Pickwatch 2021 AFC South Predictions
How will the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars far in 2021?
Before the start of the NFL season, we’re going division-by-division for some more in-depth looks at the teams we previously called shots on in our preseason power rankings.
Houston Texans (1-16)
Predicting the Houston Texans to go 0-17 in the first seventeen game season is fun, but also cruel in a way I don’t know the Texans fanbase deserves. It’s possible, though, that they lose each and every game. In fact, I would consider two-to-three wins as their absolute ceiling—and that’s if quarterback Deshaun Watson is able to give them a full season.
Let’s run it down.
The QB is facing legal trouble and doesn’t want to be there. The offensive line is fine (probably underrated, honestly) but doesn’t have impact players. The wide receiver corps is staffed by guys punching above their talent level and lacks a true No. 1. The running backs have name recognition but that’s it at a unit they’ve overcommitted to. Defensively, they were one of the worst units in the NFL a season ago and while they added some talent in the offseason, they’re likely to be at the bottom once again.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-12)
The early returns on the Urban Meyer experiment as an NFL head coach are...not great. Yes, there haven’t been any games that matter, but from hiring issues to roster management to uninspired play in the preseason, the signs are there that this might be a short stay until Meyer’s next health issues or desire to spend time with his family.
Defensively, this team is really rough. On the back end, they’re not built for the pressure-heavy scheme they want to run. Up front, there is talent, but not enough of it to be consistent. This unit should be able to hold their own, but the division features a couple of offenses that will easily expose them. Offensively, QB Trevor Lawrence is worth a couple of wins all on his own, and the running back and wide receiver groups are great. Lack of cohesion and talent on the offensive line will keep this side of the ball low in the statistical rankings all season long.
Tennessee Titans (12-5)
In a lot of ways, the Titans offseason has been defined by what they’ve lost rather than what they’ve gained. Former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith (now in Atlanta) has long been thought to be a big part of the Titans success—even before he took the coordinator position in 2019. Offensively, that’s not the only loss as three of their Top 4 pass-catching targets headed elsewhere. On the defensive side of the ball, starting cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson as well as safety Kenny Vaccaro are going to be missed.
What the Titans gained, though, should be celebrated as well. Wide receiver Julio Jones is a helluva pairing for No. 1 receiver AJ Brown and Josh Reynolds rounds out that group well. The defense bolstered their pass rush in a big way with additions like outside linebacker Bud Dupree. This is a tough, well-coached team, and while it may take a while to gel, look for the Titans to be back in the playoffs.
Indianapolis Colts (13-4)
Had this article been written a week ago, the Colts would probably have five less projected wins. In fact, although these projections are based on my Power Rankings, the Colts were actually ranked below the Titans at that time. That’s the impact of QB Carson Wentz and guard Quenton Nelson and the wide range of possible impact of their twin foot injuries. A short time ago, it looked as if both would miss any preseason work and the first couple of games. Now, they’re headed back to practice and should be ready to start in Week 1. That’s huge.
Overall, this is a team that pushed all of its chips onto the table for 2021. Wentz has the ability to be an above average NFL starter—even if he became expendable in his last year in Philadelphia. Defensively, this has the potential to be the top unit in the league.