AFC South predictions
Throughout the past few seasons, one of the more puny divisions in the NFL happens to be the AFC south. Many years this division was Peyton’s man cave, until the recent arrival of Andrew Luck. This kid Andrew Luck is the TRUTH. Any angle of his game that you want to dissect, please do and you will find greatness in its foundation. There is no ceiling and you will see him reach tier one elite status during this season. I strongly believe the Texans are within grasp of first place, but its so difficult to bet against a guy who hasn’t won less than 11 games since being in the league. The rest of the division has been a joke for the most part, Jacksonville allowed their perennial franchise running back Maurice Jones-Drew to go to Oakland and seem to be in Phase 2 of their rebuild after drafting Blake Bortles. The Titans have a ways to go, between a QB who hasn’t played a full season, losing several great defensive anchors, chalk this season up early, and pray that Jameis Winston (FSU QB) falls to you in the top 3.
Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
I’ll see your 11 wins and raise you 1. The Colts will struggle against division rival Houston Texans, but that is about the only team they will struggle against this year. Andrew Luck will be in an early rhythm with T.Y. Hilton until Reggie Wayne gets into game conditioning. The Colts have showed up loose ends defensively adding D’Qwell Jackson at linebacker and Arthur Jones at defensive tackle. If the Colts can avoid mental lapses during late game situations and prevent the “big play” they will be poised to finish 2nd only after Peyton himself in the AFC.
Houston Texans (10-6)
Jadeveon Clowney has looked tremendous in preseason and has showed flashes of All-pro potential all over the field. I just haven’t quite figured out if the team has truly bought in to new head coach Bill O’Brien and his system. The first indication of this was Andre Johnson’s failed trade request. Looking across the roster it is evident that there was no potential franchise quarterback neither selected in the draft or taken in free agency. Even after his expressed interest in acquiring Michael Vick, he wanted out and Bill didn’t let him. Early turmoil in camp among the receiving corps may keep this team from reaching its full potential as quickly as possible. If O’Brien utilizes Foster and Johnson just within Ryan Fitzpatrick’s comfortable operating level then the Texans from Houston are bound to put up 10 wins this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)
The Jags are on the other side of their rebuild project, as they have cleaned house at running back, drafted what they believe to be their franchise quarterback, and have put an assembly of athletic defenders on the front line in what is becoming potentially the deepest division for defensive lineman. My prediction may have been different if it was not for Justin Blackmon’s suspension for failing a drug test. He is the difference maker and arguably the best receiver in this division after Andre Johnson, and Reggie Wayne and has more upside than both. The jags much like the Browns were competitively bad, which allowed them to hang in nearly all of their games due to an impressive defense. The Jags rising out of the gutter of the AFC south depends on how quickly Gus Bradley inserts Blake into the starting line up.
Tennessee Titans (5-11)
The theme of the Titans is “turnover” and that is exactly what has happened this offseason. Jake Locker is back [insert crickets] and this is marks the end of the CJ2K era. Tennessee has always showcased a tough defense in recent years, but they took a major hit in the lost of Alterraun Verner their best corner. Offensively the disruptive Kenny Brit has left town, Chris Johnson is in New York, and the committee of Shone Greene, Dexter McCluster, and Bishop Sankey are on deck to carry the load for Locker and the Titans. Although scouts anticipate Justin Hunter, the speedster from the SEC to have a breakout season, I don’t think it will be enough for the new age Oilers who eventually will be taking a long hard look at Mariota (Oregon QB) or Jameis Winston (Heisman winner).
Chance Warmack started all 16 games last season for Tennessee Titans. Look for him to be the next great young lineman, despite whoever may line up behind center. He will be a staple, franchise player at guard and will directly impact the win column. His mistakes during his rookie season were mental ones. There were times that he was caught on film not blocking anyone, times that he whiffed on a block, but the one thing that failed to appear on film was a lack of effort or tenacity. Take a chance on Warmack as a player to look out for in the AFC south.
I should have said Impressive youngster who isn’t named one, Jadeveon Clowney, but I’d like to introduce you all to another young baller from Ole Miss, Donte Moncreif. This 6’2’’ stud lit it up in the SEC and will become a likely target later in the season after age and attrition kicks in for the other Colt receivers. How much can you trust Hakim Nicks after last season and Reggie Wayne returning from major surgery? You can trust Donte, he would be the first freakishly big talented receiver that Andrew Luck has been waiting for.
Chuck Pagano has the ingredients to make a deep playoff run. The Colts have not been tested in this division much and that will change this year. I say they lose both divisional games against the Texans but still finish among the elite in the NFL and clinch a number two or three seed in the AFC playoffs. While Houston may be able to churn out 10 victories, regardless it won't be enough with the likes of the Jets, Bengals, Chargers, and Steelers all vying for wild card spots. This division will become increasingly tougher with the emergence of Blake Bortles and Jake Locker, but for the upcoming season watch Andrew Luck try to impede Peyton's Superbowl revenge tour.
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