Texans will be the Jaguars' biggest hurdle to clear to win AFC South

• The Jaguars are looking to reclaim the AFC South in 2024. The Texans will be their biggest obstacle.
Nov 26, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) and Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen (41) at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 26, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) and Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen (41) at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports / Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars made several upgrades in the offseason that should put them in a position to compete for the AFC South title in 2024. However, the Houston Texans remain the team to beat in the division. In fact, Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports believes the gap between these rivals may be wide.

Benjamin recently wrote about six things that would've been unimaginable a year ago. Among them, he says it would've been hard to picture Houston as a Super Bowl contender but believes they have a realistic shot.

"Plenty anticipated the Texans would be better in 2023, finally addressing both quarterback and head coach by drafting C.J. Stroud and hiring DeMeco Ryans. But no one could've predicted just how quickly -- and drastically -- the new power duo would elevate Houston's title hopes. Stroud bordered on MVP-level production for much of his poised debut, single-handedly raising the production of his good-not-great supporting cast, while Ryans oversaw a resilient defense en route to an instant playoff run.

A year later, with big names like Stefon Diggs and Danielle Hunter onboard, a Lombardi Trophy seems within reach."

Benjamin isn't wrong when he says the Texans are a legitimate contender, but are they good enough to reach the Super Bowl? That remains to be seen, but they should be feeling good about their chances.

Houston was seen as a team in rebuilding mode last year. With a first-time head coach in DeMeco Ryans and a rookie quarterback in C.J. Stroud, it looked like they were one or two years away from contention. However, they were one of 2023's most pleasant surprises. Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. played like the top-10 draft pick he was. Nico Collins had a breakout year and fellow receiver Tank Dell was a revelation before injuries cut his rookie season short.

Moving back to No. 3 in the draft also paid off for the Texans, as Will Anderson Jr. proved to be everything they expected and then some. However, one of the biggest reasons for their turnaround was Stroud's play. Right off the bat, the former Ohio State Buckeye played like a seasoned veteran. With one season of experience under his belt, he should be even better in 2024.

It's also worth noting that Houston could've easily stayed put and relied on their 2023 core to take them to the playoffs again. Instead, they signed edge rusher Danielle Hunter and traded for Stefon Diggs in the offseason. Both are proven playmakers and should increase the Texans' chances of making a deep postseason run.

The Texans are formidable but the Jaguars should have a shot

Among teams in the AFC South, the Houston Texans, at +1,600, have the best odds to reach Super Bowl 59, so Benjamin's scenario isn't that farfetched. That said, the Jacksonville Jaguars won't let them run away with the division. Simply, they've made enough moves in the offseason not to have a legitimate shot to regain control of the AFC South.

By signing players such as center Mitch Morse and defensive tackle Arik Armstead, the Jaguars should be able to control the lines of scrimmage. Also, with newcomers such as wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. and Gabe Davis, the Jaguars' passing game should be better than it was a year ago. However, the biggest thing they have going in their favor is Trevor Lawrence, who's healthy after dealing with a myriad of injuries in 2023.

Add the return of outside linebacker Josh Allen to a defensive core that includes the likes of linebacker Foyesade Oluokun and Andre Cisco, and Jacksonville is in a position to compete with the Texans for the division title.

The bottom line is that Houston will be a formidable foe in 2024 but the Jaguars are well-equipped to keep up with them in the race for the AFC South.

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