The AFC South is the newest division in the NFL being started up in 2002. Each of the four teams has won the division title at least once and as of late, the division has been a toss-up between the four teams that a few years ago were considered some of the worst teams in the NFL.
The Jalen Ramsey led Jacksonville Jaguars who won the division for the first time during the 2017 season are a defensive powerhouse with big names like A.J. Bouye, Calais Cambell, and Telvin Smith just to name a few. With a stout defensive unit being the main attraction, you can tell that the Jaguar offense will not be too great especially after losing big-name wide receiver Allen Robinson to the Chicago Bears. Quarterback Blake Bortles leads his unit decently with a good offensive line blocking for him led by free agent guard sign-ee Andrew Norwell and a receiving corps led by… Donte Moncrief?
The Tennessee Titans are a Wildcard team that was led to the playoffs twice since their creation, the most recent time being led by quarterback Marcus Mariota and the rest of the well-rounded team to take down the AFC West division winners the Kansas City Chiefs. Unlike the Jaguars unit, the Titans have a more balanced team. Having stars on both sides like tackle Taylor Lewan and tight end Delanie Walker for the offense, and defensive end Jurell Casey and as of recent, former Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler for the defense.
Deshaun Watson had a great and electric start of his rookie season where he showcased his talents until, like most star players during the 2017 season, he got hurt which ended up giving the Texans a 4-12 record. Without too great of a surrounding cast on offense, the Texan pass rushers make up for it with a big name like J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus. The Texans also brought in free agent free safety Tyraan Mathieu who should help out their secondary tremendously.
Finally, we come to the Indianapolis Colts, the proclaimed worst team, and roster in the division with a quarterback who may never even step foot on the field again. I’m about to go on a rant so if you don’t feel like hearing it, proceed to the next paragraph, if not, I’m glad you stayed. First thing, the proclaimed worst team in the division has won the division nine times, more times than the Jaguars, Titans, and the Texans combined (The three teams total seven combined division titles). Second, if you look in depth, the Colts have a pretty well-rounded team but I’ll start off with the defense.
Starting off the decently sized list of Colts players with a 75.0 grade or higher per ProFootballFocus.com is the big defensive tackle Al Woods that ended the season with a grade of 84.1. After he is defensive tackle Margus Hunt who shockingly had an overall grade of 82.1. Next is Edge rusher Jabaal Sheard who had a grade of 91.6. Next, safety Mathias Farley who got a grade of 82.4 and Malik Hooker who had a grade of 77.3. Lastly for defense, two cornerbacks, Quincy Wilson and Kenny Moore who earned overall grades of 78.6 and 76.4 respectively.
Now on to the offensive side of the ball, kicking things off is back up Quarterback Jacoby Brissett who had a grade of 75.2. The only Colts running back Robert Turbin who with only limited snaps had a grade of 75.4. Out of the wide receivers and tight ends, only three have a 75.0 grade or higher. The first of the three being T.Y. Hilton with an overall grade of 76.9. The last two of this group are tight ends Jack Doyle who had a grade of 77.5 while Eric Ebron had a grade of 75.6. To see the grades of the Colts offensive linemen click HERE to read it! Lastly for this rant, the Andrew Luck situation.
After the 2016 season, former 2012 1st overall draft pick Andrew Luck underwent surgery on his shoulder. October 2017, Luck finally returns to practice and starts throwing tentatively and slowly. The following week, Luck sat out of practice with some soreness and took a cortisone shot to address it. On November 2, 2017, the Colts placed Andrew Luck on the IR (injured reserve) and his 2017 season is over before it begins. Jumping ahead to May 23, 2018, Luck attends official team activities but still doesn’t throw. The now 6”4 234 pounds of muscle quarterback is looking like a linebacker compared to his former 6’4, 240-pound linebacker-esk body type. With a much improved overall team and arguably, now a top 10 offensive line in the league, mark my words, Andrew Luck will own the league like many ESPN and NFL analyst predicted just a few years ago.
Okay, now that that is done, I will be breaking down this “argument” into 5 categories: Best QuarterBack (when all are healthy and current), Best current coaching staff, Best Team, Most Improved team, and Overall playoff runs, then I will leave the decision of “Who owns the AFC South?”
First stop is which team has the best quarterback when healthy/in prime and currently?
Part 1: Best when healthy/in prime.
1: Andrew Luck- led multiple bad all around teams to the playoff and almost to the Superbowl.
2: Marcus Mariota- led his team to the playoffs where he threw and received a touchdown.
3: Deshaun Watson- Great start to his rookie season, not enough to show he is currently a top quarterback in the league, bright future ahead.
4: Blake Bortles- Decent 2017 season, had an amazing team to help him in the playoff run. Other quarterbacks in the division are overall better when healthy.
1: Marcus Mariota- Unlike Blake Bortles, (sorry Jaguar fans) Mariota is an electric playmaker who is able to move the chains on his own.
2: DeShaun Watson- once again sorry Jaguar fans, but Watson is much like Mariota in his ability to move the chains on his own, if he didn’t get hurt last season I’m sure I’d put him at number one.
3: Blake Bortles- Very much a system quarterback. The Jaguars 2017 season reminded me of the Broncos 2015 season when they won the Superbowl.
4: Andrew Luck- As much as it kills me to do this, it’s still unknown when Andrew Luck will throw a football let alone when he will play again if ever.
Second stop is which team has the best current coaching staff?
1: Indianapolis Colts- Former Superbowl winning OC in Frank Reich, entire new coaching staff except select few
2: Jacksonville Jaguars-Staff led the team to the AFC championship game but lost to the New England Patriots
3: Tennessee Titans-Staff helped lead the Titans to the AFC divisional round to lose to the New England Patriots.
4: Houston Texans- The Texans coaching staff is decent, but missed the playoffs last year and didn’t make many changes after the season.
Next stop is the best overall team.
1: Jacksonville Jaguars- The Jaguars have an amazing defensive unit with multiple key players and a not too shabby offense to back them up.
2: Houston Texans- Much like the Jaguars, the Texans strong point is defense. The Texans have a more well-rounded team though compared to most in the league.
3: Tennessee Titans-A well-rounded team, that don’t have a few spots filled out, not many but ones that will make impacts if they were filled in with above average players.
4: Indianapolis Colts-A decently well-rounded team after the draft that has more than just a couple holes that need to be filled in come the 2019 season.
Now is the most improved overall team from the end of the 2017 season until now, 5/30/18.
1: Houston Texans- The addition of free safety Tyraan Mathieu improved the team a lot just on his own, not to mention J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson returning to practice from their knee injuries.
2: Tennessee Titans- In free agency, the Titans added two former Patriots in running back Dion Lewis and cornerback Malcolm Butler while drafting two top-tier linebackers in this past draft.
3: Indianapolis Colts- Besides adding multiple players to key positions through the draft like Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith, and Darius Leonard just to name a few, the Colts are also set to have Andrew Luck back come this season. Luck isn’t a guarantee and that’s why I have the Colts at three but if he was a guarantee, I know I’d be making even more people mad with this list.
4: Jacksonville Jaguars-Nothing against the Jaguars, but they haven’t added many players to their 2017 roster.
Lastly, how every team’s playoff runs went since the formation of the division.
2002- Tennessee Titans won the division with a 9-7 record but lost in the Divisional round.
2003- Indianapolis Colts won the division with a 12-4 record but lost in the AFC Championship game.
2004-Indianapolis Colts won the Division again with a 12-4 roster but lost in the Divisional round.
2005-Indianapolis Colts once again win the division with a 12-4 record losing again in the Divisional round.
2006-Indianapolis Colts once again win the division with a 12-4 record, this time cashing in and winning in the Superbowl 29-17 over the Chicago Bears to record the first and only Superbowl championship for the AFC South.
2007-Indianapolis Colts- The Colts win the division once again this time with a 13-3 record and lose in the divisional round.
2008-Tennessee Titans-The Titans win their second division title with a 13-3 record but lost in the Divisional round.
2009-Indianapolis Colts- They once again win the division with a 12-4 record but lost in the Superbowl.
2010-Indianapolis Colts- Win again but this time with a 10-6 record and lose in the Wildcard round
2011-Houston Texans- The Texans win their first divisional title with a 10-6 record and lose in the Divisional round.
2012-Houston Texans-They exit out of the season in the Divisional round and a 12-4 record.
2013-Indianapolis Colts- They end the season with an 11-5 record and are eliminated from the playoffs in the Divisional round
2014-Indianapolis Colts-Their season ends with an 11-5 record and a loss in the AFC Championship round
2015-Houston Texans- The Texans take the title for the third time this time with a 9-7 record and lost in the Wildcard round
2016-The Texans take the division again with a 9-7 record and once again lose in the Wildcard round
2017-Jacksonville Jaguars- The Jaguars lock up their first divisional title with a 10-6 record and loss in the AFC Championship
The Colts have a total of nine division titles, the Texans won a total of four, the Titans have won twice, and the Jaguars have won the division once.