Early Predictions in the AFC South

In the latest segment, we took a peek at the AFC North. This time around, we’ll be covering the AFC South. This division includes the Houston Texans, Tennesee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, and Jacksonville Jaguars. With the help of playoffpredictors.com, the Athletes Hub is going to try to see into the future and predict the final standings of each division.

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Tennessee Titans
1st in AFC South (#4 Seed)
11-5

For the first time since 2008, I believe that Tennessee will win the AFC South. I don’t believe that they have the the most dominant roster in the division, but I do think they will be able to go at least 4-2 in their division play, which will be the best record of all four teams.

The most important note is that Marcus Mariota will need to stay healthy for the whole season in order to succeed. He was riddled with the injury bug at the end of his first two seasons, but he has become one of the most exciting young quarterbacks to watch.

Corey Davis was a great pick, and it filled a key need for the franchise, but the Titans will need another receiver (possibly Rishard Matthews) to step up. They also have an elite tight end in Delanie Walker to help in the passing game when need be.

Their strengths on offense can be attributed by a two-headed monster in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Their offensive line is one of the best, featuring Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin, and Ben Jones.

Finally, we get to the defense for the Titans, and it’s where I see the biggest weakness. The Titans ranked 30th in passing defense last season. They did go and sign Logan Ryan for support, and they also drafted an explosive playmaker in Adoree Jackson to also help.

If Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo can both find a way to get to the quarterback more often, than this defense can possibly hold its own.

I do believe this Titans team can gel together to put up a great campaign this season. A perfect mixture of young talent and seasoned veterans could be the key to finally putting this franchise on top of the AFC South once again.

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Indianapolis Colts
2nd in AFC South
9-7

This Colts team went 8-8 last year with a lackluster roster. However, I do believe they had a great offseason, and it will put them on the outside looking in next year. First, we go to Andrew Luck, who is only 27-years old. Luck has already proved to be a franchise QB, and the first priority should be to give him more time in the pocket.

The franchise has Ryan Kelly and Anthony Castonzo, who did solid on the offensive line, but there isn’t much help elsewhere. T.Y Hilton is a perennial Pro-Bowler, and Donte Moncrief is above average as well.

Meanwhile, running back veteran Frank Gore had an amazing season last year, but a decline will be expected within the next few years, as he is 34-years old.

This offseason had a clear theme, and it was all about defense. With their first three picks, the Colts drafted Malik Hooker, Quincy Wilson, and Tarell Basham. With the added help of Barkevious Mingo, this Colts defense could improve tremendously next season.

The Colts have plenty of starpower, but they also have plenty of holes on their roster, which makes it fitting that they will just barely miss the playoffs.

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Jacksonville Jaguars
3rd in AFC South
9-7

On paper, the Jaguars have arguably the best defense in the division, but that has been said before. The last time people admired the depth that Jacksonville had, they went 3-13. Regardless, Jacksonville has to improve, because this is the most talent this organization has ever had.

Let’s start with the defense, which was 5th in defending the pass, and 18th in defending the run. They have loads of potential, with names including Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey, Paul Posluszny, Dante Fowler, etc (don’t forget about the new additions in AJ Bouye and Calias Campbell). Their defense is stacked on paper, but why are they projected to finish 3rd in the AFC South?

Blake Bortles was very underwhelming last year. When many expected the Jags to win 10 games, someone has to take the fall. Last year, he had 23 TDs and 16 INTs. At first glance, it’s not too bad, in fact, many would call it average. On the other hand, Bortles also was a first round pick, and he needs to find a way to cut down on his turnovers.

He has a relatively solid supporting cast in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Mercedes Lewis, and TJ Yeldon. The Jags also got a steal in Cam Robinson, who many figured to be the best tackle in this years draft, to help protect Bortles.

Either way, this season should be playoffs or bust for this Jacksonville team. If Bortles can’t fix his mistakes from last season, this franchise may attempt to replace him in the near future.

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Houston Texans
4th in AFC South
5-11

This isn’t because I think the Texans are a poor franchise. Their defense is fantastic, and their offense just needs a surefire QB that can lead the team. The main reason for this is solely on the fact of the division they play in.

The AFC South is the only division in the conference that I could see multiple division winners. The AFC North has the Steelers and the Ravens, the AFC East has the Patriots, and the AFC West has the Raiders, Chiefs, and even the Broncos. The point is that right now, the AFC South, at least in my eyes, should be one of the most competitive divisions next year.

On defense, you have J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney anchoring a terrifying pass rush. While there aren’t any standout names beyond them, the defense is the main reason why the Texans were first in the division last year. They did lose AJ Bouye to the Jags last year, which will be a huge loss, but they should be able to hold their own.

On offense, there is no clear-cut answer to the quarterback situation. Most believe that Tom Savage will take the reigns at the start of the season, but Deshaun Watson could be the starter by the end of the 2017-18 season. If either of these quarterbacks can elevate the offense, then this team may have a few more wins than I am projecting for them.

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