The Jacksonville Jaguars surprised us in 2017 with a wonderful season. However, no team can rest on their laurels in the NFL. To have another great season, the Jaguars must repeat as AFC South champion.
The AFC South is a very competitive division. The quarterback position rules the day if Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson return to their former brilliant play. Also, Marcus Mariota is a young, talented player. Surprisingly, Blake Bortles also had a very solid year. Let’s look at the status of each AFC South team.
The Jaguars draft on first glance lacked the WOW factor of the past few years. However, the team has a very solid lineup of players returning with a good starter in every position. Above all, the Jaguars needed depth and the draft achieved this goal. First round choice, Taven Bryan, added power to an already great defensive line. Second rounder, D.J. Chark, added a speedy option to the receiving corps. Ronnie Harrison looks like a very solid choice at safety in round three. In addition, Jacksonville added a new punter, Logan Cooke, and an offensive lineman Will Richardson. Team weakness is thought to be at tight end and possibly quarterback. Many pundits pick the Jags to repeat in 2018 as division champs.
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To start, the Titans had a very good season in 2017. Their record overall was 9-7, and their record in the AFC South was an impressive 5-1. Their draft was rated a grade of C+ from NFL.com. Two draft choices, Rashaan Evans (linebacker) and Harold Landry (pass rusher) are projected as day one starters. In addition, Tennessee added Luke Falk as a backup quarterback. Unfortunately they don’t have a strong wide receiver corps. On paper the Titans are the Jaguars best competition in the AFC South.
To begin, the Colts had an unimpressive 4-12 record last season. They were 2-4 in division play. There are many off season changes for the Colts, but the key is the return of quarterback Andrew Luck. He injured his shoulder and was unable to play last season. The good news for the Colts is that Luck participated in drills recently. He took handoffs and snaps but didn’t throw passes. The Colts learned a valuable lesson and added not one but two offensive linemen who will start in 2018. In addition they added a linebacker, Darius Leonard. The Colts improved the team by shoring up the offensive line, but their season depends on the health of Andrew Luck.
The Houston Texans were a potential feel good team of 2017 until quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL and went out for the season. There were numerous other injuries as well. The Texans had a 4-12 record overall and a dismal 1-5 record in the AFC South. Sadly, Houston had traded away their top two draft choices and waited until the third round to draft a player. It appears they added a winner in safety Justin Reid and younger brother of Eric Reid. Watson may be ready by the start of mini camp but their backup quarterback options are limited if he is unable to play. Expect them to be at the bottom of the division again.
AFC South in 2018
First, the Jaguars will win it again. The team is solid and has added some good depth. Next the Tennessee Titans will be second, and repeat as a wild card team. The Houston Texans will again be last in the division. The unknown factor is the Indianapolis Colts. They added talent in the draft and with a healthy Andrew Luck, anything can happen. That’s why they play the game!