2018 AFC South Preview

Posted on 06 September 2018


Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4)


It’s pretty simple for the Jaguars this season; Blake Bortles plays efficiently and this team is a serious Super Bowl contender.  If he doesn’t and the team has a bad playoff loss, then I believe they will be looking elsewhere in the off-season.  Leonard Fournette has really helped Bortles by being a force in the running game, and I expect him to improve this season.  T.J. Yeldon is also a nice two-way weapon out of the backfield as well.  They did lose Allen Robinson in free agency, and Marqise Lee is done for the season which looks bad for their receiving core, although I see a bit of blessing in disguise here.  Blake Bortles is best not doing too much, and after last years success, I think this will help keep Bortles grounded.  The strength of this team is their defense, and they will go as far as that unit performs.  This team is elite on all three levels,  not just good.  Dante Fowler Jr. appears to finally be arriving at defensive end and, on the other side, Yannick Ngakoue is a turnover machine.  Malik Jackson and Marvell Dareus are exceptional tackles.  Myles Jack and Telvin Smith are top-end linebackers both in run and pass defense.  As good as Jalen Ramsey is at cornerback (and I think he is the best), A.J. Boule is probably a top 10 corner making their secondary outstanding.  This team will be playing in January with that defense, Blake Bortles will determine if they make it to February.


Tennessee Titans (10-6)**


This really has to be the year that Marcus Mariota takes the step up to being a more dynamic, downfield playmaker.  Corey Davis did not do much in his rookie season.  He is big and has speed, however, and I think coming into his second year his development will allow Mariota to make those strides this season.  DeMarco Murray did retire, but Derrick Henry is an absolute tank running the ball.  That offensive line is big and nasty as well, so Mariota doesn’t really need to make that development for them to win because of how strong the running game is.  But, they need that development for the Titans to go to the next level.  The addition of Malcolm Butler at corner is really going to help this defense and allowing Adoree’ Jackson to not have to make offensive plays should help them form a good tandem at corner.  It comes down to exactly how the team will approach things offensively.


Houston Texans (8-8)


I simply don’t know if Houston will stay healthy enough to be able to compete with Jacksonville and Tennessee this year.  Deshaun Watson is coming back from a torn ACL and while there are concerns with that injury, I expect him to be fine.  J.J. Watt, on the other hand, simply has not shown the ability to avoid significant injuries throughout his career.  Tyrann Mathieu was added to the secondary, and he certainly brings a lot of versatility as a safety/corner hybrid but he has had injury issues throughout his career.  I think Deshaun Watson will be good and will be the guy to solve the quarterback situation once and for all for the Texans, and of course, DeAndre Hopkins will once again put up big receiving numbers.  Considering Hopkins hasn’t really had any continuity with quarterbacks throughout his career, his numbers might soar with Watson.  I’m not sure about the running game, and it will be a lot done by committee.  This team just seems to be snake bit when it comes to injuries however, and unless that changes I expect them not to make the playoffs.


Indianapolis Colts (6-10)


All indications are Andrew Luck is healthy and ready to go, and that will instantly make the Colts more competitive.  Anthony Castonzo is their best offensive lineman and has been battling injuries.  They need him to anchor an already shaky offensive line.  Matt Slauson is a decent addition, and it appears the Colts are attempting to address that line which has been long overdue.  Their running game leaves a lot to be desired.  Christine Michael has shown flashes in opportunities, and I would look for him to solidify the running game if anyone does.  Let’s see if T.Y. Hilton can return to explosive form with Andrew Luck back under center.  I see Malik Hooker becoming a game changer at safety, but the other levels of the defense don’t really jump out.  As long as Andrew Luck is healthy, this team will be competitive.  We have seen him take bad teams to the playoffs.  His masking of their deficiencies has caused them to avoid addressing holes in the past, and I see that catching up with them in the immediate future.


**Denotes Wild Card Team


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