Last season the Jacksonville Jaguars won the AFC South for the first time in franchise history. They also were able to come within a couple minutes of playing in the Super Bowl, but they ran into some dude called Tom Brady. With the emergence of their young defensive core, the other three teams in their division have all made upgrades to their rosters. But is it enough to tame the jags?
1. The Jacksonville Jaguars
So in case, you couldn't tell, or if you just decided to skip the first couple sentences (its ok I get it) the Jags will win the south for the second consecutive season. To me the proof is in the pudding on this one, I think that they easily have the best defense in the league. I haven't seen a defense this deep with talent probably since the 2013-14 Seattle Seahawks and look where that got them. The Jags also have one of the best young running backs in the league (as long as he's not playing Alabama) in Leonard Fournette. For all the non-football experts, if you can play really good defense and effectively move the ball on the ground you will be a good team.
I also really like the other additions they made on the offensive side of the ball. They improve the o-line by signing pro-bowler Andrew Norwell away from the Panthers. I also don't mind them letting go guys like Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Robinson is coming off a major injury and Hurns never truly developed into a number 1 guy. Now they can focus on developing their young receivers like Marquis Lee, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole. As long as Blake Bortles doesn't get worse they should have a great balance of offense and defense. What the Jags also have is a very kind schedule. Their three hardest games which are the Patriots, Steelers, and Eagles are all home games. And with that Jacksonville crowd rocking in TIAA Bank Field they should be able to get it done and come out on top again.
The Houston Texans
Last season the Texans seemed as if they were finally on their way to becoming a truly respectable team until Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt went down. Now both are ready to throw the pads back on but both have had their share of skepticism. Will they be the same players? Let's start with Watson. I'm going to be real honest right now, I love Deshaun Watson. I know that might be frowned upon because of my allegiance to Alabama but my goodness can that guy play football. He gutted us TWICE he almost beat us TWICE not even guys like Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow could really come close to beating Saban's defense twice (other than Ole Miss but nobody likes cheaters). He absolutely has the talent when healthy and I believe that he will return to full strength. People like to forget that in college Watson had torn his ACL and one year later lead Clemson to the national championship.
Now onto Watt. This one is a bit different because he plays a much more physically demanding position and he has had injuries all over his body. But if he comes back and he is only 75 or 80% of the player he used to be, then that's still a damn good player. He doesn't have to be the superstar he once was. The rest of the front seven will be solid enough to pick up the slack. What's more concerning to me is the secondary. Their situation with the cornerbacks will be something to look out for because they can't keep relying on Jonathan Joseph who's about to play his 14th season, to be able to shut down every team's number one receivers.
But the defining aspect of the team that drops them down to second place is the offensive line. To put it kindly they stink. I don't trust any of their tackles to protect Watson and I am shocked they didn't address it in the draft or in free agency. It isn't like there weren't guys out there. Nonetheless, they have elite talent in Deandre Hopkins, Jadeveon Clowney, JJ Watt and Deshaun Watson. That should be enough to make the playoffs in the AFC.
The Tennessee Titans
Hot take alert: I think Marcus Mariota is the worst quarterback in the division. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely worse options out there but when compared to the other three guys I don't like him as much. Mariota did put together two strong years but last year was when I think his true colors showed. Defenses figured out that this dude doesn't throw with a ton of accuracy. Now the gap between him and a guy like Blake Bortles is pretty slim. But I liked what I saw in the postseason last year from Bortles way more than I like Mariota. And Bortles does a way better job of taking care of the football.
But Mariota's play isn't the only factor that went into my decision of placing the Titans third. Even though I think that they will have a dynamic running game with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, along with a very good offensive line, I really don't like their depth at receiver. Corey Davis is promising but is a young player who is coming off an injury-riddled season. Unlike Watson, he doesn't have a history of recovering from the same injury. The rest of them really don't impress me very much, so be prepared for another huge year from Delanie Walker.
I think that their defense has a ton of talent, but I do have a couple questions about their speed at linebacker. Nonetheless, I think new head coach Mike Vrabel will do a really nice job with that side of the ball, but I can't attest to the other. They have a youthful offensive coordinator in Matt LaFleur who held the same position last season with the Rams. Only time will tell though if he is truly a good play caller or not because that job was left up to HC Sean McVay. Personally, I would have liked to see an offensive minded coach hired to try and help fix Mariota before it's too late. But now all they can do is bank on a couple first timers and defense.
The Indianapolis Colts
Poor Andrew Luck. He takes a year off due to injury and a poor roster, and what does he come back to? That's a rhetorical question. The offensive line has definitely improved though. Guys like Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Anthony Castonzo can hopefully help Luck only get hit half a million times. That'd probably be an improvement, to be honest. Hey but the Colts still have TY Hilton... but who else? The other two "starters" at receiver were 4th and 5th guys on other teams depth charts. Pairing Eric Ebron with Jack Doyle should actually be a decent combination at tight end. Their schedule is also filled with tons of toss-up games and tough road games against the likes of the Patriots, Eagles, and Raiders.
But what truly secures their ranking of the last place is the defense. My goodness. I was actually shocked that some of the guys on the defense were still in the league. It's riddled with no names, players out of their prime, and second-year players who need to prove they're worth high pick. I love Andrew Luck, but I simply can not see him succeeding with this supporting cast. If they are able to scratch out 8 wins this year Luck should win MVP.