The AFC South is usually a one horse race, with the Indianapolis Colts winning the division nine times in the last 12 years. This year, with the Colts also struggling along with divisional rivals that are perennial minnows, the AFC South is closer than usual. So who will win the division?
by Remy Cabache
I’ve been quite critical of the Colts so far this season. Andrew Luck has not been the same, their receivers have not been getting open and the defense is still not up to the level it should be for the Colts to be a real contender. But, they do have several things in their favour.
First things first, they are blessed with the worst division in football. The rest of the division is 7-17. Yes, the Colts are 4-5 but they have already handed all of their division a loss. Furthermore, they just handed the Broncos their first loss of the season and they looked a lot more like the team we expected.
Andrew Luck’s injury would be a huge blow if they didn’t have arguably the best backup QB in the league in Matt Hasselbeck. In the two games that Andrew Luck missed earlier this year – at home to the Titans and away to the Texans – Hasselbeck played well, completing 48 of 76 passes (63.2%) for 495 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions and leading the Colts to two wins. Luck’s injury may not be as catastrophic as it may seem.
Finally, they have a very friendly schedule – provided their performance against the Broncos wasn’t a one off. They have to play the declining Falcons, the Buccaneers, the injury-plagued Steelers, the rest of the division again, and the Dolphins. The Colts will not finish any worse than 9-7, and no one else in the division will win 9 games.
by Tom Parry-Jones
Despite losing four of their first five games in 2015, the Houston Texans are still a prime contender to qualify for the playoffs in January. At 3-5, they’re only a game behind the Indianapolis Colts with a game in hand, and in terms of net points, they’re only four behind their division rivals (-31 vs -27). Not only that, but they’ve already won two of the three divisional games they’ve played this year.
Their victories have been in no small part due to the efforts of their defense; the three games they’ve won have also been the three in which they’ve conceded fewest points. Add to that the fact that they have a certain JJ Watt on their team – a man who some consider to be the greatest defensive player ever to play the game – and the Houston Texans are a force to contend with. And that’s without even mentioning two-time Super Bowl champion DT Vince Wilfork, the #1 overall draft pick from 2014 OLB Jadeveon Clowney, ILB Brian Cushing, SS Quintin Demps and CB Johnathan Joseph.
The Houston running game will struggle without RB Arian Foster, placed on injured reserve after rupturing his Achilles tendon in Week 7, but despite early indecision over the quarterback position, Brian Hoyer has made the position his own since Week 3 and is beginning to make connections with wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Nate Washington. The Texans face their division rivals in each of their last three games, two of them on the road, but if they can put together a series of positive results after their bye week, they’ll hopefully have a playoff berth secured before then.
by Edd Hodsdon
The Jaguars have one of the most exciting offenses in the league. The young core of quarterback Blake Bortles, running back T.J. Yeldon, tight end Julius Thomas and the receiving duo of Allens Hurns and Robinson present several matchup nightmares for opposing teams.
Despite struggling against the pass, Jacksonville managed to shut down one of the league’s strongest running games last week, holding Chris Ivory and the Jets to just 26 yards on 23 carries. Being able to take away an opponent’s running game puts the Jaguars in a good position for success over the second half of the season.
The Jaguars also need to take advantage of Andrew Luck’s absence. The Colts quarterback will miss up to six weeks with a lacerated kidney and abdominal injuries. The rest of Jacksonville’s schedule looks fairly soft and is full of weak teams. They play Baltimore, Tennessee twice split by San Diego, then Indianapolis at home, Atlanta, New Orleans and ending in Houston. Several of those games are easily winnable for a Jaguars team that should’ve beaten the Jets last Sunday.
by David Venables
Propping up the AFC South with only two wins, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Tennessee Titans’ 2015 season was over. You’d be wrong.
Yes, they have just changed their head coach, but in Mike Mularkey, they have a solid interim replacement for Ken Whisenhunt. An offensive guru, he should give the Titans’ young and exciting offense a chance to put teams to the sword over the latter half of the season. Speaking of the Titans offense, in rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota they have the most exciting and dependable quarterback in the AFC South, at least as far this season’s concerned.
While Andrew Luck is set to miss more time for the Colts, Brian Hoyer remains nobody’s idea of a franchise quarterback for the Texans, and Blake Bortles struggles behind a weak Jaguars offensive line, Mariota has been able to lead the Titans downfield with the consummate ease and confidence of a player beyond his level of experience. It is thoroughly conceivable that the Titans can take advantage of the other teams’ struggles and win at least their remaining divisional games (Jacksonville x2, the Texans at home and then at the Colts). Yes, they will need to beat one, or possibly two of the undefeated Panther and Patriots, plus the resurgent Raiders and Jets, but funnier things have happened this season. Underestimate the Titans at your peril.
Who do you think will win the AFC South? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!