The AFC South is a division that could have a significant impact on the playoff picture by the end of the year.
The main storyline captivating the public about the division is how well Carson Wentz will play this season in his first stint with the Indianapolis Colts. His first offseason in Naptown has come with a few setbacks including a foot injury that required surgery in early August and having to miss practice because he was placed on the reserve/COVID list.
As of now, there’s still optimism that he’ll be ready to play Week 1. Wentz will continue to be a significant figure in the division simply because the Colts are solid at nearly every position besides quarterback. The Titans are the most talented team in the division, especially on offense with the addition of wide receiver Julio Jones from Atlanta. But if Wentz can have a similar season to the one he had in 2017, both Indy and Tennessee will be battling for the division title until the last week of the season.
Even though the Titans have A.J. Brown and Julio Jones running routes for them, their offensive focus will likely still be with Derrick Henry rushing for more than 1,500 yards and throwing grown men around like dog toys. Tennessee’s defense will likely be slightly improved because of additions like linebacker Bud Dupree and secondary players like Janoris Jenkins and Caleb Farley. But Indianapolis’ defensive squad, led by linebacker Darius Leonard, who just signed a new five-year $99 million contract extension, will be the best in the division. The Colts are solid at all three levels but their strength is in the front seven with Leonard and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.
If Wentz can be good, the Colts will be fighting for a playoff spot in the AFC. If Wentz can duplicate what he did under Frank Reich in 2017 while also staying healthy, the Colts can threaten Kansas City for the AFC crown.
The division will come down to how well Wentz can play this season.
As for the other two teams in the division, they’ll be pretty irrelevant until the 2022 NFL Draft, when they’ll likely both be on the clock within the first 5 picks.
The Texans will need to find something to do with Deshaun Watson and finally end this saga. I have no idea if Watson will even play this season considering the sexual assault allegations against him, but as long as he’s still in a Texans uniform, everything that happens on the field will come second to his legal situation. Outside of Watson, this is a team with a bunch of holes to fill. Their defense lacks playmakers on the defensive line and in the secondary and they have no deep threat offensively in their wide receiving core. The backfield will feature two aging running backs in Mark Ingram and David Johnson. This is not the year to look dir anything significant from the Houston Texans.
As for the team down in Jacksonville, they just need to make sure they can get Trevor Lawrence good NFL reps and get him through this season healthy. Urban Meyer’s first year will largely be dependent on how good Lawrence looks at the end of the season. They’ll rely on running back James Robinson to be a focal point of their offense again this season, with the injury to rookie Travis Etienne keeping the rookie out for the year. Robinson rushed for a little more than 1,000 yards last season, so he’ll prove to be vital to both Lawrence and the Jaguars’ success if he can be dependable enough to take some of the pressure off the rookie quarterback.