Luck's setback leaves AFC South open for business

With Tuesday's surprising news from the Colts that quarterback Andrew Luck will miss two to six weeks with abdominal injuries suffered in Sunday's win over the Broncos, the reeling AFC South remains up for grabs.

That isn't how we felt after watching Luck revive his inglorious campaign with a strong performance against Denver's cast of dominant defenders, but the door is now open for the Jaguars, Titans and Texans -- a combined 7-17 -- to make a run of it.

Sitting one win behind the Colts (4-5), the Texans (3-5) have been gifted by the unexpected strong play of Brian Hoyer, who has tossed 13 touchdowns to just three picks on the year for a Houston squad that otherwise has fallen flat. This is the least interesting team in the division.

What we're waiting for is one of the South's young signal-callers to take charge of this race, which feels possible in the hands of Tennessee rookie Marcus Mariota. The Titans (2-6) were a flaming disaster with Zach Mettenberger at the wheel, but Mariota completely changes this offense.

He hasn't been perfect, but Mariota's pro-ready footwork and careful decision-making are part of the reason that interim coach Mike Mularkey exited Sunday's win over the Saints without a sack allowed by his embattled offensive line.

The Titans, though, have upcoming games against the Panthers, Raiders, Jets and Patriots along with two meetings with Jacksonville and a season-ending tilt in Indianapolis. That's no easy slate for a team barely alive.

Which brings us to Jacksonville, an outfit that hasn't learned how to seal the deal. After holding on for a win against the Bills in London, the Jaguars (2-6) let a seemingly huge victory for the franchise slip through their fingers in Week 9 against the Jets.

Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell has found his quarterback in Blake Bortles, though, a capable second-year arm now surrounded by a promising runner in T.J. Yeldon and legitimate receiving talent in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

If the Jaguars can get tight end Julius Thomas back on track, this club could make a second-half run against a soft schedule featuring the Ravens, Chargers, Saints, Texans and Titans.

Still, the problem with the AFC South boils down to one ugly flaw: Nobody seems to want this division, which feels destined to be taken by an eight- or seven-win -- or even six-win -- squad.

If Luck's absence veers closer to two weeks than six, this remains Indy's division to lose. Especially after seeing 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck drum up back-to-back wins in October over Jacksonville and Houston.

However, if Luck is out for a month-plus, the other three clubs in this wayward race have no further excuses. The table has been set for a stunner -- will anyone answer the call?

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