Part 5 and we’ve made it to the dirty south. The AFC South, that is
This division is up-and-coming in so many respects. With a vet leading a failing team being stalked by two teams headed by young quarterbacks and one of the best defenses in the league last year, the division is nothing if not diverse.
Last season, the Texans managed to claim their 2nd straight division title, despite massive offensive issues. They proved that defense really does win championships, but only divisional. The lack of talent under center was too much for a top-ranked defense to overcome. Still, they managed a 9-7 record for the third year in a row and ended atop their division. Considering their QB problems haven’t been fixed, next year will likely have a very different outcome. Neither Tom Savage nor rookie Brandon Weeden look remotely ready to lead a team to victory. So it would seem that the Texans will be unable to repeat their recent success.
One of the league’s most promising young quarterbacks has a few powerful weapons to help the team make playoff non this year. The Titans also had a top-notch offensive line last year and their defense was nothing to sneeze at. If Marcus Mariota has healed from the devastating week 16 fibula fracture, the team will be headed in the right direction.
The Colts have struggled in recent years, and nothing indicates a big change in 2017. Quarterback Andrew Luck seems to take a step backwards every year, even though his stats don’t show it. This confirms that the actual problem is their offensive line. Luck has one of the top receivers in the league in T. Y. Hilton, and vet running back Frank Gore to help put points on the board, but any quarterback sacked 41 times in a season isn’t going to be effective, no matter how talented he or his weapons might be.
Jacksonville hoped to have a franchise quarterback when they drafted Blake Bortles in 2014. Every year since has shown why they were mistaken. Bortles hasn’t been able to perform at an elite or even consistent level, other than a couple of 4,000-ish yard seasons. Without scoring or avoiding turnovers, yardage doesn’t mean much. But the Jags beefed up their defense substantially this offseason, picking up Calais Campbell, AJ Bouye, not to mention a few others, and hope that (Allens) Robinson and Hurns can contribute more, along with a 2017 draft superstar, running back Leonard Fournette, who the Jags will expect to be an instant-impact player.
First Place – Reigning division champ Houston and last year’s runner-up Tennessee are going to be in the battle for the top this year, though. Houston has quarterback issues that aren’t likely to rectify themselves before the season starts. Unless the Titans suffer another major loss, the division will belong to them. There’s no question that this team is on its way up and they’ve got pieces in every area to help them on their way to the top.
Second Place – Houston Texans are doomed to fall out of first eventually and this will likely be the year. With the aforementioned quarterback issues, the Texans have a lot to fix. And their defense may be big, but can’t carry quite that much on their broad shoulders.
Third Place – We’re likely to see probably the biggest shock in the division when Jacksonville crawls out of the basement and takes over third place. They’ve improved their defense enough to start looking like a half-decent team. They won’t be a great team until they give up on the Bortles project. If they do decide to make that change, we will have a better picture of what the team can truly accomplish. Until then, the Jags can expect a third-place finish.
Fourth Place – Only one spot left, and next year it will belong to the Indianapolis Colts. Irrespective of the talent they have at QB and receiver, the team resides in a location slightly north of dumpster fire. They picked up a bunch of rookies, and maybe they will be able to fit into the starting line-up somewhere to help out, but unless a few superstars emerge, the Colts should get used to being at the bottom.