On the outside looking in, the AFC South appears to be the worst division in football. Only one team from this division has won a Super Bowl (the Colts claimed titles in 1970 and 2006). But, when you look closer, within two years, this could be the best division in the NFL. Marcus Mariota, Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles and future starting quarterback in Houston, Deshaun Watson, are all under 27-years-old. If I was buying stock for the future, I would buy some, in the AFC South. With the NFL now becoming a vertical passing league, a legitimate Super Bowl contender can emerge within 3 years.
AFC South Preview:
Tennessee Titans (Last season record 9-7) … 2017 prediction, 10-6.
The Titans have not been to the playoffs since 2008. Their 9-7 record was only their second winning season in 8 years. Marcus Mariota was selected by the Titans in 2015, with the 2nd overall pick. In just a short time, he has proven to be a franchise quarterback. In 27 games as a starter, Mariota has completed 61.6% of his passes has 49 total touchdowns, only 19 interceptions and averages 6.4 yards per rush. Mariota threw for 3,426 yards last year and in 15 games he had 26 touchdowns passes. That is the most TD Passes by a Titan QB in 20 years. The Titans have a two headed monster in the backfield. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combined for over 1,700 yards rushing and 17 total touchdowns. The signing of veteran wide receiver Eric Decker was a brilliant move. The Titans drafted Corey Davis from Western Michigan fifth overall and a drafted Taywan Taylor, a fast WR who can spread the defense by going deep, out of Western Kentucky. Decker along with Pro Bowl TE Delanie Walker will show these two rookies how to run correct routes and be professional day in and day out. The titans finished 14th in the league in points scored (23.8) but I expect them to be in the top 10 in scoring this year.
On defense, this team has been average over the past few seasons. They finished ranked 16th in points allowed, giving up 23.6 points per game but they should improve in 2017. Jurrell Casey is a hard nose defensive lineman who has been to the Pro-Bowl in back to back years. Brian Orakpo had 10.5 sacks last season and should continue to put pressure on opposing QB’s from the linebacker position. The defensive backs should be solid with Logan Ryan from New England, and first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson of USC. Look for Jackson to possible return punts and kicks as well.
Houston Texans (Last Season 9-7) … 2017 prediction 8-8.
Over the past three seasons, head coach Bill O’Brien has compiled a record of 9-7,9-7 and 9-7. He has done this without 1 franchise quarterback. Tom Savage is the projected started but until rookied Deshaun Watson takes over under center this team will be at the bottom in the league in offense again. There is not one player at the skill position that scares defensive coordinators. RB Lamar Miller rushed for over 1000 yards last year but look for Texas rookie D’Onta Foreman to share the workload. WR, DeAndre Hopkins had 78 catches last season with terrible quarterbacks. But can he be a top 5 wide receiver?
The strength of this team is in their defense. Houston was ranked 1st in the NFL despite all world defense lineman J.J. Watt missing 14 games. In 83 career starts. Watt has 76 sacks and 299 tackles. Jadeveon Clowney, recording 12 tackles for a loss to go with six sacks but only 40 tackles. Clowney has been a disappointment after being the number one overall pick in 2014. If he doesn’t have a breakthrough season he could be considered one of the biggest busts and most over-hyped players to ever come out of college. Until Watson becomes a starter this team will have to rely on their defense every game.
Indianapolis Colts (Last Season 8-8) …2017 prediction, 7-9.
The strength of this team rest heavily on quarterback Andrew Luck’s shoulders. In five seasons under center he has completed only 59% of his passes, has 132 touchdowns and 68 interceptions. WR, TY Hilton had 91 catches last season for 1,448 yards. He is clearly the number on option on this team. RB, Frank Gore rushed for over 1000 yards last season but entering his 13th season, he is clearly on the “Back 9” of his career.
This team will struggle defensively as they have for the past few years.
Look for Chuck Pagano to be fired by the end of the season.
Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Season 3-13) …2017 Prediction,5-11.
Over the past 6 seasons the Jags have had a record of
Former New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is now making the football decisions. Doug Marone is the new head coach and drafting running back Leonard Fournette out of LSU, plays right into the ground attack that Marone wants to establish. At 6’1 230lbs Fournette can be a punishing runner or a game breaker with his speed. In 2014, the Jags selected Blake Bortles with the 3rd overall pick. In his first 3 seasons, Borltes is 11-34 as a starter, he’s completed 58,8% of his passes. He has thrown for 60 touchdowns but has 51 interceptions. Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee are great weapons at the WR position so Bortles should be able to put up some big numbers.
On defense, the Jags were last in the league with only 7 interceptions. If Coughlin and Marone want to win more than 5 games they have got to figure out a way how to create turnovers. The biggest weakness of this team is their offensive and defensive line. There are a 3-year project.
Marcus Mariota should be the best player in this division. He should combine for at least 30 Touchdowns and complete around 65% of his passes. Mariota’s TD numbers won’t be in the top 5 to 10 in the league because inside the Red Zone the Titans will run Murray and Henry. I am not in love with Tennessee Coach Mike Mularkey, but they should have enough to take this division and look for Mariota to get some MVP Votes.
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