The AFC South is the second weakest division in the NFL, featuring two of the worst teams in the league in the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans. The Titans managed a 2-14 record on the season and went 1-5 in the division. Not much further ahead, the Jaguars ended the season at 3-13, but also finished 1-5 against the division. The Houston Texans seem quantum leaps ahead, finishing with a 9-7 season going 4-2 within the AFC South. The Indianapolis Colts put together a solid season, going 11-5 overall, 6-0 in the AFC South and had an appearance in the AFC Championship, but were unable to advance.
The Colts are head and shoulders above the rest of the division, with -400 odds to win the AFC South. Indianapolis was fairly busy in the offseason, landing wide receiver Andre Johnson from Houston and running back Frank Gore from San Francisco. Gore, a power runner, should help the passing game open up, giving Andrew Luck more opportunity to hit his new target, Johnson, in addition to the talented T.Y Hilton. Defensively, the Colts were exposed in the AFCCG against the Patriots, flat balls or not. Their secondary needs a big boost and Indianapolis did a bit of an age purge in an attempt to get a younger secondary and to get faster at linebacker. While the Colts may not be the top dog outside of their division, look for them to stay safely ahead in the AFC South in 2015.
While the Texans finished just two games behind the Colts last season, they’re +450 to reign supreme in the AFC South. This season could be rocky for Houston on offense. There’s a big lack of confidence in newly acquired quarterback Brian Hoyer and news just broke that running back Arian Foster, one of the best backs in the league, will miss the beginning of the regular season after groin surgery. Without a threat in the running game, passing will become that much more difficult and their no. 1 receiver, Andre Johnson, left for the Colts in the offseason. DeAndre Hopkins will fill his shoes, but without the focus on Johnson, his numbers could decline. The defense will have to keep the Texans in games all year long, which should be easy with reigning DPOY J.J. Watt ready to roll. Jedevon Clowney, the no. 1 overall pick in last years draft, may actually be healthy this year, meaning the defense could really be tough. They’ll have to be if they want to keep pace with the Colts.
It’s a long way to mediocrity for the Jaguars, both in the AFC South and across the league. Jacksonville is listed as +1600 favorites to win in the South, meaning it could be another year of growing pains. The Jags do have youth on their side as starting quarterback Blake Bortles began to show some promise at the tail end of last season. He’ll need to improve a great deal for Jacksonville to stay out of last place in the division. The rest of the offense will need to develop in a hurry as the roster truly lacks depth and talent. Their starting running back used to be a college quarterback and their first round draft pick, no. 5 overall in the 2012 draft, is likely to never resume his career after rarely making it on to the field after several failed drug tests. Defensively, the no. 3 overall pick in this years draft, defensive end Dante Fowler, tore his ACL in OTAs and is out for the season. The linebacking core and secondary both lack playmakers, which means we likely won’t see much improvement from last season to this season.
Could the Titans finally have their franchise quarterback? Quarterback and no. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, Marcus Mariota, will likely be thrown into the fire early as the starter. There are plenty of growing pains with a rookie quarterback, and Mariota will be especially prone to them with a roster that has glaring holes throughout. Tennessee lacks quality running backs and managed to pick a couple of receivers off of other team’s scrap heaps. They’ll need rookie Dorial Green-Beckham to make an immediate impact at receiver, or it could get ugly again. Some improvement could be seen on the other side of the ball as the Titans landed linebacker Brian Orakpo in free agency and brought in several cornerbacks to help shore up a porous secondary. Making lots of offseason moves looks promising and shows the fans the front office is trying to right the ship, but the Titans are still at +1400 to win the AFC in 2015.
How Will the AFC South Teams Rank for the 2015/16 Season?
Weak division, weak competition. The Colts will win the division simply because the Texans don’t have a quarterback that can hang with Andrew Luck despite their superior defense. J.J. Watt is single-handedly carrying the Texans on his shoulders, but it just won’t be enough to top the Colts. The battle for the bottom will most certainly come down to the Titans and the Jaguars. While Jacksonville barely edged Tennessee for third in the AFC South last year, look for the Titans to come out ahead this year. The Titans get a pro-ready quarterback in Mariota, which should be the difference maker and push them ahead of Jacksonville. As for the Jaguars, it’s not all bad news. They may finish last in the AFC South, but at least they have nice weather.