Is the AFC South better right now than it was in 2015?
The Jacksonville Jaguars got better this offseason, but are they competing with a much improved AFC South?
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After trotting out one of the worst divisions in the history of the NFL, the AFC South has nowhere to go but up in 2016. So what exactly happened in 2015?
The incumbent Indianapolis Colts were handicapped by some serious injuries to franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, and the roster was underwhelming in most areas. The Tennessee Titans were trying to acclimate rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota to the NFL, and the head coaching situation was a disaster. The Houston Texans couldn’t figure out who they wanted to play quarterback, and the Jaguars had no answer to opposing passing attacks.
Are all those issues fixed heading into 2016? Some people think so.
Steven Ruiz over at USA Today recently discussed reasons to not jump on the Jaguars’ bandwagon, one of those being a resurgence in the AFC South:
"Football’s worst division in 2015 should be a lot better in 2016. No matter what you think of Texans QB Brock Osweiler — I’m not overly optimistic — he’s certainly a better option than Brian Hoyer. Houston’s running game should also improve thanks to the addition of Lamar Miller, who was criminally underused in Miami. The Colts will be better, too, with Andrew Luck ready to return. After a productive draft, Indy’s line should do a better job of protecting him.Even with all of their improvements, the Jaguars haven’t surpassed either of those teams. The Texans were four wins better than Jacksonville a year ago; the Colts are a 10- or 11-win team with Luck on the field. The Jags got better, but did they get six games better in one offseason?And if the Jaguars do not get the South’s playoff spot, will they really be able to surpass the Bengals, Steelers, Broncos, Jets or Chiefs for one of the two wild card spots? Unlikely."
I think Steven is reaching a bit here and projecting entirely too much. The Jaguars are far and away the most improved roster in the division – they addressed every pressing need on defense and did so with high-ceiling players.
The Texans are likely going to have a strong defense again, but the brakes need to be pumped on the offense. Analysts keep saying he is definitely going to be better than Brian Hoyer, but that wasn’t even the case last year. Osweiler was statistically worse than Hoyer with a much better supporting cast.
The Colts are frankly a bad roster outside of Andrew Luck, and it’s not a given he’s going to be back to form in 2016. Steven doesn’t even mention the Titans, the only other team in the division other than the Jaguars that made significant changes on the roster.
The AFC South is better than it was in 2016, but it’s largely because of what the Jaguars did.