- Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis took some big strides last season mainly because of a healthy Andrew Luck and a much improved offensive line. The Colts didn’t have a great offseason by any means, but they did a good job of adding some much needed depth to their wide receiver group. The Colts drafted Parris Campbell in the 2nd round and he can be used as a deep threat to attract attention away from star receiver T.Y. Hilton. Also, the Colts signed Devin Funchess in free agency as he’ll give the team a big possession receiver on the outside. Indianapolis also has plenty of talent at the tight end position with Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle making the Colts passing game even more dangerous. The Colts can score a lot of points, but the one question is at the running back position. Marlon Mack is the top running back and he is a very underrated player in the NFL. However, Mack has struggled to stay healthy and it could impact the Colts offense if Mack can’t stay healthy. Meanwhile, the Colts defense got much better last season, but that isn’t saying much compared to what the defense had been prior to 2018. The Colts made the defense even better this offseason by adding some much needed help to their pass rush by signing Justin Houston. Also, the Colts added some much needed depth to the cornerback position by selecting Rock Ya-Sin in the 2nd round of the draft. The Colts have some talent on defense especially with young players Darius Leonard and Malik Hooker already on the roster. That being said, the Colts had plenty of money to spend this offseason and they still left many voids remaining on defense. The Colts offense will carry the team once again, but if the defense can just be average then Indianapolis has a good chance of winning the AFC South.
2. Tennessee Titans
The Titans had a good offseason and that will improve their chances of having success in the highly competitive AFC South. Tennessee had some work to do to improve their passing game in particular and they did a good job of doing that this offseason. They signed reliable slot receiver Adam Humphries in free agency and drafted A.J. Brown in the 2nd round of the draft. The Titans now have plenty of depth at the wide receiver position and now it is up to quarterback Marcus Mariota to stay healthy and perform more consistently. The Titans also have a terrific duo at running back with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis as a terrific 3rd-down back. Tennessee now has plenty of weapons on offense and if Mariota can utilize his supporting cast effectively then the Titans have a chance to win the division in 2019. Meanwhile, the defense is very underrated, although the Titans didn’t do enough to improve the defense this offseason. Jurrell Casey and newly acquired pass rusher Cameron Wake anchor a rather weak front 7 for the Titans. The Titans may struggle to sack the quarterback this season, but the good news is that the Titans secondary is very talented. Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and Adoree Jackson form a terrific cornerback group. The Titans also have a talented duo at safety with Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro. Tennessee was already a playoff contender, but they got better this offseason on offense and that will give them a good chance to win the AFC South in 2019.
3. Houston Texans
Houston won the AFC South last season and they are in a position to possibly repeat as division champs in 2019. However, Houston didn’t have a good offseason at all and that has allowed Tennessee and Indianapolis to possibly leapfrog the Texans in the AFC South. Houston still has a terrific quarterback with Deshaun Watson and they have a couple of good receivers with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. The main question for the Texans continues to be their offensive line. They have been unable to protect Watson the past couple of years and the team really didn’t do much to address the issue this offseason. The team did draft Tytus Howard in the 1st round, but that was a major reach and he hasn’t really faced quality competition very much while at Alabama State. Houston also drafted offensive lineman Max Scharping in the 2nd round of the draft and he’ll provide some versatility for the Texans, but he won’t necessarily make an impact early on. Houston’s offensive line doesn’t look much better than last season and that could really hold the Texans offense back and it could lead Watson to get injured once again. Meanwhile, the Texans defense has the potential to be very good if everything goes well. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney form arguably the best pass rusher duo in the NFL and if they can both stay healthy then the Texans pass rush could be almost impossible to stop. The Texans also have a few really good linebackers with Whitney Mercilus, Zach Cunningham, and Benardrick McKinney. Houston’s front 7 has the chance to be elite if their key players can all stay healthy in 2019. The Texans secondary is more of a question mark heading into 2019, but it is still an above average unit. Losing Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson will hurt Houston’s secondary. However, the offseason additions of Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby should fill those voids adequately. Overall, Houston’s defense has a chance to be very good and the offense should be good if the offensive line can just be decent. The Texans have the pieces in place to win the AFC South in 2019, but the poor offseason that they had doesn’t inspire much confidence that they can be better than the Colts and Titans.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville is a team that is clearly trying hard to compete and maybe they can surprise some people and be a playoff contender. However, there just seems to be so much uncertainty and dysfunction surrounding the franchise in 2019. Nobody doubts the talent that the team has especially on defense, but they do have some major issues on offense. The Jaguars signed Nick Foles this offseason to replace Blake Bortles as the starting quarterback. Foles has been successful at times during his NFL career and he was especially terrific during the Eagles 2017 super bowl season. However, we shouldn’t forget that Foles has been a backup for the large majority of his career and he has hasn’t had much success anywhere besides Philadelphia. Foles is probably an upgrade over Bortles, but Foles also comes with inconsistent production and that could really hold the Jaguars offense back. Foles also doesn’t have much weapons in the passing game as they don’t really have a proven number one receiver. They have some good depth at wide receiver, but Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, DJ Chark, and Chris Conley are all rather unproven at the NFL level. The Jaguars need somebody from that group to step up especially since Foles isn’t the type of quarterback that can get the best out of that group. Jacksonville’s offense will clearly rely on star running back Leonard Fournette once again, but if he misses tons of games like he did last season then the Jaguars offense would be in major trouble. Meanwhile, the Jaguars defense is extremely talented still, but they are hoping to improve after they fell short of expectations last season. The Jaguars secondary is very good especially with the talented cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. The safety position is probably the main weakness on the team, but there really isn’t much of a weakness on the rest of the defense. The Jaguars front 7 is especially elite even with star linebacker Telvin Smith out for the 2019 season. Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell, and Marcell Dareus form a terrific defensive line. Also, the Jaguars drafted talented pass rusher Josh Allen in the 1st round this offseason and he could make a big impact right away. Jacksonville’s defense will be required to carry the team once again in 2019, but if they aren’t well above average then Jacksonville could be a major disappointment like they were last season. Maybe Nick Foles can somehow use his magic to make the Jaguars offense really good, but if that doesn’t happen then the Jaguars are starting down another last place finish in the AFC South.