The AFC South Is Up For Grabs

What has consistently been one of the worst divisions in football is now suddenly one of the best, in a way.

Its hard to say there’s a contender in the AFC South, but there’s certainly a lot of good teams, in fact, all of them are good teams.

Since we have this phenomenon, I’m going to examine every team’s chances at winning the division.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts’ season in 2015-2016 was derailed by Andrew Luck’s injury, but a faulty defense didn’t help out the variety of quarterbacks they used last year.

Andrew Luck is thankfully back this year.  I say thankfully because the NFL misses him.  I missed him.  The guy’s a playmaker, and his absence not only took excitement away from Colts games, but allowed an overachieving Texans team to win the division at 9-7.

There’s a good argument that Luck’s return should vault the Colts back into title contention, but this is a defense that hasn’t improved much.  I’ve never heard of anyone on their defensive line.  Robert Mathis is still great, so is Vontae Davis.  But thats only two guys who make an impact defensively.  Not great!

The Colts have a lot to worry about in the division now.  It used to be that, no matter how low the lows were, it didn’t matter because of how weak the division was.  Not anymore.  Its gonna take a special Andrew Luck season for the Colts to win the division.

Houston Texans

The Texans are completely revamped this year.  They stole Brock Osweiler away from Denver, a smart but aggressive move that I loved, not necessarily because of the football side of it, but because of how screwed it left Denver (Take it away, Trevor Siemian!).  They also swapped running backs with Miami; signing Lamar Miller and letting Arian Foster move on.  I’m not totally sure how talented Miller is as a runner.  But he’s been in a bad scheme and has had a crappy offensive line throughout his career.  Plus, in Houston, he won’t have to be relied on as much.

I like Brock Osweiler.  In the games he played in last season, he reminded of Peyton Manning.  Thats not a comp.  I’m not saying Osweiler’s the next Peyton Manning, but certain aspects of the game drew some similarities, like how they see the field, and how accurate they both are.

At the same time, I was blown away by the contract Houston gave Osweiler.  Yes, they were desperate for quarterback.  But Osweiler only has seven career starts, and they’re paying like a franchise guy.

I don’t think the contract is gonna look bad.  I think Osweiler will morph into it.  But its not a deal I would have handed out.

If Osweiler doesn’t reach expectations this season, which would be surprising, he has a great defense to fall back on.

The Texans have JJ Watt, which is kind of a big deal.  I think Jadeveon Clowney is going to get better, though I’m not sure he’ll ever live up to the expectations he had as the No.1 overall pick.  Houston’s secondary is in great shape, and has some depth with rookie Kevin Johnson.

This team is really good, and should be the favorites to win the division.  However, it won’t come easy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are a team who didn’t turn it around in one offseason.  We’ve seen this coming for awhile now.  Blake Bortles has had his obvious struggles, but now he actually has some solid weapons.  Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson are two great wide receivers (and awesome fantasy picks) for Bortles to target.  Julius Thomas’ value for Jacksonville will fully show this season, as injuries bugged him last year.  Jacksonville also added Chris Ivory to the backfield.  You figure Ivory will be the lead back, but TJ Yeldon will certainly get his fair share of carries.

These weapons release a ton of weight off of Bortles’ shoulders.  He still struggles with limiting interceptions; forcing balls is something Bortles commonly does.  Perhaps a shaky offensive is behind that.  Bottles was sacked 51 times last year, most in the NFL.  A bad offensive line can lead to quarterbacks forcing the ball, as Bortles does.

I think that issue will get better this year, but in case it doesn’t, the Jaguars have a secretly good defense ready to back him up.  This defense has the perfect combination of youth, talent, and leadership.  Dante Fowler Jr., Jalen Ramsey, and Myles Jack will make their career-debuts in Week 1.  I was high on Fowler in last year’s draft, and had Myles Jack going No.5 overall in this past year’s draft before his plummet to the second round due to knee concerns.  Those are two guys who’re gonna make immediate impacts.  There’s plenty more like that on this Jags D’.

Jacksonville gave Malik Jackson a ton of money this offseason.  I’m not totally convinced he’s worth it, but he’s gonna make an impact.  Plus, the Jags have ridiculous depth on the defensive line.  The linebacker corps features Dan Skuta and Paul Posluszny, two quality veterans.  Tashaun Gipson (A breakout player from last season with the Browns) and rookie Jalen Ramsey are the highlights in the secondary.  Its still so mindblowing that Jacksonville managed to get Jack and Rasmey in the draft.  Those two were both supposed to be top five picks.

Its a pretty complete team.  They’re just a little young and raw.  One could argue Houston is to, but Jacksonville has youth on both sides of the ball. Houston’s defense is good and has experience.  While Ramsey and Jack are great young guys, they’re still rookies!  That matters in a league where typically, experience wins.

If Brock Osweiler sucks and the Colts aren’t great like I expect, Jacksonville is sitting right there.  I do think though, that they’re still another year away.  I know, I know, we’ve said this every year for the past three seasons now.  But this time, the Jaguars have something real to look forward to.  Not just another 5-11 season.

Tennesse Titans

They’re probably the least likely to win the division.  But this is a Titans team thats becoming relevant for once.  Marcus Mariota is in his 2nd year, and like Jamies Winston, should improve.  Again, both were good last year, but there’s always room for improvement, and they’re both young.

The Titans are also starting to help Mariota out.  Rishard Matthews was a nice pickup, and is being added to an underrated receiving core.  He’s added to a group with Kendall Wright, Andre Johnson, and Harry Douglas, with Delanie Walker at tight end.  All of these guys are quality pass-catchers, exactly what a young quarterback needs.

In case Mariota struggles, the Titans can run the ball, and they can do it well now.  Derrick Henry is a beast, and was taken way to low in the Draft this past Spring.  He’ll split carries with DeMarco Murray, who’s in my mind worth it, because they gave up so little in the trade for him.  But Murray is running behind a pretty sketchy offensive line, and from what we know on him, thats not great.  Murray’s only produced with a good offensive line in front of him.  We don’t know what Derrick Henry will be like yet, but chances are he can run over the people that Murray can’t escape.

Whats gonna hold the Titans back is the defense.  Its getting better, like this team as a whole, but the secondary is really the only positive.  This is a pretty weak front seven, with the defensive line being in bad shape.  Like, the only guy I’ve heard of is Jurell Casey.

The Titans can win the division if the Colts don’t recover, Brock Osweilier sucks, and if the Jaguars don’t improve.  A lot has to happen.  But as I said at the top, anything is possible here.