Part three of the NFL Division Prediction Series brings us to one of the more complicated divisions in the AFC South. Jacksonville took a huge leap forward by making it all the way to the AFC Championship game last year. Indianapolis and Houston did not have their preferred starting quarterbacks for most or all of the season. Tennessee seems to be stagnant. What will happen this year?
Winner of Division
“Blake Bortles” by Keith Allison licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
This division has been the “no one is worried about any team in it” since the injury to Andrew Luck over 2 years ago. Houston seemed to be on course to seize control, but the issue at quarterback has haunted them since their inception. Jacksonville has decided to take a different role in building this franchise, play sound defense and have a strong running game. Jacksonville has won games in spite of Blake Bortles, but with Leonard Fournette banging out 30 carries a game, and a top 3 defense in the NFL, the rest of the division will struggle to keep pace.
“Waiting” by AJ Guel licensed under CC BY 2.0
This decision is about as close as it could be between second and third place. Deshaun Watson came out like a man possessed last season averaging about 4 TD passes a game in games he started. A torn ACL at the start of November and the lingering back injuries for JJ Watt derailed an exciting season for the Texans. I do not see Deshaun having the same immediate success he did last year, but I can see this team fighting for a Wild Card spot as long as they can stay healthy.
“Marcus Mariota” by Erik Drost licensed under CC BY 2.0
Tennessee looked like they were a franchise poised to take a major step forward over the last 2 years. Well, they took a small one I guess. Marcus Mariota is a good quarterback, not great. Derrick Henry is a quality running back. The defense is…… average compared to the offenses they went against last year. Why can this team not be better? I understand it is not a prime free agent destination, but last year was their best opportunity to show some progress and growth. I like the backfield in Tennessee but they do not have the overall talent to compete this year.
IMG 1737 by Angie Six licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
I can hear the rabid fans destroying me as I type this. Let us begin with the fact that Andrew Luck has not played a competitive game in the NFL since 2016. Relapse upon relapse of his injury has caused this process to drag out. After this, we hear that he may not even want to be there anymore. Drama, drama, drama, drama, drama surrounds this team currently. Along with the fact that they have, in my opinion, the least talented roster in the division (although Tennessee could make that claim), this team just does not it currently. The roller coaster in Indy continues, and this could be where it all finally comes to a head.