Who will take charge of the NFL AFC South

The AFC South has been so poor this season. With 2 teams with putrid defenses and 2 teams that cant have shown they cannot play big ball with the conference. Not to mention the Colts are sitting in the bottom of the league in defensive scoring. It is a truly sad state of affairs. Over the last 15 seasons the South has had only 3 division winners , including the “Smash n Dash” running attack of the Titans, a JJ Watt 20 sack season Texans team and the Peyton Manning led Colts in that timeframe.
Breaking the teams down in the AFC South – we will start with looking at the Jacksonville Jaguars. It has been an awfully long time since the Jaguars won their division. They haven’t won the AFC South division title since 1999, 18 very long years ago – let that sink in for a few fluttering moments, which was 3 years before the AFC South was even created -when it was still called AFC Central.
Their QB Blake Bortles has been his usual so far with a low ended 6.28 YPA and 57% completion rate along with a 1.6:1 TD to int ratio – which is not something to be overly proud of if you’re a fan of the Jags. Leonard Fournette has been ripping teams up for 4.6 YPC and blistering his opponents for big chunk plays this year. Fournette is a huge and front running reason why the Jags are a serious contender for the sad AFC North. Their defensive ability has been daunting with 3 games of keeping teams below 18 points. And their pass rush has been utterly destroying teams with 23 sacks – landing them in the top of the entire NFL. It has not been a down year for the Jaguars – lets be completely honest – and in all of its horrible and truly bad play – this year there is an actual very real chance for the Jaguars to win the division.
The Jaguars offense has also shown to be getting better as the season has progressed, putting up 27.8 ppg since week 3 – which is better than the 22.5 they were averaging in the early beginning weeks. The steady rise of their wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns – who have gotten them roughly 50% of their receiving YDs. Bortles is trying to keep his turnovers down – and the early strong performances from their rookie running back Leonard Fournette gives them some hope.
The Houston Texans have had a strange and confusing offense – in the majority of their games with games of 7, 13, and then throwing up 57 and 34. 22 yr old Deshaun Watson has been a legit surprise with a 62% completion pct, 15 TDs and just 5 picks. Including games of 301 passing YDs, a hefty 8YPC at QB, including a huge 5 TD performance vs the Chiefs – which was really opening eyes up to most fans.
RB Lamar Miller who was supposed to be the next big deal for the Texans – but after 20 games, he has given them around 4 YPC and just 6 TDs – not quite what I would imagine the majority of Houston fans were expecting from the guy who was supposed to replace (when healthy) 1400 YD RB Arian Foster when he arrived in 2016. But it still keeps defenses raw – because of the threat that Watson brings – the running attack seems to still be the main option for them to score…for now.
In 2016 – the Texans were able to win the division by winning just 9 games, with 5 of them being division wins. This year – winning 8-9 games could win the division again, without question.
Then we get to the preseason sexy pick – the Tennessee Titans. They haven’t quite lived up the hefty offense expectations.
With a team that is hovering just around 22.0 ppg – I would imagine most expected 26-27 a game for a team stacked with offensively talented players. Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews were expected to be a pair of 1000 YD guys and 15-16 TDs between them. What they have gotten instead is an injured player – and a couple of likely 700 YD guys and a roll of the dice who is showing up on the field in Tennessee. Their 23 year old QB Marcus Mariota can be a star in this league – but it is truthfully becoming an issue that he may not be the most durable and healthy guy who can stay on the field. It is time to start questioning that – with 5 games missed over the last 3 seasons – he needs to stay on the field, bottom line, to lead his squad. His season has been a disappointment thus far.
The addition of Adoree’ Jackson at CB has been great and he has been tops for this team in defending the pass with 6 passes defended – which leads his DBs on the field on the defensive side. But, still, the passing defense of the Titans has been subpar – ranked in the bottom end of the league for the majority of the season. At least Jackson keeps QB hesitant when putting the ball into play where he is lurking.
Tennessee had garnering all kinds of big time praise coming into the season – based on their strong 2016 season where they were dangerous and got better throughout – along with their strong off-season improvements –  what is going on? They had thought to have made some  improvements on their defense, adding S Johnathan Cyprien and DB Logan Ryan, the Titans secondary has a much different look this year, than last, but it isn’t showing up yet.
Then we have the head shaking Indianapolis Colts. What more can be said about this team that hasn’t been said already?
They have a bad defense with 2 games giving up 40 or more and are last in the league with 31.8 – nothing that their fans want to see when they step on the field. And their sad offense doesn’t help either, with 3 games putting up 18 or less.
With Andrew Luck playing 0 games this season, so far – the Colts have been cornered into Scott Tolzien – and 23 yr old Jacoby Brissett – they have some very serious QB issues. We all have to admit – teams need a steady QB to give a team an honest chance for the playoffs and further.
This isn’t it.
The slow footed Oline has been very poor – as their QBs behind the line, have been buried 18 times on the season, their running game is getting a bottom feeding 3.2 YPC – and 13 yr veteran RB Frank Gore is still the only real viable option to run the ball – although more of respect to Gore – is still a real concern.
Taking a real look at the current state of the awful AFC in terms of how the possible playoff picture is shaping up with a lot of games still left to play in the regular season, and how everyone fits into the picture. If the Titans don’t win this division – they can look back at losses to Miami and Houston. As there should have been no excuse to lose what could have been winnable games. The real wild card will be the health of Mariota and getting a full WR crew back. With that being said – the Jags will take the division – they should have an easier run, with a stronger close out, with games vs San Francisco and Cleveland.
The AFC South is pretty bad, but playing in Jacksonville will be a challenge for most teams. I see them getting to the “devastating 9” win mark and pulling this division into their hands. The Jags have been showing the most consistency with their defense giving up just 18/game. They are strong in the position they are in currently, with WR Marqise Lee and Fournette playing how they have. Tashaun Gipson has also been showing some nice improvement at the DB position – back to what made him so good in Cleveland – along with 3 picks on the season. Head coach Doug Marrone keeps them in the position to be ahead, and to hang on when they need to.
With upcoming games for Jacksonville including at Indianapolis, Cincinnati, at Cleveland, then traveling to Arizona – all games they can and should win. If they can grab at least 3 out of 4 of those game – the Jags should be able to hang onto the South.

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