Quick Glance: AFC South
The AFC South is one of the more interesting divisions in the NFL right now due to the fact there isn’t a clear favorite. All four of the teams have been inconsistent this year with each of them having major issues needing to be fixed if they want a chance to win the division. Let’s go ahead and break down the teams according to where they currently sit.
Houston Texans (3-2)
The Houston Texans currently sit atop the AFC South standings through the first five weeks. While they are sitting in first place, it seems they are starting to slide. They recently lost one of the best players in the league when JJ Watt re-injured his back, which will keep him out the rest of this season. While the Texans were able to squeak out a victory against the Titans two weeks ago, it was clear they had major question marks.
Biggest Issue – QB Brock Osweiler
The Texans have to have buyers remorse when it comes to their $72 million dollar quarterback. The guy started seven games for the Broncos last year and the Texans paid him like a franchise quarterback. In the eight games he played last season, Osweiler had a 10-6 TD/Int ratio. Through the first five games this season, he has a 6-7 TD/Int ratio. Over the past three weeks, Osweiler has looked lost.
When your franchise quarterback has turned the ball over five times in three weeks while scoring three times, it’s a recipe for disaster. The Texans have one of the best WR’s in the NFL, but Osweiler refuses to throw to him. DeAndre Hopkins has a combined 10 receptions for 116 yards over the past three weeks. If the Texans want to continue being atop the AFC South, they need to find a way for Osweiler and Hopkins to start connecting.
Tennessee Titans (2-3)
The Tennessee Titans actually sit second in the division through the first five weeks. The Titans have played every game extremely close, either leading or having a chance to lead late in the fourth quarter. The Titans have an opportunity over the next eight weeks to really open this division up. The Titans play two teams with a winning record over the next eight weeks. While the Titans have an opportunity they need to take advantage of, they also have question marks they need answered quickly if they want a chance to contend for the division title.
Biggest Issue – Wide Receivers
The Titans wide receivers have been less than average through the first five games of the season. While I think some of the blame should go to the play calling, the Titans still need their
receivers to show some form of consistency. This is strictly referring to the Titans receivers and not Delanie Walker. Tajae Sharpe started the season off with a bang, catching seven passes for 76 yards. Over the next four weeks, Sharpe has caught 11 passes for 113 yards. When these stats reflect your No. 1 receiver, you’re in trouble. Kendall Wright has been injured from the start of training camp and hasn’t gotten his legs under him yet. Andre Johnson
is an aging future hall-of-famer who has made his catches count even though they seem to be coming few and far between. Rishard Matthews is the guy who I believe needs to step up the most over the next eight weeks. He should know the offense by now and needs to help his young quarterback out. Hopefully, Matthews will begin to mirror his performance against the Dolphins last week when he went 4-32-1.
Indianapolis Colt (2-3)
The expected favorite to win the AFC South this year with Andrew Luck coming back from injury has done everything but perform well this season. The Colts will always have a chance to win if they have Luck upright and healthy. However, they haven’t been able to do this in the early part of the season. I still find myself questioning if this is a playoff team this year with their weak secondary and terrible offensive line.
Biggest Issue – Offensive Line
During the third preseason game this year, the Colts had to shorten their dress rehearsal for their star quarterback because they were worried he was getting hit too often. Fast forward a month and a half, the same issue continues to exist. The Colts have been riddled by injuries on their offensive line. Andrew Luck has been sacked more times than any other quarterback this year. Currently, they’ve given up 20 sacks, which averages out to four times a game. Chuck Pagano continues to deploy a makeshift offensive line every week, which is never a good sign when trying to protect Luck. If you’ve watched the
Colts this year, you’ve noticed Luck on his back more than he’s ever been in his career. Even so, the Colts continue to be a play away from winning, which is a credit to Luck. If the defense was able to make a couple stops and the offensive line could protect for a few more seconds, the Colts could be atop the AFC South right now.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)
My personal favorite to win the AFC South this year was the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, through the first five weeks of the season, I find myself questioning why? The Jags are a young but very talented team with a ton of question marks. Blake Bortles has been consistently inconsistent early on this season. The running game for the Jags has been non-existent with their free-agent addition, Chris Ivory, recovering from an injury. Their defense was thought to be one of the strengths this season after adding Malik Jackson, getting Dante Fowler back, and drafting Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack. However, the defense hasn’t been able to find their stride thus far, giving up an average of 27.8 points per game.
Biggest Issue – Blake Bortles
The stat given above is a little skewed if you take into account the amount of turnovers the Jags
offense has committed in their own territory. Bortles has thrown six interceptions this season
through four games. When he has weapons like Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Julius Thomas, you know it doesn’t have to do with the receivers being able to gain separation. Blake Bortles is in his third year coming out of Central Florida. He should know how to run an NFL offense with effectiveness, which, in my opinion, he hasn’t done early on. I will say, though, the Jags running game has done nothing to help Bortles, with their top running backs averaging 2.9 yards per carry. If the Jaguars want to contend for the AFC South division title, they need Blake Bortles to step his game up and perform like the #3 overall pick.