AFC SOUTH REPORT

The award winners in the division at the halfway point of the season

Deshaun Watson's injury derailed s remarkable season. Tim Warner/Getty Images

We have reached the midway point of the season!

Injuries have completely derailed Indianapolis and Houston. While fans of Jacksonville and Tennessee remain cautiously optimistic that their teams may be playoff bound.

Time for some midseason AFC South Awards!

Best Offensive Player: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

It’s nothing short of a tragedy the way Watson’s season was cut short with a knee injury. The star rookie from Clemson had thrown for 19 touchdowns and rushed for another two. More importantly, he led the Texans to three wins and showed tremendous promise in three shootouts against New England, Kansas City and Seattle.

Best Defensive Player: Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars

This one is not even close. Campbell has been one of the best defensive players in the league. While the Jaguars defense has been on the rise the last few seasons, Campbell has exceeded all expectations. His league leading eleven sacks has anchored a unit that has given up only 14.6 points per game. If the Jaguars are going to return to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, Campbell’s leadership will carry them there.

Rookie of the Half-Year: Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

It would have been easy to give this award to Watson but, despite them both being in their first year in the league, only one of them seems to be acting like a rookie. After narrowly escaping a serious leg/ankle injury three weeks ago, Fournette was a late scratch against the Cincinnati Bengals. The reason for the benching was reportedly for skipping out on a team photo. If Fournette can keep it together for the final eight games, he has a chance to put together one of the best rookie rushing seasons in league history.

Most Reliable: T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

In good times and bad, Hilton continues to shine. Now in his sixth season out of Florida International, the durable wide receiver has steadily amassed stats that have him on a borderline Hall of Fame trajectory. With over 700 yards this season, he has been producing nearly identical stats with or without Andrew Luck.

Coach of the Half-Year: Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars

When a team hasn’t won more than five games in a season since 2010, and now the talk around town is whether there is an opportunity for a top seed and a bye, that’s a pretty impressive turnaround.

The 5-3 Jaguars still have to play the Browns, the 49ers, and host the banged up Texans and Colts. As crazy as it sounds, the Jaguars finishing 9-7 would actually be a disappointment to fans in North Florida.

We’ll learn a lot more about the Jaguars on Sunday when they take on an improving Chargers team. With former Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley at the helm of LA’s defense, it will be fascinating to see what kind of schemes he throws at quarterback Blake Bortles.

Most Disappointing: Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans

This may not be entirely fair. Multiple injuries have sidelined Davis for much of the first part of the season. However, after Davis set all time receiving records at Western Michigan, I think it was fair to expect immediate contributions. If Tennessee can outlast Jacksonville for the division, Davis will certainly play a part in that success.

Man of the Division: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Man of the division? Sure. Why not? He's already wrapped up the NFL Man of the Year and possibly Man of the Decade if such an award is given. Watt’s contributions off the field have been immeasurable. It's a shame that it won't be until fall of 2018 before we see him on the field again.

Most Improved: Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans

I’m not sure anyone in the league has made a bigger jump from their rookie to second season. Byard is playing like an All-Pro. He's leading the league with six interceptions but also has ten pass deflections. Without his three interceptions against Cleveland, the Browns would no longer be winless.

Most Invisible: Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

While this may seem like a dig at Bortles, it has been a welcome relief for Jaguars fans. Bortles really hasn't been good or bad. He's not making any great plays but he's also not losing any games on his own. If Bortles was an emoji, he'd be the “meh.” That sort of indescribable unenthusiastic acceptance of something completely mediocre. Although, with a defense like Jacksonville’s, maybe meh is all they need? One can argue Peyton Manning wasn't much better than meh during his second Super Bowl run.

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Houston is back in the win column

McCullers Jr. spins a gem as Astros get a much-needed win over Giants

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After getting swept by the A's in Oakland to end a road trip with a five-game losing streak, the Astros returned to Houston to try and get back on track. To do so, they'd need a win against the Giants on Monday night. Here is a quick recap of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 6, Giants 4.

Record: 7-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 6.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81 ERA).

Houston builds up an early lead

The early goings of Monday's game went very similar to the last time Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound. He would have a terrific first three innings while his offense gave him an early lead. The first run came in the bottom of the second, with Yuli Gurriel reaching base on a one-out double, moving to third on a wild pitch, then scoring on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa.

Correa would take part in a four-run inning in the third, as Houston would score two on a two-RBI ground-rule double by Michael Brantley, another on an error, then Correa's second RBI of the night, a groundout to bring in a run and make it 5-0. Unlike the last start in Arizona, where the roof opened and McCullers Jr. fell apart in the fourth, he was able to make quick work of his opponent for a 1-2-3 frame. As he kept recording scoreless innings, Martin Maldonado added another run to the lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 6-0.

McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh

While the Astros were building their lead, McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings, which came on a hit-by-pitch. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter in progress, but the Giants would get their first hit of the night to end the no-hit bid.

Regardless, the start was precisely what McCullers Jr. needed to restore his confidence after the disastrous inning he had in his last appearance. He would go on to complete the seventh inning before Houston would go to the bullpen with the large lead in the eighth. His final line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 0 HR, 1 HPB.

Houston gets back in the win column despite more struggles by Josh James

Josh James entered out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth but allowed the first run of the night for San Francisco via a solo home run with one out to make it 6-1. He would complete the inning and then return for the top of the ninth. He would have another rocky inning, issuing a leadoff walk before a single and double would make it a four-run game at 6-2, still with no outs in the inning and runners on second and third, prompting another call to the bullpen.

Dusty Baker would bring in his current closer, Ryan Pressly, to try and finish the game, now in a save situation. Pressly would retire the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-RBI single to make it 6-4, but would eventually get the final out to get Houston the much-needed win. With the victory, the Astros moved back into second place in the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central. The Giants, working with a fluid rotation, have not yet fully decided on their starter, while the Astros will get another start from Brandon Bielak (2-0, 0.87 ERA) who will look to repeat the success of his five-inning, no-run start in Arizona last week.

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