24 October 2020

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Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) warms up before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Houston.

AFC South Preview

The AFC South may be one division you never know what’s going to happen simply because of how mediocre all the teams are as the team’s record in the division added up to an even 32-32. The ideal pick on who will win the division is the team who had one of the biggest upsets in playoff history and that’s the Tennessee Titans. Another team that could have been considered a division winner was the Houston Texans until they traded away one of the best receivers in the league in Deandre Hopkins. The Colts have yet to recover from the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck and have replaced him with Phillip Rivers and the Jaguars well they had two first-round picks in the draft along with having a QB with a nice mustache. With that being said here is a preview of each team in the division and a prediction on who will win the AFC South.

Houston Texans

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Everyone knows what the Texans did in the off-season as they traded the only weapon QB Deshaun Watson could throw to and really the only other star on offense besides Watson. The Texans did receive running back David Johnson in the trade who has been solid in the run and passing game but comes with a hefty contract. The Texans did get some more weapons for Watson as they went out and traded for wideout Brandon Cooks who has been good in the past but had a down year last season. Along with getting veteran Randall Cobb who had a solid year as he was reliable for the Cowboys and could have had a better year but was the third option for Dallas. Houston was without a first-round pick as they traded it away to Miami in a package for wideout Kenny Stills and more. The Texans did boost up their defense as they added defensive tackle Ross Blacklock who can provide help to JJ Watt who desperately needs it.

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Watson will be entering a season where he has no Hopkins to throw to and still has no protection but the Texans did give Laremy Tunsil a huge extension. The extension did raise concerns as Houston decided to pay an offensive tackle rather than a top-5 receiver in the league. The Texans did fault to bring in solid players in defense but with the addition of Blacklock and linebacker Johnathan Greenard who will make an instant impact will bring major help. The Texans did lose longtime cornerback Johnathan Joseph who wasn’t the best but was a reliable corner although he is getting up there in age. The only major question for Houston will be how the offense will work out and how Watson will adapt to not having Hopkins when he needs a player to come up big. With a division that is pretty balanced, the Texans could possibly make a run for the division but would need a receiver to step up and take the place of Hopkins preferably Kenny Stills.

Indianapolis Colts

(WTHR file photo/Ben Reiff)

The Colts season was ruined as they dealt with a shock last season when franchise QB Andrew Luck blindsided them with the announcement of his retirement. Indianapolis has found their next QB as they went out and signed veteran Phillip Rivers who will love Indy simply because he now has some protection. Obviously Rivers isn’t the long term answer to their problems but as of now he will due as they planned for their future to be Jacob Eason who was taken in the fourth round. The Colts did make a big splash when they traded away their first-round pick (13th overall) to the 49ers for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and then signed him to a huge extension making him the second-highest DT in the league. Indy was quite busy in the draft trying to boost up their offense for Rivers as the three of the first four picks were all offensive players which were WR Michael Pittman, RB Johnathan Taylor, and Eason at QB. 

Pittman will provide major help with receiving as wideout T.Y. Hilton has been battling injuries for some time now. Pittman will be a favorite target for Rivers with tight end Eric Ebron gone as he left in free agency for the Steelers. The Colts will now have a solid running back group as they have Taylor to go along with Marlon Mack who has been a solid runner for the Colts and hasn’t had as much help. Taylor can possibly play a bigger role for the Colts as he rushed for over 2,000 yards in his final season at Wisconsin and with Mack battling injuries last season, it could possibly be a starter if he impresses in pre-season. For Eason, he will likely take the back seat and red-shirt his rookie season as he will shadow veteran Rivers who isn’t a bad QB to learn from. The Bad thing for Rivers is he now is in Indy where he has fewer weapons but thankfully he will have time to throw the ball as he has far better protection in Indianapolis. The Colts could win the division but once again it’s a matter of how the new offense will work and if Rivers can fit into the system smoothly.

Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard (59) holds the ball for the celebration of a fumble during the second half of the Jacksonville Jaguars versus Titans NFL football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Titans win 30-9. (Photo by Lee Walls)

The Titans entered the 2020 season as favorites to win as they displayed their potential towards the end of the season as they came back and made a run for the playoffs. With bringing back QB Ryan Tannehill who stole the starting job from Marcus Mariota and led the Titans to a 9-7 record and a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Tennessee also brought back the guy who was a huge part in their end of the season and playoff success as they assigned Derrick Henry the franchise tag and hoped to keep him for the future. The Titans let Marcus Mariota who was the second overall pick in 2015 after they felt Tannehill was the way to go for their starting quarterback. The Titans boosted up their offensive line as they took offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, with the 29th overall pick and boosted up their cornerback group by adding Kristian Fulton who may be considered a steal if he’s able to play solid. 

The biggest sleeper pick for the Titans is running back Darrynton Evans who was taken in the third round. Evans will finally give Henry a break from carrying the workload and at 6’3” and 238 lbs he can only take so many hits. Tennessee will be running it back with basically the same offense as they only made minor additions to the team and re-signed most of the free agents but it’s a different case on defense. The Titans will not be cornerback Logan Ryan who was their best cornerback last season has announced he will not return to Tennessee along with defensive end Jurrell Casey who was traded to the Broncos. With the addition of cornerback Jonathan Joseph, they feel confident he can replace Ryan but he is getting up there in age as he is 36 years old. The Titans will hope Tannehill can put on another show similar to the one he put on towards the end of the season but who they need to count on is Henry. Henry was a huge part of their playoff victories as he single-handedly led them past their Patriots and Ravens with as many carries he did last season hopefully he can return even better.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Ben Margot/Associated Press

 One of the weirdest seasons last year as they thought the Philadelphia hero Nick Foles was going to lead them to the successful season but instead were led by a mustache quarterback who wears jorts. Garden Minshew also referred to as MinshewMania will lead the Jaguars into 2020 as Jacksonville traded away Foles after just one season. Foles wasn’t the only player traded away as they also dealt cornerback A.J, Boyue to the Broncos, defensive end Calais Campbell to the Ravens for a bag of chips, and will be without young star defensive end Yannick Ngakoue as he wants out of Duval. The Jaguars had two first-round picks in the draft and they used them both well with the addition of cornerback C.J Henderson with the ninth overall and defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson with the 20th pick. Both players will instantly be considered starters with the lack of talent now in both of those positions but with both of those picks being good their best pick may have come from the second round.

With the 42nd pick in the second round, the Jaguars picked up receiver Laviska Shenault who was projected to go in the first round. Shenault will make a big impact just like the first-round picks as he will now give Minshew another weapon to throw to and will give D.J. Chark some help. Duval will now head into 2020 with a solid receiving core consisting of Chark, Shenault, and Dede Westbrook all still young with the oldest being 26 years old. We will see how that young defense plays without some of their best players but the players who did replace them ain’t no average players they also are some solid players so how will that look like. The Titans start off the season facing all three of their divisional rivals in the first five games and all those three games will be a must-win. The Jaguars defense will be the factor for if they have a successful season as they already have a solid offense and added some more weapons. A player to look out for will be running back Lenard Fournette who was reportedly on the market during the draft and possibly is still on the market.

Prediction

The Titans will likely come out as the 2020 AFC South Champions as they are overall the best team in the division. They have a solid offense surrounding Tannehill but could look to add another solid receiver to take them to the next level and expect Henry to continue to be a big part of the offense. Watson will likely still play well considering he has a solid supporting cast behind when it comes to the receiving core as Fuller will lead the way. Watson will make it work but the absence of Hopkins will be felt all season and running back David Johnson could have a solid season if he stays healthy. The Texans are a team to look out for as they have a good chance of winning the division behind the Titans. The Jaguars will struggle on defense as they have more holes in that defense that they could have done better to address but Henderson and K’Lavon will definitely have a solid season. Jacksonville does have the potential to have a solid offense starting with their receiver core it all comes down to if Minshew will be a victim of a sophomore slump season. The Colts will likely struggle with Rivers as the quarterback as he isn’t getting younger despite having better protection he has less talent to work within Indy.

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