1. Houston Texans
The 2018 Houston Texans became just the sixth team in NFL history to start 0-3 and still make the playoffs. They did so in style, capturing their fifth AFC South title.
Not much has changed from that squad. Of course, they are the only organization in football with multiple general managers. This developed when former GM Brian Gaine was relieved earlier this summer. In addition, Jadeveon Clowney has played his last snap with the team.
Gaine didn’t do much of anything to improve the roster. Most notably, the offensive line still posed a detriment to the rest of the team, which explains why Bill O’Brien felt compelled to sell his team’s future for left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
With Andrew Luck retiring, many believe that shifts the division back in Houston’s favor this season. But with the season-ending Lamar Miller injury and questions remaining along the offensive line even with Tunsil, the AFC South is as competitive as ever and wide open for any team to claim. If the Texans are to stay afloat again this year, they’ll go as far as their superstars take them. This gives them among the most variance of all teams in the league. It’s a statement year for O’Brien.
-Jonathan Valencia, PFN AFC South Writer
2. Tennessee Titans
With the recent news of Andrew Luck’s retirement, the Titans are in a prime position to take the AFC South. In Mike Vrabel‘s second season, the Titans finally surrounded veteran QB Marcus Mariota with the necessary weaponry. They added A.J. Brown, Adam Humphries and get back a healthy Delanie Walker. If Mariota can stay healthy for the entirety of the season, this Titans team may be the most complete in the division.
Defensively, the Titans added veteran pass-rusher Cameron Wake and will pair him with Jurrell Casey rushing from the inside. If the team can finish Top 10 in points allowed again and can establish the running game behind Derrick Henry, this team will be extremely dangerous.
PFN has the Titans finishing the 2019 season in second place in the AFC South behind the Texans. Ultimately, the Texans, now boasting the best QB in the division in Deshaun Watson, finish with the most divisional wins and do just enough to come out on top in a division that is wide open.
-Eric Roddy, PFN AFC South Editor
3. Indianapolis Colts
In the interest of full disclosure, this is not where we had the Indianapolis Colts one week ago. Jacoby Brissett was the league’s best backup and will make a plenty viable starter. However, replacing a top-tier franchise quarterback that was in his prime just two weeks before the opener is an awfully tall order.
The good news is the Colts roster is still loaded. The defense has top-5 upside, the skill position groups are deeper than they were a year ago, and they return all five starters to an offensive line that was among the most dominant in the NFL in 2018. That said, the margin for error has been virtually eliminated. The team cannot afford regression in any of those areas if they are to contend for the AFC South crown.
On paper, this roster still has 10-win potential, but they will have to be consistent and nearly error-free in all phases. If head coach Frank Reich can manage that, hand him the Coach of the Year award he should’ve received last season.
-Ken Grant, PFN AFC South Writer
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
The 2019 season brings a lot of promise for Jaguars fans. They have their most competent QB in years with Nick Foles, Leonard Fournette is healthy, and the offensive line is improved. Foles reuniting with new Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo should add some excitement. Defensively, they’re without Telvin Smith for the season but add seventh overall pick Josh Allen to the equation. The pass rush should be strong with Allen, Calais Campbell, and Yannick Ngakoue. On paper, it’s one of the top defenses in the league. The issue could be personalities clashing in the locker room and keeping Jalen Ramsey happy despite him wanting to be given a contract extension.
Overall, the Jaguars should be more competitive this season, but in an already tough division and having to play the teams from the AFC West and NFC South, more than six wins seems unlikely. This could be Doug Marrone’s last season at the helm.
-Rob Paul, PFN AFC South Writer
NEXT: AFC WEST