Will the Jacksonville Jaguars’ bid for a repeat division title next season be met with fierce competition?
In 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars captured the team’s first ever AFC South championship since the division’s inception in 2002. Along with finishing with a 10-6 record overall, the Jaguars secured a 6-2 mark within the division.
With a number of key injuries within the AFC South last season, the lone competition standing in Jacksonville’s way of the crown was the Tennessee Titans, the only of the foes who finished above .500. The Titans finished a game behind the Jaguars, but nauseatingly won both head-to-head matchups. Jacksonville dominated weakened Houston and Indianapolis squads, giving up just 14 points total to the Texans, and only 10 to the Colts.
But looking ahead, how will the division fare next year compared to the other seven divisions? NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal ranked all eight for 2018, and has the AFC South fourth:
"4) AFC South: Jaguars, Titans, Colts, TexansAfter spending most of the decade as the worst division in football, the AFC South has finally turned a corner. There is a lot of room for growth, too, with Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson coming off injuries and Marcus Mariota capable of playing better than he did for much of 2017.I love the Titans’ young nucleus and general manager Jon Robinson’s conclusion that coach Mike Mularkey wasn’t going to get the team over the top. I love the Jaguars’ entire defense, at least while it stays together. I love how watchable Watson and Luck should make these division games, even if the rosters in Houston and Indianapolis aren’t quite balanced yet.What the division lacks in obvious title contenders, it makes up for in saucy possibility. Get on board before the rest of the nation does.Key game:Jaguars at Texans, Week 17"
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Rosenthal accurately points out that in recent years, the division was downright awful, easily checking in at the bottom of such rankings. Before last season, the Jaguars were painfully bad, the Titans also sub-par, and the titles were shared between the Andrew Luck-led Colts and the Texans, who skidded to the finish line first at 9-7 back-to-back years on the back of said poor division in 2015 and ’16.
But as mentioned, the return of star players from injuries makes the AFC South easily stronger for 2018. It’s undeniable that the Texans and Colts are better with their number one signal callers under center. Houston is getting Deshaun Watson back after splashing onto the scene in his rookie season, and Indy is still adamant that Andrew Luck will be ready to go as well.
The division will be improved next season, and the quest for a repeat championship will come as a much more daunting task than 2017 for Jacksonville. But there’s no reason to believe that the Jaguars also haven’t gotten better, even while already possessing easily the best roster of the group. The team reinforced the run game with the signing of Andrew Norwell, and hauled in another commended draft class, to balance the returning number one defense.
The AFC South will have more challengers in 2018. But the Jacksonville Jaguars have re-equipped their army, and knocking the king off the throne will be a treacherous venture for those willing to try next season.