Last year the AFC South was divided by two winning teams in the Indianapolis Colts (11-5) and Houston Texans (9-7), and the lowly Tennessee Titans (2-14) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14). It was largely ugly and little figures to change this time around, except with the Colts probably winning the division by an even larger margin. That said, let’s cover how good Indianapolis should be along with the rest of the 2015 AFC South.
4th in Division: Tennessee Titans; 3-13 W/L Projection
Strengths: The front seven could be pretty good for the Titans this season. This is especially true if Brian Orakpo can regain what he had in his first three seasons in the league. He’ll be joined by fellow outside linebacker Derrick Morgan, who has 18.5 sacks in the last three years. D-lineman Jurrell Casey will also play an important role here after tallying 15.5 sacks in the past two seasons.
Strengths: We could go with several areas for this team, but most of the skill positions seem to be largely unsolved right now. Can Justin Hunter or Kendall Wright step up and be a true go-to receiver for second-overall pick Marcus Mariota? Can Bishop Sankey or David Cobb emerge from Tennessee’s weak backfield? Additionally, will the offensive line be any better than its horrific performance last year?
3rd in Division: Jacksonville Jaguars; 4-14 W/L Projection
Strengths: Terrible to open the 2014 campaign, Jacksonville’s offense stands a solid chance of success this time around. Blake Bortles now has a season of experience, T.J. Yeldon gives the Jaguars a quality running back, and Allen Robinson is set for stardom at wide receiver. Add new tight end Julius Thomas into the mix and there’s no shortage of weapons here.
Weakness: Jacksonville is really starting behind the 8 ball here after third-overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. went down with an ACL tear in his first-ever practice. The D-end was supposed to anchor this defense and help them improve what’s otherwise a forgettable group. With no great offseason additions, don’t expect the Jaguars D to do much better than last year’s performance (26th overall defense).
2nd in Division: Houston Texans; 6-10 W/L Projection
Strengths: J.J. Watt is as ever deserving of the MVP award as any defensive player in NFL history. In the past three years he has 122 QB hurries, 105 QB hits, 52 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and four touchdowns – all this despite continually being doubled teamed. If Jadeveon Clowney can come back strong following an injury plagued rookie season, he and Watt could form a nightmare defensive-end duo. New addition Vince Wilfork will be yet another plus for this defensive line, acting as a huge run stopper.
Weaknesses: Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer are the two options at quarterback for Texas this year, and neither one seems like a particularly good choice. Mallett, who opened as the starter last season, has potential; but he’s still an unknown after tearing his pectoral muscle last year just three games into 2014. Hoyer played decent in Cleveland’s first half, before throwing just 2 touchdowns and 9 interceptions over his last five contests. Considering that he’s nothing more than a game manager those are awful numbers.
1st in Division: Indianapolis Colts; 12-4 W/L Projection
Strengths: As has been the case ever since he joined the team four years ago, Andrew Luck will once again be the biggest strength that the Colts have. With almost 4,800 yards and 40 touchdown passes last year, Luck will almost certainly lead Indianapolis to the top of the South once again. Of course, he’ll have plenty of help this year in the form of T.Y. Hilton, who’s also coming off a career year where he tallied over 1,300 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. The receiving corp could be bolstered since Andre Johnson will take over as the No. 2 pass catcher. After catching 85 passes for over 900 yards in Texas’ anemic offense last season, the long-time veteran should do even better with a skilled signal caller like Luck slinging the ball.
Weaknesses: The defense doesn’t appear particularly strong in any one area. Linebackers D’Qwell Jackson and Bjoern Werner could stand to improve this season. The defensive line, despite getting 41 sacks last year, didn’t put enough pressure on quarterbacks. And the secondary was definitely below average, which was a bad combination when coupled with the defensive line. With the addition of RB Frank Gore and Johnson, the Colts have the offensive talent to make the Super Bowl. But will their defense be strong enough to help them get there?