After an up-and-down 2019 regular season, the Tennessee Titans closed it out with a miraculous run ending in the AFC Championship game. Did that run make them even more hungry for this season? The AFC South consists of the already mentioned Tennessee Titans, the Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although it did not play out how they hoped in the playoffs, the Houston Texans were the Divisional Champions. Can the Texans hold the top spot this season as well?
Houston Texans: 2019 Record 10-6 — 2020 Predicted Record 7-9
The Houston Texans are the reigning AFC South Champions. In fact, the Texans have come out on top of the AFC South four of the last five seasons. This has been due in part to a balanced offense and an opportunistic defense. The offense has been kept afloat by quarterback Deshaun Watson and a pair of top-notch receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V. This season, though, Hopkins has been shipped out while Brandin Cooks was brought in to pick up the slack, as he suits up for his third different team in four seasons. David Johnson has also been picked up at the RB position to help ease the load for do-everything QB Watson. If the defense can stay healthy and improve production, the Texans will have a shot to outperform the 7-9 prediction but with Tennessee and Indianapolis on the rise, don’t expect it.
Indianapolis Colts: 2019 Record 7-9 — 2020 Predicted Record 11-5
The Indianapolis Colts made the biggest splash move of the AFC South in the offseason. After boasting the #7 rushing offense in the NFL but the #30 passing offense, the Colts went out and got the 8-time Pro Bowler, Philip Rivers. The hope is that Rivers can gel with his new receivers quickly and make a jump in the win column. The Covid quarantine put a damper on building chemistry but a savvy veteran like Rivers will find a way to be prepared. The defense was strong against the rush last year, giving up under 100 ypg but the pass defense had much to be desired. With a better offensive attack, the defense should be able to stay off of the field longer and produce better than the middle-of-the-pack numbers that we saw last year.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 2019 Record 6-10 — 2020 Predicted Record 4-12
The Jacksonville Jaguars seem to always be in reverse. In eight of the last nine seasons, the Jags have won six games or less. The one outlier was a 10-6 season in 2017. Talent evaluation has been a large problem as they have regularly received high draft picks, only to watch them fall to the wayside on and off the field. The city of Jacksonville would love to see this become the year that their team turns the corner but unless Gardner Minshew can increase his 42.6 QBR while Leonard Fournette stays healthy for an entire season, the likelihood is not there. The defense was one of the worst in the league defending the run at almost 140 ypg. Additionally, the squad did not do enough in the draft to shore up that problem, adding CJ Henderson to an already solid pass defense with the first-round pick.
Tennessee Titans: 2019 Record 9-7 — 2020 Predicted Record 14-2
Following a regular season that found the Tennessee Titans finishing just one game above .500, they turned in some of the best football in the NFL. First traveling on the road to defeat an always dangerous New England squad but then following that performance up with a dismantling of the top-seeded Ravens in Baltimore. What do they have for an encore in 2020? The Titans used a bruising running game and a deceptively good passing attack in 2019. With a small draft class, they bolstered that offense, grabbing Isaiah Wilson in the first round, a top OT from Georgia. The defense will need to improve if they hope to make the jump from Wildcard contender to Superbowl winner, though. If some of the young defenders round in to the form that the Titan Coaching Staff hopes, anything is possible.