It’s almost that time again, on September 8th, there will be a Super Bowl 50 rematch to kick off the new NFL season. This series is being used to go through each division to do a preview of each team and where each team is going to place within each of their divisions.
This division should be rather interesting to watch this season because the entire division could be really good in three or four years. Every team has someone that they feel is going to be their starting quarterback for the next ten years. Tennessee is still building for the future, Jacksonville is knocking on the door of being a really good team, Indianapolis should bounce back from a subpar 2015 season, and Houston spent a lot of money this offseason to revamp their offense. This division could very well come down to the last week of the season.
The Tennessee Titans are still building for the future and will probably have another down year. They did pick up some good pieces via free agency and the draft in the offseason to help Marcus Mariota develop into a quality NFL quarterback going forward. First round pick Jack Conklin should sure up the right side of the line. DeMarco Murray should return to being a force again now that he is in a scheme similar to what he ran in Dallas, he will also be a good mentor to their second round pick Derrick Henry. The former Heisman winner is big, powerful runner that will be a good compliment to this entire offense. Delanie Walker and Anthony Fasano are both solid veteran tight ends that will help Mariota, this receiving squad beyond that is decent at best though. The best receiver on this team is an aging Andre Johnson, who saw a major drop-off in production last season. Kendall Wright and Rishard Matthews are decent, but nothing to write home about and fifth round pick Tajae Sharpe has the potential to be good, but is inexperienced and needs to develop. This season should be about letting Mariota develop and get him more weapons on the outside in the offseasons to come.
Their defense doesn’t have any playmakers outside of Brian Orakpo, but they do have a good amount of depth. They did have a fairly defensive heavy draft, second round picks Kevin Dodd and Austin Johnson could make impacts this season, but they need to develop and get more experience to become better in the future. Dodd isn’t the fastest rusher, but he has good instincts and vision to develop into a good rusher. Johnson has the strength and ability to become a really good nose tackle, he just needs a lot of reps to improve his technique and initial quickness. They did bring in veteran safety Rashad Johnson to help solidify the back of their defense, but their secondary is still a weakness. One thing that is in Tennessee’s favor, however, is that they have another season with Dick LeBeau as their defensive coordinator. If anyone can help these young players develop and make this defense formidable, it is LeBeau.
Jacksonville is a team that should make a giant leap this year and could finally break the .500 barrier. The season really just depends if Blake Bortles can make a leap entering his third year in the league. He has solid running backs behind him with Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon, a really good receiving squad with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, and tight end Julius Thomas, so there is really no excuse for him this season. Last year he made some pretty good steps by increasing his touchdown and yard totals, but he needs to get his interceptions down and improve his completion percentage a little bit. If he can improve, this offense has the chance to be pretty good.
Their defense has a lot of young talent that needs to develop, but should be good in that time as well. This upcoming season, they are getting three young rookies that have first round talent. Their first round pick from last year, Dante Fowler, missed the 2015 season with a torn ACL, but has a lot of potential as a pass rusher. This year’s first round pick, Jalen Ramsey, was the number five pick that has the potential to be a playmaking safety or cornerback, depending on where the Jaguars want to play him. Their second round pick this year, Myles Jack, would have probably been a top five pick this year as well, but fell due to a knee injury in his senior season at UCLA. Jack, when healthy, could probably play any position on the field, offense or defense, as he did in college. If they can all stay healthy and develop then this defense could be really good.
The 2016 Colts should look better than they did last year. Andrew Luck looks like he is healthy, which makes a huge difference for this team. Matt Hasselbeck did a decent job last year while Luck was dealing with his shoulder issues for nine games last year, but it wasn’t good enough for the Colts to make the playoffs. This was the first time that they had not made the playoffs since they drafted Luck in 2012. Andrew Luck also has some good weapons with receiver TY Hilton, tight end Dwayne Allen and veteran running back Frank Gore, they should help Luck transition back. The Colts also drafted center Ryan Kelly in the first round this year to help Luck stay upright this season. If Luck can return to 2014 form then this team should be pretty sound offensively, but if his injury problems continue, the Colts could be in for another mediocre season.
The Indianapolis defense has the chance to be good this season as well. Robert Mathis is still a really good pass rusher from the outside linebacker spot and they have a good rotation of players along the defensive line. Defensive linemen Kendall Langford, David Parry, and Zach Kerr are all solid players, nothing spectacular, but solid. Hassan Ridgeway was a steal in the fourth round and should be able to add some really good pass rush when he gets on the field. Patrick Robinson and Vontae Davis are both above average corners, Mike Adams is a proven veteran safety and second round pick TJ Green should be able to help sure up the secondary. Green has to develop a little bit, as a converted wide receiver, he has the size and speed to play in the secondary, but he needs to learn the position better in his rookie season. Although this might not be the best defense in the league, there is no glaring weakness to stop them from being good.
The Houston Texans probably had one of the more interesting offseasons in the NFL. By picking up quarterback Brock Osweiler from Denver and running back Lamar Miller from Miami, a lot of people would declare that they won the offseason. Miller is a very talented player that is just entering his prime that was underutilized by the Dolphins, he should be a good replacement for the oft-injured Arian Foster. Osweiler is an improvement over Brian Hoyer, but it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the new system. He is fortunate to have one of the best receivers in the game with DeAndre Hopkins and backup Cecil Shorts is pretty good too. The offensive line is also better than they were last year and should be able to bounce back to protect Osweiler.
The defense will still center around arguably the best football player in the league, JJ Watt. Watt can do anything from inside the box on the defense, whether they put his hand in the ground, put him back, put him on the strong side, or put him on the weak side, he will dominate. Vince Wilfork is a really good nose tackle that should be able to help this defense out a lot. If Brian Cushing and Jadeveon Clowney can both stay healthy and play to their potential, the Texans rush will be devastating to opposing offenses. Their secondary is solid as well with Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph on each side. The biggest task for this defense is to play really well for the first couple of games while Osweiler and Miller get more accustomed to the Texans offense.
4th Place: Tennessee Titans
The Titans probably will not win that many games this year. There is a large gap between them and the rest of this division, but they are making strides to be a better team in the future. Their running game should be pretty good with improvements to the offensive line and the runningbacks. That running game should also help the Mariota become a better quarterback and allow the offense to move more fluidly. Their defense still needs some players, but their line should be pretty good with some time to develop. Although this season might not be the best for Tennessee, it should be better than the last few and their future is bright especially their two first round picks next season. This season they will probably end up with three or four wins.
3rd Place: Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville should improve a lot over the next year. Their defense can be scary when the players develop a little bit and learn to play together. The offense has the chance to be good, as long as they stay healthy and continue to develop as well. The development of these players will slow the season, but they will be a team to watch in the future and could become a force in the AFC for many years to come. This year the Jaguars will probably win somewhere around nine games and compete for a playoff appearance until late in the season.
2nd Place: Houston Texans
This team will still be pretty good this season, but whenever a team adds so many pieces like Osweiler and Miller, it normally takes some time for the offense to come together. It also might take some time for Osweiler to adjust to the Houston system, coming from the Broncos system. Once they can figure out all the kinks of this team, Houston could be really good at the end of this season going into next season. They should win around nine or ten games, show flashes of what they are capable of and really progress going into the 2017 season.
1st Place: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts will be back at the top of the AFC South this year as long as Andrew Luck can bounce back healthy and play like he did in 2014. Hilton, Allen and Gore should all be able to help Luck get back to form this season. Their defense should be pretty good this year, especially with their pass rush. If they can just be consistent this season, this Colts team should win around eleven games and return to the post season and even make a run when they get there.
My name is Sean, I have been a fan of the NFL for at least 25 years and want to get my thoughts out to the public. Please visit the main site for more posts