It’s no secret that the AFC South has been one of the weaker divisions in professional football the past two seasons.
Over this time no team in the division has finished with double-digit wins and the only playoff victory the division has to its name is the Houston Texans’ win over the Oakland Raiders who were without Derek Carr.
Jacksonville has possibly been the worst team in the league during this time. Indianapolis has been a disappointment and Tennessee has been at best mediocre.
However, these narratives are bound to change this fall as all four teams will be improved next season.
Talent-wise the Texans are far and away the best team in this division. Last season they had the the best defense in football, giving up 301 yards per game (1st in the league).
Oh yeah, did I mention they accomplished that achievement with J.J. Watt only playing in three games last year?
That’s right, the best defense in the league will be adding back the most dominant defensive player of this decade. The rich get richer and the rest of the conference is going to have to put up with this again.
But the return of Watt isn’t the only reason why the Texans will be improved next season. Despite having the league’s best defense and some excellent offensive skill players like DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller, they couldn’t get over the hump into double-digit wins in the regular season.
The reason why is quite simple: they didn’t field a competent quarterback last season.
Despite what you think of rookie Deshaun Watson, his production this season should easily be better than what Brock Osweiler was able to provide.
Of course this isn’t a very hard baseline to beat, but again its just another improvement for the Texans if Watson can just be a passable, below-average quarterback in his rookie season.
Expect the Texans to finally give the division a team with double-digit wins for the first time since 2014.
Looking for a dark-horse team to not only sneak into the playoffs as a wild card team, but possibly even win the AFC South? Well look no further than the Titans who were the most improved team in the division last season.
They improved their win total by six games mostly because of their dominant run game headlined by DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Together the duo led he Titans to the 3rd best rushing attack in the league.
However, there was still obvious weaknesses with this team last season. The passing game never really found its footing as the unit ranked 25th in the league and even worse was their defense against the pass which ranked 30th out of 32 teams last season.
To strengthen these weaknesses the Titans added talented defensive backs Logan Ryan and Adoree’ Jackson along with speedsters at the receiver position in the form of Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor. By adding multiple pieces to address the team’s two most pressing needs, the Titans have a great chance to improve their win total yet again.
The biggest factor however will be the health of Marcus Mariota. When healthy, he is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. If he can give Tennessee 14-16 starts, expect another 9-win or better season.
The Colts have made several additions to a defense that was previously ranked 25th last season. However, this won’t be what causes an improvement for Indianapolis. What will be is the continued development of Andrew Luck who may be on the verge of one of the better seasons in his career.
Last season he earned his highest total QBR since he has been in the league along with a career-best 63.5% completion percentage. This entire franchise evolves around Luck and how well he plays. Its the difference between an 11-5 season and a 8-8 one.
If he get back to his 2014 self (40 TD passes) and continue to work on his interception problem, the Colts will have a great chance to have their first winning record since that season.
I will admit, this team is going to be harder to prove that they will improve next season.
However, the Jaguars made a crucial pick in the NFL Draft by drafting Leonard Fournette. Last season no running back on the team ran for over 500 yards, which didn’t make life on a struggling Blake Bortles any easier.
Finally, the Jaguars have found a running back with franchise-changing talent that can give Bortles more time to develop as a passer.
Much like Indianapolis, the Jaguars are very dependent on their quarterback to lead their team to success.
This didn’t happen too often last season, but management is seemingly giving Bortles one last chance to show that he has improved and can be a dependable leader for this franchise.
Adding Fournette was a step in the right direction to help out Bortles. How many wins Jacksonville will improve by will depend on how well their quarterback will perform with a better situation in the backfield.