The AFC South doesn't look like it usually does -- Colts on top -- this year. Without Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts have fallen from first to worst in the division. In the Colts' place the Houston Texans have stepped up to lead the division but at times they haven't looked as good as a division-leading team should and the only reason they're in the lead is because they have a division win. They're on pace to make it to the playoffs for the first time in their short history.
In second place are the Tennessee Titans, who, despite the less-than-stellar running of Chris Johnson, have had success on offense thanks to Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans passing game as well as a stout defense. The only thing keeping them in second place is a division loss to the Jaguars in week one of the regular season. If the Titans keep this pace and Johnson and the running game picks up, the Titans can at least take a wild card spot or even win the division.
In third place in the AFC South are the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars released quarterback David Garrard just before the season and handed the reins over to Luke McCown. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, McCown's poor performance led to two straight losses and forced the team's hand to start rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert has yet to win his first game but he has shown flashes of brilliance but it hasn't been enough. Even the running of Maurice Jones-Drew hasn't been enough to pull the Jaguars out of their losing streak.
And finally we come to the Colts. Heading into Week 6, the Colts were winless and relying on little-known quarterback Curtis Painter, having sidelined Kerry Collins after a concussion. While Painter has steadily improved with each start, the absence of Peyton Manning has shown how many holes are on this team, both on offense and on defense.
With the trade deadline looming, here is what each AFC South team could do to improve their chances at making it the post season.
Biggest Need: wide receiver
Before the Texans jump the gun and trade for a pass rusher to replace Mario Williams, who is on IR with a torn pectoral, they should wait and see what rookie Brooks Reed can do as his replacement. Where they do need help, though is at wide receiver.
Johnson is in his ninth season and he has already missed games due to a hamstring injury that required surgery. Unfortunately, when he's not in the game, the offense just doesn't look the same and they lost a very winnable game against the Oakland Raiders at home that his presence could have won them.
When Johnson comes back he may or may not be able to stick around for the rest of the season -- hamstring injuries have a funny way of sticking around for a while. If he does miss time, they could use another wide receiver to fill his shoes and if he does stay, they could use a No. 2 receiver because Jacoby Jones' eight catches for 100 yards isn't getting it done.
Potential targets: Brandon Lloyd
The Broncos have put Lloyd on the trading block and even though the Texans are unlikely to make a move on him, he could help their offense move the ball down the field.
Biggest Need: wide receiver
Before losing him to IR with a torn ACL and MCL, the combination of Matt Hasselbeck and Kenny Britt looked like it was going to be scary for opposing teams. Britt averaged almost 100 yards in the first three games and scored three touchdowns. Nate Washington has played well in Britt's absence but he's only managed to find his way into the end zone once and since running back Chris Johnson isn't doing much of anything right now, the Titans could use some help at wide receiver.
Potential targets: Brandon Lloyd (again)
A trade for Lloyd to help replace Britt is a possibility. He would take pressure off of Washington and Hasselbeck could spread the ball around the field more. It could also cause the secondary and linebackers to worry a little more about the pass which could free up Johnson to run.
Team Needs: wide receiver, offensive line
The Jaguars have trouble moving the ball through the air and a lot of that has to do with a rookie quarterback starting but a lot of it also has to do with a lack of a top-notch receiver. When you're only weapon is Maurice Jones-Drew, defenses tend to stack the box and make the quarterback beat them, so far Gabbert has been unable to do so.
The Jaguars offensive line has also allowed their quarterback to be sacked 12 times so far this season and they could use some help when it comes to keeping Gabbert clean in the pocket, especially since they play they play some of the better defenses in the league this season.
Even though it's early, this is a rebuilding year for the Jaguars and they won't be making a playoff push. There isn't a chance of a trade for Jacksonville, especially since it seems that they may be giving up playing instead of bringing them in. SB Nation's Jaguars site, Big Cat Country, has reported on a rumor that cornerback Rashean Mathis could be on the block.
EVERYTHING! offensive line, cornerback
The Colts can't run, they can barely pass, they can't stop the run and they can't stop the pass. Without Peyton Manning, they just can't do anything. They likely won't be making trades to add players to their team with a record as bad as theirs, even though it was rumored that Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne may be on the trading block (it was denied by Jim Irsay).
The Colts will look to rebuild in the offseason via the draft and with free agency. They're not about to spend any extra money or valuable draft picks on trading players when their season is already pretty much over.