2015 NFL Predictions: AFC South
The AFC South isn’t known for being a particularly strong division. Besides the Colts, this division has had trouble producing playoff caliber teams in recent years. Though like most divisions, it is slowly improving. With the likes of Andrew Luck, JJ Watt and Marcus Mariota, this division should be interesting to watch this season.
1st Place- Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
The Colts boast an offense led by one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck. Luck has been steadily improving over the past few years and this offseason the Colts loaded their offense with complimentary weapons. In the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Colts selected uber fast wide receiver Phillip Dorsett out of the University of Miami. They also signed veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore to create possibly the NFL’s best offense on paper.
The defense is really the Colts’ glaring weak spot. Their offense is good enough to win a superbowl, but their defense continues to lag behind. They’ve got some great pieces, like lockdown cornerback Vontae Davis, but they’ve got even more holes. The Colts were a below average run stopping team last season, and that can be painfully hard to overcome. One may notice that both the New England Patriots (9th) and the Seattle Seahawks (3rd) were top ten in rushing yards allowed per game. The Colts ranked 18th. Big runs have been the Colts achilles heel every time they try to move on from being good to being great under Luck.
This pick is a no brainer. The Colts are one of the premier teams in the NFL and should continue to show why this season. But, like all NFL teams they are not without their flaws; some bigger than others. Regardless, the Colts should have no trouble capturing the AFC South crown this season. Many are predicting a SuperBowl run.
2nd Place- Houston Texans (7-9)
The Texans may be the polar opposite of the first place Colts. They’ve got all the defensive talent in the world, but have yet to figure it out on offense. They say defense wins championships, but that usually comes along with an adequate offense.
The Texans offense has no showed itself to be adequate quite yet. That most likely stems from the fact that they just haven’t found themselves a franchise quarterback yet. During this offseason they resigned Ryan Mallett and went out of their way to sign Brian Hoyer away from the Cleveland Browns.
It was recently announced that Hoyer is the Texans’ starting quarterback as of now. In doing so they chose to go with the known rather than the mystery. Hoyer will manage the game for the Texans and will probably toss up a couple of impressive passes to Deandre Hopkins over the course of the season. However, he won’t go above or beyond. With Arian Foster currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, the offense may have some trouble gaining momentum to begin the season.
Usually, one would look at the Texans defense and say that they were one of the best in the NFL. This may be true. However, when looking at their yards allowed per game they are not. They were tenth in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game, but they were 21st in the NFL in pass yards allowed per game. Luckily, they have the NFL’s sack leader J.J. Watt and are therefore able to force quite a few turnovers. They also will be sporting a healthy Jadeveon Clowney as well as newly acquired defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, so their run defense is sure to improve. They also signed free safety Rahim Moore, so there’s a good chance that their pass defense could also take a huge step forward. Watch out for the Texans defense this season.
3rd Place- Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
This record may come as a big surprise. The Jags have long been one of the NFL’s worst teams and although 5-11 isn’t a good record by any means, but it’s approaching decent.
The Jaguars’ offense is led by young quarterback Blake Bortles who appears to have taken huge strides this offseason. In the preseason, Bortles showed off an improved pocket presence as well as what seemed to be better decision making. With newly acquired tight end Julius Thomas alongside talented second year receivers, Bortles should feel right at home. This could be the brightest year that the Jaguars offense has seen in a long while.
The Jags’ defense isn’t a good defense by any means. In fact it is pretty below average. However, they play with a certain toughness and tenacity that makes them deadly on occasion. As a team with high draft picks, they have constantly been building up weak parts of their team. In the 2015 NFL Draft, they selected outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. out of Florida. Fowler would go on to tear his ACL during OTA’s.
The Jaguars are a team on the rise in every way. They are showing trends of positive improvement and that is all Jags fans can ask. This year they will flash some of their long term potential on their way to a decent record.
4th Place- Tennessee Titans (4-12)
The Titans are a team that just lacks the developed talent to be a playoff team this season. They’ve got a lot of exciting young pieces that they need to fit together in order to find their place in the AFC South.
The Titans offense is going to be led by promising rookie Marcus Mariota. Mariota’s promise will make the wait worth it for Titans fans ready to win. Mariota could be the future of the Titans franchise and that will be enough of a storyline for fans to follow. However, fans should also be paying attention to their other young skill players. The battle at running back will be one to follow. Rookie David Cobb will now be out until midseason, but when he gets back it will be interesting to see if he is able to beat out Bishop Sankey after his disappointing rookie campaign. Fans will also need to watch out for rookie wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Green-Beckham contains immense potential, but he will need to overcome off the field issues to be able to show it and make his mark on this league.
Their defense has some good pieces in Jason McCourty and Jurrell Casey, but they are still missing a lot of pieces. Last year they ranked 31st in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game, while they ranked 15th in pass yards allowed per game. Suffice it to say, they were average at their best. They spent their first round pick this season on who they hope will be their quarterback of the future. They may be smart to spend a couple future first rounders building up their front seven.