For serious football heads, the AFC South is on the rise with some exciting teams, young talent and real upside. For many armchair fans, it’s still a weak division that will produce a play-off team only because it must produce one as division winner. The truth is probably somewhere in between the two.
There have been developments this off-season to excite fans of all four teams, to differing degrees, but there are still much better football teams out there. So what can we expect from the division this season? Rather than producing two play-off teams and all +.500 records, this will likely be a season of growth for teams such as the Jags, hope for the Titans, renewed hope at a deep play-off run by the Texans and the Colts…well, the Colts are tricky.
Andrew Luck is everything to that team but they are so mediocre around him, with the exception of the WR corps. That said, they were mediocre in his first three seasons and they amassed 11 wins each year and progressively better post-season performances.
With all this swirling, your diligent AFC South correspondent has tallied all 256 games this season to try to give some accuracy to predictions for each team. It’s doesn’t increase the possibility of me being correct, it just means that we have the correct number of wins and losses across all teams. With that, let’s look at the end before we have begun with the AFC South standings & records come January 2017.
Division Winners – Houston Texans
Record: 9-7 (home 5-3, road 4-4)
The Texans will take the South, just. They will pip the Jags with a better in-division record (5-1). The Texans have taken their weakest element, their offence, and seriously tooled-up. We’ve written about it here. Aggressive in free-agency and the draft, they have gone from a slow, one-trick personnel group (DeAndre Hopkins is a pretty special trick though), to a dynamic group filled with play-makers. With that quality D, and JJ Watt looking likely to return sooner rather than later, the Texans are the class of this division. Not forever, but for this season, they have what it takes to edge the division, mainly due to beating up their rivals.
Second – Jacksonville Jaguars
Record: 9-7 (home 3-5, road 6-3)
The Jags will come oh so close. It will be a mediocre 3-3 division record that does for them in terms of making the play-offs. However, this is a four-win swing on last year and should provide the springboard to potentially having a very special year next year. The D is stocked, the offence explosive. The growth of young players should give plenty of cheer in northern Florida.
Third – Indianapolis Colts
Record: 7-9 (home 6-2, road 1-7)
Stop! I know! If they got to 8-8 without Luck (mostly), how do they end up with a worse record?! I think this roster, this season, without Luck, could go 1-15 so Luck is worth at least six wins. They are worse than last year, their D is bereft of talent and depth. Their o-line is OK, their WRs are exciting at the top but not incredibly deep and – STAT ALERT – they haven’t had a 100-yard rushing game since 2012!! Luck is elite, class, a world-beater and he will drag this team to relevance. Just not relevant enough. They will go 4-2 in-division but won’t have enough on the road against tougher opponents. Luck can’t shoot-out everyone.
Fourth – Tennessee Titans
Record: 4-12 (2-6 home, 2-6 road)
This is quite hard but I have chosen not to adjust my predictions based on the preseason. The Titans truly are the darlings of the preseason (and I bought in to the hype by drafting Tajae Sharpe in the NFLGirlUK Writers Fantasy League) but I must hold true to my own protestations that the preseason does not alter much about what happens when the games count.
There will be improvement and they have hope but rarely do poorly coached teams thrive. I believe they will suffer due to their HC, their D is talent-poor and the O, whilst growing, will need more time.
An 0-6 in-division record will cripple them. The Titans have hope but it is for the future.