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If the AFC South Ruled the World

As part of the preseason build-up, we’ve looked at three reasons for each team to get excited and three for them to get a little worried. Or really worried (sorry, Titans fans, it always seems to be you. I’m rooting for you, I am…it’s just tough…). We’ve done a quick review and rank of the QBs in the division and we will look at predicted ACTUAL standings a little closer to season kick-off.

You’re hopefully getting your AFC South fill from the preseason matches and recaps here on NFLGirlUK.com and other wonderful news outlets. But we have to get this hype train moving and make AFC South believers out of the most apathetic of pigskin fans.

EVERYTHING FROM HERE ON IN IS NOT ACTUALLY WHAT WE THINK WILL HAPPEN. IMAGINE PLACING A VIRTUAL REALITY MASK OVER YOUR EYES AS YOU READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AND EMBRACE THIS ALTERNATE DIMENSION WE ARE ABOUT TO DELVE INTO…

Today we decide that the AFC South teams each have a season for the ages. Two teams break 11 wins, both going to the play-offs, the other two make waves and come to national attention and both finish better than .500 at 9-7. This year is essentially a non-stop highlight reel sending armchair fans into the arms of the Titans et al in their droves. The music in Nashville is sweeter, the BBQ in Houston smokier, the hoops in Indy like NBA Jam on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis, US readers!) with the ball on fire and amazing dunks, the pools at EverBank Field clean and free of detritus.

In this beautiful Utopia, we bask in the accolades thrown to the NFL’s (now) most popular division. So who wins the major awards? Let’s look into the future:

MVP

JJ Watt, DE, Houston Texans

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Convention would suggest we are voting for a QB here only. Only non-QBs have won this award in the last 10 years and that was LaDanian Tomlinson for the Chargers in 2006 – check out the stats on that season – and Adrian Peterson’s Superman season in 2012. Between 2007 and 2014, three QBs shared the award with Peyton Manning winning three, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers two apiece. Obviously, Cam Newton is our reigning MVP. But. This is the year for paradigm shifts as the standings of the AFC South in this wondrous future attest to.

No position has won the award other than QB or RB since…the great Lawrence Taylor in 1986. To mark the 30 years since the Hall of Fame Linebacker won this award, we see another defensive player scoop the award. Step forward 2016 MVP…JJ Watt.

The Defensive End returns week 1 and after a modest start, by his standards, he begins to dominate on a resurgent Texans team. His MVP case doesn’t rest on sacks alone, as he indulgences his penchant for batting down passes, recovers fumbles and even gets an INT. Watt will get a couple of offensive TDs to, lining up at TE in goal-line packages.

Whilst all of this will bolster Watt’s case, what drives his MVP candidacy is that he breaks Michael Strahan’s single season sack record of 22.5, which has stood since 2001.

Watt reached 20.5 in the 2012 season, which was his best season to date and one of the all-time great seasons for a defensive player in the NFL, and again in 2014 which was also, you know, a hall of fame season.

Given how the league skews in favour of the offence it would take nothing short of the greatest all-time season for JJ Watt to win this award. More so, his team would have to be relevant late in the season for it to matter. The MVP must contribute wins to his team, that’s why the preponderance of QBs in the list of winners.

Of the active players today, JJ Watt has proved his ability to make highlight reel plays from a position that usually just has one – the sack – and be a difference maker across the D and, when called upon, on offence too.

JJ Watt will have 24 sacks to smash the record, he will force five fumbles and have at least one INT. On offence he will have at least two receiving TDs.

This will give JJ Watt his first MVP and cement his Hall of Fame status only six seasons into his career.

Offensive Player of the Year

Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts QB will scoop a couple of awards this season. He will be awarded the OPOY award thanks to his blistering play leading a largely mediocre Colts team to a winning season through his control and mastery of the offence, dragging less talented comrades to greater heights, weaving a sense of destiny around the famous horseshoe and unloading bomb after bomb downfield to his speedy WR corps.

TY Hilton will be the burner on the outside, Dante Moncreif will bust-out as a star WR playing all over the field, ending the season with over 1,500 total scrimmage yards and 16 TDs, Philip Dorsett will blossom and provide muscle on congested fields and Dwayne Allen will finally be the go-to TE we all expected, freed from the Samson-esque locks of Coby Fleener’s preening shadow.

Luck will near 5,000 yards and will toss for 40+ TDs. What gets him the award is the number of fourth quarter comebacks and the near flawless QBR he posts.

Defensive Player of the Year

Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Because of the politics of the awards season, JJ Watt won’t be DPOY, the voters will choose another player. That player will be Dante Fowler Jr.

After losing his rookie season to an ACL tear suffered in camp prior to ever getting on the field, the former number three overall pick has been the talk of Jags camp and will become the face of this uber-talented, young and impactful D. With Ramsey a playmaker in the backfield, Myles Jack being the general in the middle of the D, marshalling the troops and patrolling sideline-to-sideline, and Malik Jackson pressuring the middle of the line and pushing the pocket, Fowler will face one-on-one situations so often it will be like a videogame.

Fowler will record 20 sacks to trail only MVP Watt in that tally but it will be the manner in which he dominates OTs, his athleticism and flair that bring him to national attention.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

pic credit: www.tennessean.com

pic: Tennessean.com

In what is a massive turn-up for the books, the Titans have the two strongest contenders for this award. 5th round pick Tajae Sharpe becomes the go-to WR for Marcus Mariota picking up good numbers as well as plaudits for his strength and smarts as he is clearly the No1 WR on the Titans after only a few weeks.

However, it is 2nd round pick and former Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry who scoops the OROY award. As the back-up to DeMarco Murray at the start of the season, Henry will soon outplay the peripatetic veteran and become the face of the ‘exotic smashmouth’ espoused by Head Coach Mike Mularky (though it sounds like it should be espoused by someone in a second tier fraternity at a third tier university).

Henry will have 17 TDs combined as he gains 1,600 yards combined. What wins judges over is his relentless motor, his ability to break tackles and show extra burst through the second and third levels. Henry will break records for yards after contact for an RB and generally set in train group think to focus purely on power backs for drafting out of college and in the fantasy football world.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Myles Jack, LB, Jaguars.

Jack was supposed to go well inside the top 10 picks in the 2016 NFL draft. He didn’t. Teams got spooked by reports of his knee. That he might be ok for a couple of years but then deterioration would mean he might not make a second contract. And so he fell. And fell. He fell until the Jags traded up to the 36th spot and picked him up. They got a steal.

In his rookie season Jack will assume the responsibilities of the field-marshal. He will be the HC’s best friend and the voice of the system on the field. Whilst he won’t have the splashy plays of fellow youth-revolution players Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler Jr, Jack make waves with his tackles for loss, sacking the QB occasionally and making INTs when he drops into coverage. Jack will be seen as a hybrid of the Carolina LBs Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechley.

****

And with that, we awake from the wonderful dream where our beloved AFC South had risen to glorious new heights, from the doormat of the NFL to the….doorbell of the NFL? That doesn’t sound right.

For more reality, we will continue to recap the preseason and make some more measured predictions as we get closer to what we are all here for – red hot, steamy football.

 

 

Article written by:

Gareth joined the NFLGirlUK.com team in 2016 and covers the AFC South for the site. He has been following the NFL for over 15 years, though first encountered the game through Channel 4’s hourly recap programme in the late 1980s, and over the last couple of seasons begun to write about the draft through his own blog. Gareth tweets from @GDux3 and you can also follow him on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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