NFL Division Preview: AFC South

The AFC South was a competitive division in 2018. Three teams ended the season within 2 games of each other. As always, the division is slated to shake up this year. So many things have changed and there’s plenty of excitement to start the 2019 season.

2018 Standings

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Tennessee Titans
  4. Jcksonville Jaguars

In 2018, the Houston Texans won the division with an 11-5 record and played their rivals, the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. The Colts won the game handily and advanced to the next round where they met the end of their playoff run versus the Kansas City Chiefs. The Tennessee Titans finished one game behind the Colts at 9-7 while the Jacksonville Jaguars lagged behind the rest of the division at 5-11.

2019 Preview

Houston Texans

Added: S Tashaun Gipson, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, CB Bradley Roby

Lost: S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Kareem Jackson, RB D’onta Foreman

The big story surrounding the Texans this offseason is the holdout of star DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans applied the franchise tag to him this offseason and he has yet to report to training camp. Aside from that, the defense has improved. The front seven without Clowney still consists of JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus who are both effective edge rushers The additions of Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby are all welcome additions in the secondary. It’s not a perfect unit but it’s a good enough one to get by.

The Texans were fairly silent on offense this offseason. The offensive line is still a massive area of concern. Keke Coutee had a solid season amidst the absence of Will Fuller while DeAndre Hopkins did what Hopkins does best. Deshaun Watson has been steadily developing and looks primed to be the quarterback of the future in Houston. Lamar Miller isn’t exactly a flashy name at running back but he’s a solid player and will get the job done.

Indianapolis Colts

Added: LB Justin Houston, WR Devin Funchess, WR Parris Campbell

Lost: WR Ryan Grant, WR Dontarelle Inman, S Mike Mitchell

The Colts seem like the best team in the AFC South entering the season. They earned ESPN’s highest offseason grade. A team starved for wide receiver talent last year added Devin Funchess in free agency as well as drafting Parris Campbell. The additions were necessary given the Colts had only one1000 yard receiver in 2018 and the next closest was tight end Eric Ebron with 750. The Colts didn’t do anything flashy but they used the cap space at their disposal to fill in the roster where it was needed. Andrew Luck is back and completely healthy and was quietly playing like an MVP candidate last season, living in the shadow of Patrick Mahomes. His offense now has Marlon Mack who turned a corner late last season and more wide receivers to spread targets around and take defense’s eyes off of TY Hilton.

On defense, the Colts had been lacking and last season when Darius Leonard made an impact his rookie year and was a first team All-Pro linebacker. The secondary, anchored by cornerback Kenny Moore and safety Malik Hooker is solid. Rookie cornerback Rock Ya-Sin has been making an impact in training camp and figures to be a fixture in the secondary as well. Meanwhile, they landed prized free agent pass rusher Justin Houston to help an otherwise lacking pass rush consisting of Leonard and Jabal Sheard.

Tennessee Titans

Added: WR Adam Humphries, QB Ryan Tannehill, DE Cameron Wake, WR AJ Brown

Lost: S Jonathan Cyprien, LB Derrick Morgan, LB Brian Orakpo

The Titans also had issues that needed to be addressed on offense. No player on their team topped 1000 receiving yards while Corey Davis was the only one to eclipse 500. They looked to the draft to add wide receiver AJ Brown as well as signing slot receiver Adam Humphries in free agency. Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis make up a solid committee of running backs, the former of which ran for 1000 yards last year including a 238 yard, 4 TD game against the Jaguars. The Titans also acquired quarterback Ryan Tannehill in a trade with the Miami Dolphins to compete with Marcus Mariota who posted only 2528 yards and 11 TDs last season along with 8 interceptions in 13 starts.

Despite the losses, the Titans defense is fairly solid. Safety Kevin Byard is one of the most underrated star defenders in the NFL. Malcolm Butler, Adoree Jackson and Kenny Vaccarro round out the secondary. Those 4 combined finished the season with 10 interceptions and 34 pass deflections. While it could use work, Jackson is developing and Logan Ryan who recorded eight pass deflections and 0 interceptions last year looks to be more productive. The front seven is stout, especially with the addition of Cameron Wake. The unit already featured Jurell Casey, Wesley Woodyard, Jayon Brown and Harold Landry who combined for 22 sacks last season. Wake looks to add to that total this season while striking fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Added: QB Nick Foles, WR Chris Conley, OLB Josh Allen

Lost: S Tashaun Gipson, QB Blake Bortles, RB TJ Yeldon, WR Donte Moncrief

The curious case of the Jaguars decline in 2018 may never be solved. Their defense was a shell of what it was the year prior putting up a 37 sacks, good for 22nd in the league. They also recorded a sub-optimal turnover differential with -12. Only two teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers had worse differentials. All of this came despite continuity and keeping star players like Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell and Myles Jack. This year bodes worse for the Jaguars defense while they lost linebacker Telvin Smith who is taking the 2019 season off from football. They also said goodbye to defensive tackle Malik Jackson, linebacker Dante Fowler and safety Barry Church. Lastly Yannick Ngakoue is holding out as a result of contract disputes and the Jaguars will be without their strongest pass rusher if they cannot come to an agreement.

The Jaguars, on offense. finally exiled quarterback Blake Bortles and replaced him with coveted free agent Nick Foles. However, the rest of the offense can be called into question. Running back Leonard Fournette struggled to get going last season and has no clear path to success in 2019. In the passing game, after wide receiver Marqise Lee tore his ACL, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief failed to shoulder the load effectively. Now Cole, Westbrook, Lee and Chris Conley will all fight to shoulder the load but everyone knows the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Predictions

Favorite to win: Indianapolis Colts

My Predictions

  1. Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
  2. Houston Texans (10-6)
  3. Tennessee Titans (5-11)
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
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