2017 AFC South Preview

1. Houston Texans– It was one of those roller coaster years for the Houston Texans, but they still won the division for the second straight season under Bill O’Brien despite some trying times. J.J. Watt only played in three games after re-injuring his back and they got inconsistent play from Brock Osweiler who got a big time contract after starting just seven games the previous year for the Denver Broncos. Let’s fast forward to now. Brock has been traded to the Cleveland Browns and the Texans traded up and ended up drafting quarterback Deshaun Watson from Clemson. They now have their franchise quarterback and the potential tandem of Watson and DeAndre Hopkins could be a fun duo to watch for years. Their defense still handled business last year even without J.J. Watt. We finally saw JaDeveon Clowney remain healthy and showed why he was selected first overall in 2014. If Clowney can stay on the field and you bring back Watt, this is the most dangerous defensive tandem in the game today. During the off-season, the Texans also signed cornerback A.J. Bouye.

2. Tennessee Titans– The Titans surprised a lot of people in 2016. Marcus Mariota showed no signs of a sophomore slump. They haven’t won the division or made the playoffs since 2008, but heading into 2017, there’s some reasoning for optimism with a young roster that continues to show promise. What’s impressed me about the Titans is how nicely they’ve built their team in the draft. They drafted Corey Davis, the 6’3 receiver from Western Michigan to give Marcus Mariota that weapon on the perimeter and recently, they signed veteran receiver Eric Decker to a one-year deal. The defense is an underrated unit that plays above-average football. As a whole, this is an old-school team. The Titans improved significantly last year from three wins in 2015 to nine last season. Let’s see what’s in store for them in 2017.

3. Indianapolis Colts– Just two years ago, they were in the AFC title game. Since then, they’ve missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons and they haven’t missed the postseason in three straight seasons since 1992-1994. This is a subpar division and there’s really no excuse whatsoever for this team to be a combined 16-16 in its last two seasons. I think this is a make or break season for Chuck Pagano and I feel that he should’ve been fired two years ago. You either have it or you don’t to make it as a coach in the NFL and unfortunately, he doesn’t have it. The biggest loss for the Colts this off-season was losing Dwayne Allen to the rival Patriots and he was Andrew Luck’s second weapon of choice after T.Y. Hilton. Over the years, I’ve stated that the Colts needed a possession receiver for Andrew Luck and not these speed guys. You need guys that can tower over defensive backs and create mismatches all over the field. The biggest issue with the Colts these past few seasons has been their defense. They’ve struggled to stop the run, they struggle to defend the pass and they can’t get to the quarterback. I really liked them drafting Malik Hooker out of Ohio State. He’s a bigger corner (6’1) with tremendous ball skills that can help out right away. Chuck Pagano enters the season on the hot seat.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars– Every year, they’ve come in with some high expectations and then, they’ve faltered and struggled. The talent is there on both sides of the football. You have a quarterback who is more than capable of taking games over in Blake Bortles, nice receivers across the board and a defense that could potentially be in the top ten. The Jacksonville Jaguars have won no more than five games in their last six seasons and coming off a three-win campaign in 2016, new head coach Doug Marrone definitely has his work cut out for him. This is a franchise that hasn’t played postseason football since 2007-08. They drafted Leonard Fournette from LSU and this was a pick I really liked. The Jaguars haven’t had a consistent guy out the backfield since the days of Maurice Jones-Drew. The defense has playmakers all around. Malik Jackson is one, Dante Fowler is another then you also have Jalen Ramsey who I think could be the next big-time safety in the secondary.

2017 Predictions
1. Titans (10-6)
2. Texans (9-7)
3. Colts (7-9)
4. Jaguars (4-12)

For the first time since 2008, I like the Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South. This is a team I’m high on and they have everything in place to win this division. This is an old school team that likes to run the football, use the tight ends over the middle and they play defense. Next, to the Cowboys and Raiders, they have the third best offensive line in the NFL. The Titans finished the season winning eight of their last twelve games and three of those wins were against the Packers, the Broncos and they beat Kansas City in Kansas City and we all know how tough it is to get a win at Arrowhead. I truly believe this team is ready to take that next step and get to the playoffs.