AFC South Season Preview
With the NFL season kicking off this week, it’s time to talk about the AFC South, a division with three teams looking to make deep runs in the playoffs and one team starting a long and painful rebuild.
The Jaguars are a team that seems to be ready to lose as many games as possible this year. The team traded star defensive end Calais Campbell to the Baltimore Ravens and star defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was traded to the Minnesota Vikings. Starting safety Ronnie Harrison was also dealt to the Cleveland Browns. Not to mention, starting running back Leonard Fournette was cut and has now signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
That’s a lot of production to replace and the team definitely won’t be able to do so entirely this year. Now, with that said the team isn’t without its bright spots. Defensive end Josh Allen had 10.5 sacks as a rookie, and cornerback C.J. Henderson and defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson both look like promising first round selections. Gardner Minshew should have another solid year as well. Still, this is a team with a lot of weaknesses and few strengths. They would be lucky to win three games.
Last year, the Houston Texans won the division with a 10-6 record, however a lot has changed since then. Texans head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien traded All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. Johnson is a good running back when healthy, but he hasn’t been since 2017.
Now, the Texans also traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and signed wide receiver Randall Cobb. The hope is that they can both make up for the loss of Hopkins, however Cooks is also frequently injured and Cobb is no longer the player he was in Green Bay. Look for the offensive line to improve, and the defense should be better with an anticipated healthy J.J. Watt. This team will struggle though, as you don’t lose a player like Hopkins and repeat as division winners. But as long as Deshaun Watson is the quarterback in Houston, this team will win some games. He has been proving people wrong all his life so who knows, another division title could very well be in the team’s future.
The Titans are a team that could win 10 games, or they are a team that could win seven. Tennessee will hope that running back Derrick Henry can continue his unreal production from the end of last season into the playoffs. They signed both Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill to big money extensions.
They also upgraded their pass rush by signing outside linebackers Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney to improve an area of weakness that particularly showed in their AFC Championship game loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Second year wide receiver A.J. Brown will also look to build off his 1,059 yard rookie season. Regardless, this team will live and die by Henry’s performance. If he struggles, so will they.
The Colts made a couple of significant moves this past offseason, particularly signing quarterback Philip Rivers to a two-year deal and trading for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to give the team a potential game wrecker on the interior. Rivers will immediately have weapons to work with in T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell, and Buckner will be a leader of the defense along with Darius Leonard who has quickly become one of the top linebackers in the NFL.
Not to mention, Indianapolis has one of the best offensive lines in football led by guard Quenton Nelson. The big difference maker for the Colts will be the play of Rivers; he will turn 39 in December and is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. If he plays like he did two years ago, a division title and maybe even a deep playoff run for the Colts is in the future.
David Fortunato is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism