Predicting The AFC South - Who Comes Out On Top?
The AFC South has belonged to the Indianapolis Colts for the best part of 15-years. Will they relinquish this dominance this year? Will a team like the Houston Texans make a comeback? Will the Jaguars finally make that leap and reach the playoffs? Can Mariota bring the Titans' out of anonymity? Read on and find out.
Indianapolis Colts 10-6 AFC South Champions
The Colts have a reasonably soft schedule; it will include a complete shutout of their own division where they go 6-0-0. The Colts will start off slowly by dropping the first game to the hard hitting defense of the Buffalo Bills. After that, they will go on a four-game stretch until they drop another to Tom Brady and friends.
This here is one that will surprise a lot of people, but somehow, the Saints' will pull off the upset of this round, they will control the match on the ground and chew through the clock, limiting Andrew Lucks presence.
The Colts' will go on a two game win streak into the bye, including a dominant showing over the Denver Broncos.
After their bye week, it’s a loss to the Falcons and a win against the Bucs' for Luck and co. As they head to Heinz field as heavy favorites. Unfortunately, a re-invigorated Steelers' defense and a hungry Ben Roethlisberger will pull of the upset.
At 7-5 the Colts' could be in trouble from challengers, however, the Colts go on a two-game win streak before dropping one to the Dolphins' in a slugfest, then finish the season easily with a win over Tennessee to round out a 10-6 season and a wildcard berth.
Jacksonville Jaguars 7-9 AFC South Third Place
The Jaguars have drafted intelligently over the last few seasons and are in position to become perennial contenders. Unfortunately for the Jaguars' their opening first four games will be rough. Jaguars will be opening the season 0-4 after getting beat by the Steelers', Dolphins', Patriots' and Colts'.
The Jaguars' will bounce back with a surprise win over the Bucs' and the Texans' in back-to-back wins. The streak stops against the Bills' as the front seven man handle the Jaguars' o-line and put the hurt on Blake Bortles.
Heading into their bye week at 2-5 is not favorable, however, after the bye, they pick up wins against the Jets' and a sneaky upset in Baltimore'. After this it’s a home loss in a tight match separated by a field goal against the Titans'.
After getting defeated by the Titans', the Jags' bounce back the following week; taking the game away from the Chargers' after shutting down Melvin Gordon. After beating the Chargers' Mariota protects his house with a spirited fourth quarter comeback to take it away from the Jags' in the final moments.
A loss is on the horizon as the Colts' come to town, and then it’s a surprise home win over the Atlanta Falcons as they fail to stop a surging rookie running back, T.J. Yeldon. The Jaguars' will then hit the road to New Orleans where they will suffer a defeat before closing out the season with a win over the quarterback-less Houston Texans.
Houston Texans 4-12 AFC South Fourth Place
Despite having a game changing defensive star in J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans still lack any semblance of an offense, even after drafting Jaelen Strong. Arian Foster will again be crucial to the Texans' success, but age and a track history of injuries are enough to make any front of house operation sceptical about the coming season.
Former 2013, second round draft pick D.J. Swearinger was released, leaving a gaping hole in the secondary. Playing against the Indianapolis Colts twice a season, giving yourself issues like this is never a good move, despite the knocks on Swearinger's coverage skills. Luckily enough, the Texans' first week match-up is against a quarterback who threw ZERO touchdowns to wide receivers last year in the Kansas City Chiefs, this match appears to be a bruising defensive struggle. The Chiefs have a more reliable running back and more talent laden defense to pull off the win, in a tight season opener.
0-1 is not exactly how you want to start your season, and with the next match-up again being against another strong defense, the Texans' have a really tough start. In what looks poised to be another defensive shootout, Cam Newton stars as the Panthers roll over the Texans'. Sitting at 0-2, the Texans' will finally break the duck against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. J.J. Watt will introduce Jameis Winston to the NFL in the same unique way he does every rookie QB, by putting them on the dirt, repeatedly. After a three sack game by Watt, the Texans are now perched at 1-2.
Matt Ryan and Roddy White have always had an unbelievable ability to connect on home games, this will be no different. As J.J. Watt does his best to cause havoc, White and Ryan steal the show as the Texans' drop to 1-3 after some troubling displays at the quarterback position. The next two games will be losses, Luck will have a field day against the Texans' defense and the Jaguars defense will cause multiple turnovers, whilst Clowney has a career game against Bortles, the Texans' will not be able to fire on offense.
At a troubling 1-5, with the playoffs fading fast, the Texans' will head to South Beach as the Dolphins' play host. After getting to Tannehill quick and early, both Clowney and Watt will finish with two sacks each as the Texans' pull off what will be their only upset of the season as they manage the clock on the ground, running outside the tackles to steer clear of Ndamukong Suh.
Week 8, at 2-5, the Texans' will be hosting the rookie entourage from Tennessee, by this time; Marcus Mariota should be settled and will use his legs to get away from a heavy pass rush. The Texans' will come close to a miraculous fourth quarter comeback, but will inevitably fall short as they slip to 2-6 before the bye week.
After the bye week, the Texans' will be outplayed by Jeremy Hill and AJ Green as the Bengals' make a playoff run, dropping them to 2-7. After that, the skid is halted by a win at home against their old starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Texans’ thump the Jets’ to get to 3-7. The New Orleans Saints will visit Houston the following week, and will go home empty handed as both offenses fail to find that offensive spark. Houston’s’ defense wins this contest, jumping them to 4-7. The following game against Rex Ryan’s surging Bills' will see the Texans' lose on the road, dropping them to 3-8.
At this point the season is lost, and the Texans’ are well and truly out of the playoff picture. Following the defeat to the Bills’, the Texans lose out for the remainder of the season.
Tennessee Titans 9-7 AFC South Second Place
There Titans’ are an extremely intriguing team this season. An enigmatic rookie quarterback is where their season will be won or lost. A possible hammer of a running back in David Cobb, who shouldn’t find beating out Bishop Sankey a difficult task, could be a game changer, he has a Jeremy Hill type of skill set. The defense is a big question mark, but the offense will help that side of the ball.
There Titans’ will start the season making a strong statement, two road victories against Jameis Winston and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa and then they take down the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland to start 2-0. Unfortunately this is halted the next week as Andrew Luck takes the Titans’ defense to school, picking them apart with ease.
After heading into their week 4 bye at 2-1 the Titans’ will be well rested for their upcoming three-game home stretch. After the Bills’ defense batters down the hatches of the Titans’ o-line, Mariota can only do so much as the Bills’ use their defense, which will be their trademark for the season, to beat the Titans’ who now drop to 2-2.
A career performance from rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota will see the Titans’ pull off and upset against the much more favored, Miami Dolphins. Finding his favorite target, rookie WR Dorial Green-Beckham for two touchdowns sets the Titans’ up for victory. This performance is then backed up again as the Titans’ pull out all the punches against the Atlanta Falcons as they march on to victory and now sit at 4-2.
A week 8 match-up will see the Titans’ rise above divisional rivals, Houston, as they move to 5-2, surprising everyone in the NFL, it is by this stage, UDFA defensive lineman, Derrick Lott has worked his way into the starting rotation and grabs himself a career high, two-sack performance.
Over the next two weeks, the Titans’ are brought back to earth with a demoralizing defeat by the New Orleans Saints, which gets backed-up by another loss to the Carolina Panthers. There Titans’ now sit at 5-4 and still have high hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Breaking their two game slide, the Titans’ pull of the win against a hungry Jacksonville Jaguars, only to fall the next week to the Oakland Raiders.
6-5, the nicest percentage the Titans’ have had in four-seasons. After a shock-loss to the Raiders’ the Titans’ claw one back with a win at home against the Jaguars’. A win against the Jets’ follows as David Cobb uses his carries to get over 100-yards on the ground, against possibly the most fearsome defense in the NFL. 8-5 and poised to make a late-season playoff surge, the Tennessee Titans will lose to the Patriots’ beat the Texans’ and then fail to clinch a playoff spot by losing to the Indianapolis Colts. A reasonably soft schedule helps the Titans’ immensely.
There we have it, your predictions for the AFC South, the Colts, unsurprisingly will again run the division, which has been a common theme for almost two decades and the Titans’ will get agonizingly close to that playoff berth they have been clamouring for since 2008.
There Jaguars’, will need to hope for Bortles to retain the ball better this season than he did last season, and that will happen as the Jags’ get ever so close to that 0.500 mark.
Without a quarterback, DeAndre Hopkins and Jaelen Strong will find it tough going this season, unless either Bryan Hoyer or Ryan Mallett are able to stand up and show themselves, the Texans’ could be in for a long season.
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