So far in this predictions series, the two division winners have been the Cleveland Browns of the AFC North, and the New England Patriots of the AFC East. Today, I will be giving my thoughts on what will happen this season in the AFC South division. Last season, the division was won by the Houston Texans who had a record of 11-5. Not far behind were the also playoff bound Indianapolis Colts who went 10-6 and actually beat the Texans in the first round of last year’s playoffs. The Titans also finished with a winning record, just barely missing the playoffs at 9-7. The only team below .500 last season were the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, the Jaguars did win this division in 2017, and have improved greatly this offseason bringing in Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles. With Andrew Luck retiring from football in a shocking move, the Colts seem to be the only team not in contention in the division. All in all, I think the AFC South will be one of the more competitive division in the NFL this season, and here is how I think it will shake out.
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The Houston Texans were a very talented and good football team during the regular season in 2018, but simply ran into the Colts who were one of the hottest teams in football winning 9 of their last ten games. Deshaun Watson bounced back from his ACL injury in a big way last season throwing for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns. His main target is arguably the best receiver in the game Deandre Hopkins. Hopkins accounted for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and quickly became a superstar in this league. The defense was also strong last year, and added talent through the draft. Leading the defensive side of the ball are J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney. They combined for 25 sacks on the season, and are one of the most dangerous defensive line duos in football. The Texans added Tytus Howard and Mac Schapring in the draft adds more depth to the defense. The Texans have a difficult schedule next season facing tough teams outside of the division such as the Saints, Chargers, and Chiefs. However, the team is too talented to not be a contender in this division.
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Okay, Okay, Okay. Let’s try this again. The NFL world was shocked Saturday night when Colts Star QB Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the game of football. Luck has dealt with the most injuries of any quarterback in recent memory, and the move to retire shows how strong of an individual he is. Getting back to the Colts,the offense will be led by backup QB Jacoby Brissett. Brissett started the majority of the 2017 season for Indianapolis leading them to a 4-12 record, with one of those wins against the 0-16 Browns.Second year head coach Frank Reich had a lot of success in his first season leading the Colts to 10 wins, and hopes to build off of that this season. First round pick out of Notre Dame in 2018 Quentin Nelson was a pro bowler last year, and so was tight end Eric Ebron who had a breakout year catching 13 touchdowns. Indy also added talent picking up Devin Funchess from Carolina, and Spencer Ware and Justin Houston from the Chiefs. However, the Colts now need to commit to a full on rebuild and hope to win the Jake Fromm or Tua Tagovailoa sweepstakes in next years draft.
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The Jacksonville Jaguars were a few big offensive plays away in 2017 from beating the Patriots in Foxborough and representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. However, their Quarterback was Blake Bortles, a guy who makes Johnny Manziel look like an All Pro. Jacksonville addressed this situation by bringing in Super Bowl 52 MVP, one of the clutchest late game players in the game, the magic man himself, Nick Foles. Foles will have the opportunity to lead this young, talented team back to the playoffs. Their young core includes Leonard Fournette, Jalen Ramzey, and Calais Campbell. With a very talented defense, and an improving offense, expectations will be high for the Jags in 2019.
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The Titans had a good year under first year Head Coach Mike Vrabel last season, winning 9 games and falling just one win shy of the playoffs. Running Back Derrick Henry also had a late season emergence last year and helped fuel their run. The Colts swept the Titans last season, and that is the main reason why they missed the playoffs. Tennessee went out and added guys like Cameron Wake, Adam Humphries, and former Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill in free agency. Jeffery Simmons and AJ Brown will also contribute as rookies. Marcus Mariota has more weapons around him, and the defense reloaded as well. The Titans have early tests in the season starting off against the Browns in Cleveland but will be competitive nonetheless.
2019-2020 AFC South Standings Predictions
- Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)
- Houston Texans (9-7)
- Tennessee Titans (8-8)
- Indianapolis Colts (4-12)
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Every team in this division has improved (outside of the Colts). The Jaguars and Texans will be the two most competitive teams in the division. Jacksonville’s defense and Nick Foles magic gives them the slight edge. The Titans are close to being serious contenders but are still a few pieces away. The Colts will be in the bottom half of the league and will pretty much have to start from scratch. Going back to Jacksonville however, they will be serious Super Bowl contenders if everybody stays healthy, and if that defense can turn Jacksonville back into “Sacksonville.”