NFL Predictions: AFC South

We’ve done it! At last, the final installment of our NFL predictions are here , and we’ll be focusing on the AFC South. This division should be a tight race between 3 of the 4 teams, and has the potential to send 2 teams into the postseason. Which ever team wins 10+ games in the regular season, should be able to become the division winner. Considering I think the Ravens, Chiefs and Bills are the best 3 teams in the AFC, the winner of this division will have to take up the 4th seed for the postseason.

In 2019, the Tennessee Titans shocked the world after Tannehill took over as the starting QB. They plan to repeat their performance from a year ago with the Super Bowl in their sights. The Indianapolis Colts are STACKED, but considering Philip River’s age, we have to ask, is he the right guy to put this team over the edge? Bill O’Brien has traded away nearly all of the Texans assets, but this team still has some major talent and should remain competitive throughout the year. Lastly, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in an obvious rebuild (they have been for like, 20 years it seems), and have a chance to be the worst team in the league in 2020.

The Dirty South

Tennessee Titans

The Titans finally have some familiarity in their coaching staff and roster, and didn’t make any major changes in the group that brought success from last season. Tennessee is flying under the radar (as usual), even though this team has a solid offense AND defense this year. Vegas only has them winning 8-9 games this season, but they have the potential to finally break that double digit barrier in the win column.

This offense has 10 of 11 returning starters, which should give them a huge competitive advantage, especially at the beginning of the year. In 2019, after QB Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter, the Titans offense had the 3rd highest scoring rate in the NFL, only being behind the Ravens and the Chiefs. We watched the Titans offense light up the scoreboard for 10 weeks until they ultimately lost in the AFC Conference Championship game. Derrick Henry looks to regain the rushing crown again, and this time, lead the Titans to the promise land. All eyes are on King Henry, which should give the Titans an advantage this year too, as Tennessee has a plethora of weapons on the offense. WR AJ Brown emerged as a premiere playmaker during his rookie season (Titans haven’t had one since like, Derrick Mason). Brown aims to play even better than last year, and has a great chance to do so. Also include TE Jonnu Smith, the now starting TE after the front office let Delanie Walker go. Smith is surprisingly fast, and quick on his feet, has the ability to make incredible catches, and make defenders miss. Additionally, the Titans O-line is relatively the same, as RT Jack Conklin is the only player the Titans needed to replace. Dennis Kelly takes over as the starter now, and the front office drafted rookie RT Isaiah Wilson (AKA Panda) in the first round, giving the Titans a solid veteran and great rookie to replace him eventually. Also throw in the fact the Titans have the same Offensive Coordinator making the calls (first time this has happened in forever), the Tennessee Titans are setup to make a repeat performance, and finish with a top 10 offense in the NFL.

Tennessee has had a stout defense for quite some time now, and look to continue that dominant play in 2020. Last year, the defense was the reason why the Titans were competitive in a majority of their games. This defense is led by arguably the best Safety in the league, Kevin Byard. This guy has consistently been at the top of the list in terms of interceptions since his rookie year, and I’m hoping he finds his way into the endzone this season. But he’s not the only asset in this secondary. Kenny Vaccaro has been a fantastic acquisition for this team, and is vastly under rated across the league. Also include Adoree Jackson, who has shown improvements every year in his career. In the 2nd round of the draft, the Titans selected CB Kristian Fulton, a guy who has 1st round potential and many view as the steal of the draft. The LB group is solid as well, as Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans lead the way as the ILBs. In addition to that, the D-line should be stout this year, as Jeffery Simmons should improve off of what was already an impressive rookie performance. You could make the argument that the Titans were a pass rusher away from making the Super Bowl last season, and the front office attacked that weakness by signing veteran EDGE Rusher Vic Beasley. Between him, and Harold Landry, the Titans pass rush should improve as well.

At the end of the day, the Titans have all the potential in the world to make another deep playoff run. However, the Titans did trade away long time great D-lineman Jurrell Casey, and they haven’t found a replacement for him yet. This team is still rumored to be in talks with Jadeveon Clowney (still… I know, sign him already), and if Clowney does sign with Tennessee, the defense could be pushed up into the top 5 conversation. I like the Titans chances this year, and fans should have high hopes for this squad in 2020.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have a tremendous roster, and pose a legitimate threat in the AFC this season. However, I don’t have much faith in Philip Rivers, as he did show some regression in 2019. Indy has a legit chance to win the AFC South, but considering the Titans strengths right now, I just have a hard time seeing the Colts win the AFC South this year. Vegas thinks they’ll be competitive, as they’re projected to win 9 games.

I love the Colts coaching staff, and the front office has done a great job with their acquisitions and scouting. Indy drew a bad luck card last year after QB Andrew Luck announced his early and unexpected retirement. The way the Colts played last season, had Luck stuck it out with the Colts, Indianapolis could have been a serious contender in the AFC, but due to poor QB play from Jacoby Brissett, the Colts ended up missing out on the postseason all together. During this offseason, the front office signed veteran QB Philip Rivers to take over as the starter. I love Rivers as much as the next football fan, but this dude is 38 years old, and showed some major decline in his ability to play in 2019. I foresee Philip Rivers being the main source of the Colts struggles next season, as the rest of the offense is incredibly strong. Indy has one of the best O-lines in the league, and they have a great running game too. Marlon Mack is an under rated RB, and the front office drafted rookie RB Jonathan Taylor, who will give the Colts a huge upgrade in the run game. TY Hilton is still a great WR, and rookie Michael Pittman has the potential to become something special one day. On paper, this offense looks to be one of the best this year, but you can only be as strong as your weakest link.

The Indy defense is going to be good this year, and it will be difficult for opposing offenses to score on them. The front seven is stacked after the Colts traded for DE DeForest Buckner. He’ll be amongst a front seven that includes Justin Houston, and Darius Leanard, which means the Colts defense will be attacking QBs at an extremely high rate. I was shocked the Colts let Pierre Desir walk away during free agency, as I was sure he was someone they would’ve wanted to keep. However, the front office replaced him with veteran CB Xavier Rhodes, who should be able to slide in and help this defense. Although there were trade rumors around him, Safety Malik Hooker is an incredibly reliable player, and should be a great anchor for this team to count on. Indy has a tremendous talent throughout their defense, which means the Colts should be in contention for most of their games.

Like I said, this Colts team has an incredible roster, and a great coaching staff to pair with it. The GM seems to always make the best decisions for this franchise too. If they had a better QB situation, I would fully understand why people choose the Colts as the favorites. Luckily for Colts fans, Indy should win enough games this year to earn them a spot in the playoffs.

Houston Texans

Head Coach/General Manager Bill O’Brien has depleted this roster the last couple years, and made it difficult for this franchise to build properly these next coming years as well. For whatever reason, the owner hasn’t fired him yet. Even so, the Texans have enough talent on the roster to remain competitive next year. They could be one of those “in the hunt” teams, as Vegas has them winning 7-8 games.

Houston’s offense is going to stay competitive throughout the year, as Deshaun Watson is under Center for this franchise. With this guy as your QB, you’re always going to have a chance to win games. Although they traded away superstar WR DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals, the Texans WR group isn’t necessarily the worst in the league. Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, and Will Fuller V are all speedy WRs that should help spread out the offense. They also signed veteran Randall Cobb, who should give the Watson a reliable route runner. So even though the Texans will be without a true WR1 this year, Watson should still be able to play well enough to do some damage through the air. The run game is in some serious question though after O’Brien acquired RB David Johnson in the Hopkins trade. For whatever reason, the Cardinals refused to use Johnson last year, which should raise some red flags to any coaches and GMs across the NFL. The RB is also 29 years old, which is typically when RBs abilities begin to diminish. The O-line won’t be doing this team any favors, as they were one of the worst in the league in 2019, and O’Brien didn’t add any new help to this terrible O-line group to help protect his franchise QB. Expect Watson to make some amazing scrambling plays this year, as he’s clearly the best player on this offense.

The Texans defense is rather up and down, but should be the most consistent part of this team. JJ Watt is still an elite player when he’s on the field, and just like Houston’s QB, Watt will always give you a chance to win games. I really liked the Texans draft pick this year when they selected DT Ross Blacklock. He was one of the better options in the D-line this year, and has the talent to really help this defense too. Whitney Mercilus is a fantastic player, and has been a great sidekick to JJ Watt. Outside from those 3 guys, the Houston defense is right around average, to slightly above average. Justin Reid and Bradley Roby are two good players in the secondary, but they’re not great. The defense is in a similar situation as the offense, as Watt is clearly the best player on the team, and this franchise is going to need him on the field in order to have a chance to win games.

Like I said, the Texans will likely be competitive. JJ Watt and Deshaun Watson are by far the best athletes on this team, and if they weren’t apart of this franchise, the Texans would be in a bad situation and needing to rebuild ASAP. When it’s all said and done, the Houston Texans will likely end the year in the middle of the pack.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags are in an obvious rebuild (again), after trading away nearly every star player on the roster. Jacksonville’s future looks bleak, as it seems they can’t keep any superstar talent on the team. In fact, the NFLPA made an announcement to players across the league to avoid signing with the Jaguars if they can (YIKES). They’re likely to be the worst team in the NFL next season, and Vegas agrees. They’re only projected to win 4-5 games next year, which places them in dead last.

The word “struggle” comes to mind, but I don’t know if that’s the best word to use to describe this Jags offense. The only bright spot on this team is the jorts wearing, mustache having QB Gardner Minshew, who actually put up decent numbers during his rookie season (he’s not a bad fantasy football option either). Minshew came out of nowhere after Nick Foles went down with an injury, and played so well, the Jaguars front office decided to dish away Foles so they could ride that mustache for as long as they can (thank you, I’ll be here all week). I will say though, that I do really like Leanard Fournette even though the rest of the NFL seems to undervalue his abilities. He should be getting carries at a high rate next year, as the Jaguars have a mediocre WR group. DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook, and Chris Conley are not very exciting names, and neither of them have proven (as of yet, I’ll give them a chance) to be a WR1 for this franchise. However, the front office decided to draft WR Laviska Shenault in the 2nd round, and he’ll have many opportunities to prove he was worth the pick. The Jags O-line is probably the worst in the NFL, which won’t help with the woes of this offense either.

The defense is real thin, especially after the front office traded away superstar CB Jalen Ramsey last season. They then backed that up with trading away superstar DE Calais Campbell to the Ravens this offseason. Additionally, EDGE Rusher, Yannick Ngakoue is still technically on the roster, but he wants out too, and the front office hasn’t found a trade partner just yet. In the last 2 years, that’s 3 superstar talents leaving this team, which is a bad look for any franchise in any sport. Considering how much is going wrong, the defense will be going through a bunch of growing pains in 2020, as they have a potential 5 rookie starters this season. CJ Henderson and K’Lavon Chaisson are two exciting prospects that have the potential to turn into something special. Josh Allen and Myles Jack are the two veteran leaders on this team, so at least the Jags have THAT going for them. But who knows, the way this front office operates, I wouldn’t be shocked if Henderson, K’Lavon, Allen, and Jack all eventually beg to leave somewhere down the road.

Jacksonville is young and inexperienced, and the front office can’t keep their star athletes on the roster. Hopefully for Jaguars fans, the team figures it out soon. If not, this franchise will be at the bottom of the barrel for years to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: