The AFC South could be the most competitive division in the NFL. The Houston Texans won the division in 2018 with the Indianapolis Colts making the Wild-Card. The Tennessee Titans made the post-season 2 years ago, and are coming off back to back 9-7 campaigns. The Jacksonville Jaguars had a very good defensive last year despite a terrible offense. This division is up for grabs. I don’t think we will have a winner until the last week of the NFL Season.
AFC South Preview and Prediction:
Tennessee Titans, (11-5):
Mike Vrable is entering his 2nd year on the Titans sidelines. His offense was conservative last seasons but the Titans finished with a 9-7 and beat playoff teams, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston and the Patriots.
Marcus Mariota has had 3 head coaches and a revolving door with offensive coordinators in five years. This is a make or break year for the former Heisman Trophy Winner out of Oregon. Derek Henry finally lived up to his potential last season. He rushed for over 1,000 yards had 12 rushing touchdowns and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. The Titans were 5-1 when Henry touched the ball more than 16 times per game. The key here is the must not be predictable on offense. When Mariota throws on first down he is statistically one of the best passers in the NFL. When healthy, Delanie Walker is a pro-bowl tight end and Corey Davis had 65 catches last season. He could see over 80 catches this year.
Defensively the Titans don’t have an A+ rated players, but they have a lot of B+ and B players. They were 10th in sacks with 47 and 3rd in points against. I may be the only writer in the country who believe strongly in the Titans this season. They are my sleeper team. If Mariota can stay healthy… they are a playoff team.
Houston Texans, (10-6):
The Texans became the first time in NFL history to lose their 1st 3 games than win 9 in a row. They finished the season 11-5 and won the AFC South Division before losing to the Colts 21-7 in the playoffs. Deshaun Watson threw for 4,165 yards, completed 68% of his passes and had 26 touchdown passes and only 9 interceptions. He also ran for over 500 yards. Other than Russell Wilson, is there a better dual threat quarterback in the NFL? Watson could put up better numbers than Luck does this year. DeAndre Hopkins had 115 catches and 11 touchdowns. Hopkins is impossible to guard one on one and can make plays all over the field. Lamar Miller appears to have a torn ACL. Duke Johnson from Cleveland should be a great help to the running game and should have over 1000 yards.
Defensively, JJ Watt continues to lead this team. They return 7 starters from their front 7. This unit hasn’t been elite under head coach Bill 0’Brien but they should be able to put pressure on opposing quarterback.
Jacksonville Jaguars, (9-7):
The Jacksonville Jaguars could be the team with the highest ceiling. They had a very good defense last year despite a terrible offense. They ranked 31st out of 32 teams scoring 15.3 points per game. The Blake Bortles era is over in Jacksonville. The Jags signed Nick Foles to a 4 year, $88,000,000 contract, including a $25,000,000 signing bonus, $50,125,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $22,000,000. Leonard Fournette will once again but the featured running back on offense but he has a career rushing average of 3.7 yards per carry. Chris Conley was signed from the Kanasas City Chiefs, he is joining a group that will get back Marqise Lee (torn ACL in 2018 preseason) and Dede Westbrook.
Defensively, the Jags were 4th in points against. Jalen Ramsey continues to be one of the best defensive backs in the NFL. The Jaguars selected Josh Allen out of Kentucky in the NFL Draft. Allen had 17 sacks last year despite seeing constant double teams in the SEC. Telvin Smith and Miles Jack combined for 241 total tackles. Jack could develop into a top 5 linebacker. Calais Campbell had 10.5 sacks last year. This team could be in the top 5 in almost every defensive category, if they stay healthy. Would anyone be surprised if Allen wins rookie of the year?
If they can get production out of their wide receivers they could be a playoff team.
Indianapolis Colts, (6-10):
The Colts have two things working against them to start the 2019 NFL Season. Andrew Luck has retired and their first 6 games are as follows:
The Colts are now led by Jacoby Brissett and TY Hilton. Brissett has a career record of 5-12, 13 touchdown passes, 7 interceptions and he has completed 509% of his passes. Hilton had 76 catches last season and accumulated over 1,200 yards for scrimmage. Running back Marlon Mack had 908 rushing yards in 12 games last season. TE Eric Ebron had 13 touchdowns and 66 catches.
Defensively, Darius Leonard is the best linebacker, no one outside of Indianapolis knows about. Last year, as a rookie, he had 163 total tackles and 7 sacks. The Colts finished 10th in scoring defense and should improve on that number in 2019.
Frank Reich is on a short list of young coaches on the rise. I expect this team to get better as the season goes along but without Luck they shouldn’t win more than 6 games.
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