For as maligned as this division is, you’d think the combined record of these teams would be sub-500. But in reality, the AFC South is probably the toughest division in the conference headed into 2020. For as much praise the Titans have received (and rightfully so), let’s not forget they didn’t even win the division last season. That crown still belongs to the Texans. While Jacksonville is likely out of it this year, the Colts are still a rising contender as well. They are very well an Andrew Luck retirement away from dominating the division, and they hope Phil Rivers can solve their QB woes. The crown to the AFC South will still likely sit in either Houston or Nashville, but as we’ve already seen, any one of these four teams can upset the other.
Tennessee Titans (O/U 8.5)
The Titans come into 2020 with a lot of buzz surrounding their chances. Ryan Tannehill, who emerged as the starter last year, is back under center after working out a 118-million dollar extension. Tannehill is coming off an underrated season, where he recorded quite literally the fourth-highest single-season passer rating ever. If he can just maintain his play and stay healthy, Tennessee possesses one of the greatest steals in recent memory, giving the Miami Dolphins just a fourth and seventh round pick at the time to acquire his services. But for as well as Tannehill played in 2019, the bread and butter of the offense is still RB Derrick Henry. On the defensive side of the ball the Titans have slowly changed the personnel and gotten younger as some of their draft picks have come into their own. The Titans are a well-built team and will be a tough out for any opponent this fall.
My Prediction: 12-4
I waffled a little prior to the season on the Titans. I loved them last fall and my feelings towards the team haven’t changed – but the fact remains Houston still won the division last year. Most of the media believes the Titans will easily win the division, when in actuality Houston was better through the regular season last year. In the end however, I concur. It won’t be as easy and clear as some predict, but the Titans are the better football team. Both teams should make the playoffs, but this time it’ll be the Texans who wear the wild card badge.
Houston Texans (O/U 7.5)
Bill O’Brien has taken a lot of well-deserved criticism for the way he’s managed the personnel of the Texans. One thing he’s always done though is win football games come fall. The Texans have won the division four out of the last five seasons - including the past two - and as long as Deshaun Watson is under center, they figure to be in yearly contention for quite some time. The offense looks a lot different from a year ago however. Houston’s controversial trade of WR Deandre Hopkins brought RB David Johnson to town to man the backfield. In an effort to replace the production lost from Hopkins, the Texans acquired both Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb to team up with Will Fuller. The defensive personnel is relatively unchanged, therefore expect a similar result. Houston isn’t the best team in the AFC, but they have a built-in floor in terms of wins.
My Prediction: 10-6
The Texans are off to an 0-2 start, having opened up with the Chiefs and the Ravens. Statistically, 0-2 teams have just a 10% chance to make the postseason, but given the level of difficulty of their first two opponents, and the extra playoff spot in each conference, excuse me if I don’t panic just yet. While I don’t think they have enough juice to win the division from a legitimate Titans team, they have more than enough to earn a wild card spot in the top-heavy AFC.
Indianapolis Colts (O/U 9)
The Colts have been in scramble mode each of the last two seasons. In 2018, they broke in new HC Frank Reich, who only got the job because they were stood up by Patriots OC Josh McDaniels at the altar. Last season, the shocking news of Andrew Luck’s retirement left them without a QB. Indianapolis hopes they’ve found a short-term solution to their problem with the signing of long-time Chargers QB Phillip Rivers. GM Chris Ballard has done a fantastic job building a balanced roster around him, but the team is still young in many spots. The Colts are dangerous enough to beat any team on any day, but whether or not they have the consistency to do it for sixteen games is another matter.
My Prediction: 8-8
I like what the Colts are building, I really do. I don’t think Indy had much choice in the Rivers signing – who else was going to play QB for them? I just don’t know how good he is at this stage in his career. He threw 23 TDs and 20 interceptions last year to go with a 50.8 passer rating. Rivers might end up with a gold jacket someday and he gives Indy stability at the position, but I’m not sure he’s elevating anything at this point. The Colts are a solid team, but they’re still the 3rd-most talented team in a tough division.
Jacksonville Jaguars (O/U 4.5)
It seems like a lifetime ago the Jaguars were mere minutes away from defeating the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. What happened? It’s a new age in Jacksonville, and the period of transition appears to be just beginning. Gardner Minshew is headed into his first and possibly only full season as the Jacksonville starter, and the roster around him is barren. Jalen Ramsey; gone. Allen Robinson; gone. Leonard Fournette; gone. A.J. Bouye; gone. It’s easy to get the picture. HC Doug Marrone could be walking through the valley of the shadow of death this fall, and with the talent of the other three teams in the division – it’s tough to expect much in terms of wins and losses.
My Prediction: 2-14
The Jags are one of the worst teams in football, plain and simple. That’s pretty much by design too. They cut their best RB weeks before the opener, they shipped off their best corner to the Rams last fall at the deadline, and they’ve really made no significant effort to improve the roster outside the NFL draft. It’s safe to say the scouting department has its eyes on Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, who’s surely going to be the #1 overall pick next spring, and to do that they need to lose – a lot. I’m not sure they get the top pick, but they certainly shouldn’t win many games this season.