the AFC South?  Or can we expect more years of second and third place finishes, scrambling for wildcard spots like it was under Del Rio?

We don’t know.  He may not even be picked.  But the game against the Texans on Saturday put a big question mark over his head when it comes to the Jaguars’ head coaching position.

– Luke N. Sims