Everywhere I look, I see so-called “experts” predicting the Tennessee Titans to have an average season in 2018. They are wrong. Vegas odds makers have the Titans hovering around eight wins, with the Colts at six and a half and both the Jaguars and Texans between eight to ten wins. The facts don’t back up those numbers.
The Titans are in the best situation out of every team in the AFC South, because they are the best team in the division. Let’s break it down.
First, let’s compare the teams on the defensive side of the ball. The Jaguars boasted a ferocious defense in 2017, which was arguably the best in the league. With playmakers like Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell and first-round pick Taven Bryan, the Jaguars defense looks strong for years to come.
Moving to Houston, the Texans also boast a defense with big names like JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Beyond the big names, there is not much depth. The lack of depth on the defensive line and lack of talent in the secondary is why the Texan defense struggled after Watt’s season ended with an injury. They do have a promising young linebacker in Zach Cunningham, but they lost their defensive coordinator, as Mike Vrabel became the head coach of the Titans.
Speaking of Vrabel, he has inherited one of the most talented and underrated defenses in the league. The Titans added Malcolm Butler to a secondary that already featured a safety who tied for the league lead in interceptions in Kevin Byard. The addition of Butler will allow Logan Ryan to move back to his natural position as the nickel corner, with Butler and Adoree’ Jackson on the outside. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ defense in Baltimore led the league in defensive touchdowns in 2017. Look for him to continue that success with Tennessee’s explosive secondary.
The front-seven got a serious upgrade this offseason with the drafting of Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry. Along with veterans Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, the Titans defense appears poised to terrify opposing quarterbacks. Those weapons mean that the Jaguars are not necessarily the clear best defense in the division.
The Colts defense, besides Malik Hooker, is a joke.
AFC South defensive power rankings:
On the offensive side of the ball, the Jaguars have a clear drop-off in talent. Leonard Fournette showed flashes of greatness last season, but he was injured for a large portion of the year. The biggest problem for the Jaguars is at quarterback. Let me be clear, Blake Bortles is, by far, the worst starting quarterback in the AFC South. In addition to Bortles, head coach Doug Marrone’s offense was one of the most predictable in the NFL in 2017. That predictability is what cost the Jaguars a chance at the Super Bowl, as the Patriots defense honed in on the offensive plays in the second half. I expect the Jaguars offense to take a huge step back in 2018. Especially with their two best wide receivers gone in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
Houston is in a different position from Jacksonville. They have the quarterback of the future in Deshaun Watson and they are banking on him to continue the success he found in six games in 2017. National pundits have crowned Watson as one of the best players in the league, but they should slow down that line of thinking. People seem to forget that Watson went 3-3 in six starts. The best team they beat with him was a poorly-coached Titans. He lost to a Seattle team that the Titans and Jaguars beat. Yes, he was electric, but he was not invincible. The Texans will need him to be lights-out in 2018. They will go as far as he and DeAndre Hopkins take them.
The Titans biggest change on the offensive side of the ball came behind the headset. Terry Robiskie has been replaced by Matt LaFleur. There are some large question marks with the Titan offense, but there is reason for optimism. Marcus Mariota will be in an offense designed for him to thrive and he will have had a full offseason to prepare for 2018. Corey Davis will also be given the opportunity to become a true number one wide receiver. The signing of Dion Lewis has also made the backfield one of the most explosive in the NFL. Lewis and Derrick Henry will dash through opposing defenses and help boost the offense to elite status.
The Colts offense comes down to the man who wears number “12”, Andrew Luck. The Colt offensive line was a mess in 2017, so they went and drafted Quenton Nelson to help remedy the problems, but they are more than one player away from fixing the line. They do have T.Y. Hilton, but it is unclear if he will have a quarterback to throw him the ball. The Colts have said that they expect Luck to return by training camp, but they said he would be ready to play to start the 2017 season, too. He has not thrown a football in almost a year. If Luck plays, the outlook for Indianapolis will change.
AFC South offensive power rankings:
The AFC South has gone from the worst division in football to one of the best, and the Titans have the potential to have the best defense and offense in the division.
There is no doubt, the Titans are the best team in the division.