May. 22, 2020
Projected NFL Standings: AFC SOUTH EDITION
The AFC South will be highly competitive this year, with three teams all capable of winning the division. The AFC South always seems to be a fairly tight division that comes down to the last few weeks of the regular season. After a surprise run to the AFC Championship game by the Titans, Phillip Rivers signing with the Colts, and the Texans making some head-scratching trades this should be an entertaining division to watch.
Indianapolis Colts: (10-6)
After finishing last season at 7-9, the Colts added what they think is the missing piece to their roster. Phillip Rivers signed a one-year contract with the Colts in March. The Colts have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. If Rivers can play above the level of Jacoby Brissett, the Colts have a good shot to win the division. For Rivers to succeed, the Colts will need all their offensive weapons to step up. The Colts added wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the draft. Each should play a significant role in year one.
The offensive line is also one of the best in the league. The one concern that sticks out on offense is the tight end position. The Colts lost Eric Ebron in free agency to the Steelers. On defense, the Colts strengthen their defensive line by trading for DeForest Buckner. The Colts have all the talent to win the AFC South.
Tennessee Titans: (9-7)
The Titans surprised the world last season when they made it all the way to the AFC Championship game as a wild card team. Unfortunately, I think they'll be stuck with another wild card game this year. I understand Ryan Tannehill had the best season of his career last season, but in my eyes, the contract will look bad after a few years. He's also looked even better because of the talent around him. Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, and Adam Humphries are a few of the talented Tennesse weapons. The Titians also had one of the best run-blocking offensive lines last season. For the Titans' to continue their dominance on the offensive line, they will need to successfully replace Jack Conklin at right tackle.
On defense, the Titans look solid at secondary after adding cornerback Kristian Fulton in the second round of the draft. Pairing Fulton with Adoree' Jackson, Malcolm Butler, and Kevin Byard will make the Titans tough to throw against. The worry on defense is the defensive front. The loss of Jurrell Casey to the Broncos will hurt. The Titans added Vic Beasley Jr. to rush the passer but I don't know how effective he'll be. The Titans and Colts will be battling for the division title all the way through week 17.
Houston Texans: (7-9)
The biggest trade of the offseason came when the Texans traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals. David Johnson was traded to the Texans as part of the compensation for Hopkins. In a separate trade, the Texans acquired Brandon Cooks. Those were just a few of the offseason moves made by the Texans. Some might be surprised to see the Texans at 7-9, but with so many holes on the defensive side of the ball and the division improving, 7-9 sounds right. I worry about how the secondary will hold up. The Texans need Bradley Roby, Gareon Conley, and Vernon Hargreaves III to show improvements.
The offensive line is also a question mark. Deshaun Watson needs to be better protected. Speaking of Watson, the loss of Hopkins will result in Watson throwing the ball to Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, and Randall Cobb. While this could be a good unit, it's an obvious downgrade from Hopkins. The Texans have the best quarterback in the division and a great quarterback can take you far, but the Texans roster isn't nearly as talented as the Colts and Titans.
Jacksonville Jaguars: (2-14)
Not that long ago, the Jaguars stood atop the AFC South. Sadly, the Jaguars are now in a rebuild. The defense, which was once one of the best in the NFL, added help in the draft with corner C.J. Henderson, and edge rusher K'lavon Chaisson. While both additions should help the defense, the Jaguars could still use help at the linebacker and cornerback position. The Jaguars don't have much depth on the defensive side of the ball.
The way Gardner Minshew performs this year will be the most important aspect of this season. If Minshew struggles the Jaguars will be looking at Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft. The weapons are alright, but the lack of a big target over the middle of the field will cause problems. Tyler Eifert isn't consistently healthy enough to provide that for the Jaguars. Hopefully, the promising young receivers make up for the lack of a tight end. Two wins might be too low, but I don't see Minshew as the long term answer at quarterback. The Jaguars' lack of depth should lead to them receiving a top draft pick in the draft.
Let me know if you agree! The NFC East will be next.