NFL Season Outlook: AFC South
Jacksonville Jaguars –
Ceiling: Jacksonville is a trendy pick this year, and with good reason. The offense looks to only improve on last year’s success and the defense should be much improved with all of the offseason additions. Have they improved enough to challenge the mighty Houston Texans for AFC South supremacy? Considering the fact that the Mighty Texans, are the Mighty Texans, I would say so. Let’s say 9-7 and they get blown out in the first round of the playoffs.
Floor: While Jacksonville has gotten better on paper, they still need to put it together on the field. There are definitely a lot of pieces that need to come together. I can easily see the Jaguars sliding backwards and hitting 5-11 while they wait for their young players to mature.
Storyline: Are the young Jaguars players ready to contribute already? Is Blake Bortles actually good? Will heightened expectations for Jacksonville bear little to no fruit?
Best Game on the Schedule: I’m personally interested in the week six matchup against the Raiders (which is a phrase I never thought I’d be saying). Two teams on the rise meet head to head. We’ll see who’s further along after all is said and done.
Worst Game on the Schedule: It’s hard to tell. Based on the hype, Jacksonville should be in every game, even against the likes of the Packers, Chiefs and Vikings, but you just don’t know until they line up on Sunday. Week five against the Bears should be a fairly easy matchup.
2016-2017 finish: First in the South, Fourth Seed in the AFC Playoffs
Indianapolis Colts –
Ceiling: We can give Indy a pass last year because Luck was hurt, right? They should be able to return to ruling the AFC South this year right? Not so fast. Are we sure Indy’s good? Sure, Andrew Luck is a great (and filthy rich) quarterback, but what are his weapons? Does he have any weapons? He’s like Saddam Hussein fifteen years ago. Everyone says he has weapons, but when you look closely, it’s mostly rocks and camel shit. The Colts win a couple games on guts alone to get to 8-8. Doers that save Pagano’s job? I’m not sure that it does.
Floor: I think the Colts are a middle of the road team. I can see them dropping to 6-10, maybe if things go belly up midway through the year, but Andrew Luck will win some games for the Colts on his own, which should get them to at least six wins this year.
Storyline: Is Luck fully recovered from his lost season? Are the Colts actually any good? Is the defense adequate enough to hold a lead? When is Frank Gore’s AARP card coming in the mail?
Best Game on the Schedule: Honestly, if the Colts are even still in the talk for a playoff spot, and they should be, the last three weeks against the Vikings, Raiders and Jaguars should be incredibly interesting to watch.
Worst Game on the Schedule: The opener against the Lions just feels like it’ll be a clunker from the Colts perspective.
2016-2017 finish: Second in the South
Houston Texans –
Ceiling: The Texans needed a quarterback, really, really needed a quarterback. So they went out and overpaid for Brock Osweiller. He looks, at first glance, to be an upgrade to last year’s carousel of suck that was the Houston Texans quarterback position, but we’ve only seen what, six, eight games of him? DeAndre Hopkins is going to make any quarterback look good (see previous comment about the carousel of suck) and Lamar Miller should be an upgrade at running back, but I don’t trust Houston yet. Because of that, I say 8-8.
Floor: The big question mark at quarterback could turn into a big middle finger, which would lead the Texans down a road similar to last year. The only difference is that they are playing better teams this year, and the Colts and Jaguars appear to be taking a step forward (even if that just means getting healthy) so they have a lot less wiggle room. I can see the Osweiller experiment blowing up in their face and a backslide to 5-11.
Storyline: Is Osweiller any good, let alone worth the money? Is Watt healthy enough to take the pounding he will endure all season? Is Clowney a true bust of a draft pick or can he turn it on and do something this year? Will Hopkins ever not see a double team?
Best Game on the Schedule: It’s got to be week seven against the Broncos, right? Osweiler will either show them up, or get his ass handed to him. I am very interested in the matchup of DeAndre Hopkins and the Broncos secondary as well.
Worst Game on the Schedule: Week eight at the Lions. Either the Texans are flying high after a win over the Broncos or down in the dumps after a loss. How they respond the following week against a crappy Lions team could say a lot about their season. I’m not predicting a good game for them here.
2016-2017 finish: Third in the South
Tennessee Titans –
Ceiling: I don’t know. I like Mariota, and I feel like they are trying to build around him, I’m just not convinced they are in a position to do much more than beat a couple bottom feeders and maybe steal a divisional game or two. I’m thinking 5-11 is where they top out this year. They may be getting better, but they still have a ways to go.
Floor: Of course, they could also completely blow it, with no one taking the jump they should in terms of development and only win two games this year. That’s a distinct possibility, and I honestly would not be surprised if it happened.
Storyline: Can Mariota improve and stay upright? Will DeMarco be a help or a hindrance to Mariota’s development? Can the defense provide enough cushion for an offense that may need a little time to gel?
Best Game on the Schedule: There are a lot of bad teams on the Titans’ schedule this year, so that can be a good thing for the developing team. I am interested in seeing if Tennessee can handle their business against the bad teams like the Browns and Dolphins and maybe separate themselves a little.
Worst Game on the Schedule: Week one against the Vikings and week ten against the Packers. It won’t be pretty for Titans fans.
2016-2017 finish: Fourth in the South