Posted on July 26, 2017, by Travis Pulver
It is that time of year, Sports fans. Training camp is getting underway for the NFL’s 32 teams, and that can only mean one thing. If you aren’t ready for some football, you better get ready—because it’s almost here.
For the teams in the AFC South, it will be all about beating the Houston Texans. The Texans have owned the division crown for the last two seasons, but have done so with just a 9-7 record. Why is this relevant? It means the Texans were not exactly a good team; just good enough.
Will that be the case this season? Or will someone rise above and take the Texans down?
The story in Houston will be all about the defense once again as the team works in another new quarterback— and that’s okay. When you happen to have one of the best defenses in recent history, you can get away with having to break in a new quarterback. But if the Texans are ever going to make a serious run at the Super Bowl, they will need to get their issues at quarterback figured out.
Luckily, to win the AFC South, they can afford to have a work-in-progress at quarterback. The defense lost two key members of the secondary in the offseason, A.J. Bouye and Quintin Demps. Finding adequate replacements for them will be important, but they can afford a learning curve for them as well.
Why? Because with the return of J.J. Watt and the emergence of Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus quarterbacks are not going to have much time to throw.
There is no doubt that the Texans defense can keep the team in games and in some cases, will win them. But at some point, they will need the offense to win a few games. Whether or not they can depends on whether Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson can step up to the plate.
All signs point to the potential for good things in Jacksonville. They are well stocked with young talent on defense. They drafted a stud running back to help the offense. Once again, they spent more in free agency than any other team in the NFL.
So why isn’t anyone high on the Jaguars?
The defense isn’t bad. Last season the unit ranked No. 6 in the NFL in total yards, but it was 25th in points allowed (25.0 points/game). How is that possible? Well—the offense had a lot of trouble holding on to the ball with 16 interceptions by Bortles and 13 lost fumbles. If teams don’t have to go far to score, then stats like total yards can look good while points allowed do not.
With the talent the Jaguars have on both sides of the ball, the Jaguars should be a good team. But somehow, they find a way to underachieve continually. Whether this season is going to be any different will depend on Blake Bortles. He can’t throw as many interceptions as he did last season (16) and needs to get on the same page with his receivers early and often.
Leonard Fournette should be able to take some of the pressure off, but the onus will still be on Bortles to get the job done. Tom Coughlin will eventually have an impact on the team, but it is hard to say he’ll have much of one this year.
The fate of the Colts resides wholly on the injured shoulder of Andrew Luck. With him, the Colts are probably an above average team. He tends to find a way to make the team better than it is—and they aren’t very good.
Frank Gore should have retired when the 49ers decided they were done with him. T.Y. Hilton is good, but not good enough to be a dependable No. 1 without a solid No. 2 that defenses must respect. Donte Moncrief is certainly not that guy. The offensive line improved as the season went on, but they were never good.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team was bad. Injuries had an impact, but even when the team was healthy, it was still bad. They had a lot of turnover during the offseason on the defensive side of the ball, but it remains to be seen if they will be as good as they think they are.
Luck is starting the season on the PUP list. The team talks like he’ll be ready, but will he be able to withstand the beating he is sure to take?
If there is anyone that will challenge the Texans in the AFC South, it is expected to be the Titans. Marcus Mariota appears poised and ready for a breakout season. With the acquisition of Eric Decker via free agency and Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor in the draft, he will certainly have the weapons he needs at his disposal.
Should DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry provide the team with a dependable running game like they did last year, the Titans offense has the potential for greatness.
The key for Tennessee will be in their defense. The unit was one of the better ones last season (No. 13 in total yards; No. 16 in points allowed per game). While Mariota gets accustomed to his new weapons, the defense is going to need to step up and take some pressure off the offense—especially against the pass (No. 30).
With the addition of Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien via free agency and Adoree Jackson in the draft, the defense should be better against the pass. To stop the Texans and Colts, they will have to be.
And the winner is…
The AFC South division will be a little more competitive this year, but it is quite likely that the Texans will win it again with another 9-7 record. Indianapolis has too many holes on the roster and will be lucky to finish 8-8. Jacksonville will undoubtedly find some way to underperform like they always do (6-10). Tennessee will make it interesting (9-7), but in the end, Houston wins the division thanks to a tiebreaker (head-to-head wins).