While Colts rested, AFC South race tightened; Luck expected back vs. Jets

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 24: Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts fist bumps Phillip Dorsett #15 during a timeout of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – On a day they rested, the Indianapolis Colts got some help in their pursuit of a playoff spot.

The AFC South race tightened considerably Sunday as front-runner Houston lost at home and Tennessee held on for a win on the road.

How it stacks up after week 12:

  • Houston at 6-5. The Texans and quarterback Brock Osweiler drew the ire of their fans at NRG Stadium by falling to Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers 21-13. Osweiler passed for 246 yards, but suffered three more interceptions.
  • Tennessee at 6-6. The Titans held off the Bears in Chicago 27-21.
  • The Colts at 5-6 after their Thursday night loss at home to Pittsburgh.
  • Jacksonville at 2-9. The Jaguars continued their death spiral with a 28-21 loss at Buffalo.

With five weeks remaining, it remains anyone’s division to win, except for the Jaguars, that is.

That was coach Chuck Pagano’s message to his team shortly after its 28-7 loss to the Steelers.

“Everything is right there, is still out there for us. It is right in front of us,’’ he said. “It will all come back to how we respond. We have always responded and we will do the same thing.

“We have some time. We are a beat up football team right now, but we have some time to get some guys back and move forward.’’

The Colts return to practice Monday in preparation for their Dec. 5 date with the New York Jets on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

They were without quarterback Andrew Luck against Pittsburgh, who still was in the NFL’s concussion protocol, but he’s expected back against the Jets. CBSSports.com reported Sunday the Colts believed Luck could have played if they had played Sunday, not Thursday.

While playing without Luck against the Steelers, the Colts also lost five front-line players during the game: wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (back), cornerback Vontae Davis (groin), center Ryan Kelly (shoulder), guard Denzelle Good (shoulder) and linebacker Robert Mathis (elbow).

A look at the closing schedules of the AFC South:

  • Colts: at New York Jets, Houston, at Minnesota, at Oakland, Jacksonville.
  • Houston: at Green Bay, at Colts, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, at Tennessee.
  • Tennessee: Bye, Denver, at Kansas City, at Jacksonville, Houston.
  • Jacksonville: Denver, Minnesota, at Houston, Tennessee, at Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51