A Division Resurgent: 2018 AFC South Preview

  • By Alex Bab
  • August 30, 2018
  • 0
Alex Bab

Just a few short years ago, the AFC South was arguably the weakest division in the NFL. It seemed like the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts were perennial also-rans, with the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars near the bottom of the league. My how times have changed. Jacksonville built through the draft and last year were a few plays away from the Super Bowl. The Titans made the playoffs. The Texans had all the talent in the world but were derailed by injuries. The Colts were…well, they were terrible but they finally get Andrew Luck back. Indeed, the AFC South has risen again.


 Houston Texans

Record in 2017: 4-12

Key Player: Wide Receiver- Will Fuller

Player to Watch: Quarterback- Deshaun Watson

Going into the 2017 season the Texans were one of the most talented teams in the NFL on paper with one major question mark: quarterback. Deshaun Watson arrived and lit the NFL on fire for a few weeks, making plays with both his arms and his legs and suddenly the one thing holding Houston back for several years seemed to be solved. Then Watson got injured and the wheels came off. He’s healthy this year and if he can recreate last year’s performance, this offense will be a force to be reckoned with. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the NFL. If Will Fuller can develop chemistry with Watson, he is a constant home run threat. He and Hopkins can make Watson’s return easier. Injuries derailed the defense as well, as they lost both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Now healthy, they’ll team back up with Jadeveon Clowney to make opposing quarterbacks miserable. This team has all the tools, now they just need to put it all together. Prediction: 11-5


 Indianapolis Colts

Record in 2017: 4-12

Key Player: Guard- Quenton Nelson

Player to Watch: Tight End- Eric Ebron

Andrew Luck has been one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL since his debut. He’s also spent much of that time running for his life as the Colts’ front office failed to build an offensive line to protect him. They finally addressed that by drafting Quenton Nelson in the first round. All reports from camp indicate that Nelson has everything you want in a guard: big, tough and looking to hit people. Hopefully after missing all of 2017 to injury, Luck is ready to take advantage of finally having some help up front. T.Y. Hilton can still make plays but he doesn’t have a lot of help in the passing game. Eric Ebron finally showed flashes of his potential last year in Detroit. The Colts will need that to continue as he can be a big red-zone target for Luck. Defensively, the Colts ranked 30th in both yards and points allowed per game in 2017 and that needs to change. Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard should help but this defense needs an overhaul. The Colts will rely on Luck to outscore opponents, which won’t come easy. Prediction: 6-10


 Jacksonville Jaguars

Record in 2017: 10-6

Key Player: Cornerback- A.J. Bouye

Player to Watch: Tight End- Austin Seferian-Jenkins

The Jacksonville Jaguars were within minutes of representing the AFC in the Superbowl last year. A team that had been essentially a laughing-stock for years almost took down the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. Looking at this roster, it makes sense. They drafted well for several years and their two biggest strengths are the two things that always translate to the postseason: they play great defense and run the ball very well. Jacksonville led the league in rushing yards per game last year thanks to Leonard Fournette and company. They’ll need to replicate that same success this year. Blake Bortles’ struggles have been well documented and losing top receiver Marqise Lee for the season isn’t going to help matters. This team needs to run and then run and then run some more. Bortles will need to be successful off of play-action. The addition of Seferian-Jenkins, who had a good year for a bad Jets’ team last season, should give Bortles a big red zone target. The defense was one of the best in the league last year and should remain there. A.J. Bouye needs to have a great season, because opponents will almost never throw at teammate Jalen Ramsey. The only thing against them is they aren’t going to catch anyone by surprise this year. Prediction: 10-6


 Tennessee Titans

Record in 2017: 9-7

Key Player: Defensive Tackle- Jurrell Casey

Player to Watch: Running Back- Derrick Henry

Last season the Titans employed a similar strategy to the Jaguars: run the ball and play good defense. They just didn’t do it as well as Jacksonville did, though they still made the postseason. Marcus Mariota didn’t look right last season and there were questions about whether he was fully healthy following his 2016 injury. Those injury concerns should be gone now. Mariota has the talent with both his arms and legs to make big plays but doesn’t have a ton of weapons to work with. Tight end Delanie Walker has been criminally underrated the past several years and will remain a focal point of the passing game. The saving grace for the offense is they have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. They ranked 13th in rushing yards per game last year. Derrick Henry needs to step up and be the lead back now that DeMarco Murray is gone. The defense was 13th in yards per game but fourth against the run. They stifle ground games thanks to a solid front seven led by Jurrell Casey. They’ll need a similar performance on both sides of the ball to have any wild card hopes. Prediction: 8-8

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