clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2016 NFL Forecast : AFC South

AP Photo

Last season, the Houston Texans emerged from the AFC South as one of two teams in the league to earn a playoff berth with single-digit wins. The Texans benefited from a weak schedule, their 5-1 interdivisional record helped them wear the crown for the third time in the last five seasons. Indianapolis and Houston are the only teams to win the South over the last seven seasons.

Looking ahead to 2016, the Beatdown staff expects the AFC South to be another closely-contested battleground division. Projections were mixed between Houston repeating or Indy reclaiming the top spot...

First Place : Houston Texans

Big acquisition Lamar Miller is going to team with star wideout DeAndre Hopkins as well as receiving additions Braxton Miller and Will Fuller to provide new franchise QB Brock Osweiler with an array of different weapons. Osweiler will not need to be a star with the high caliber of weapons he has, not to mention the elite defensive talent the Texans feature, led by All-World DL J.J. Watt. - Yitzi Weiss

They had an underrated defense last year, allowing the third least passing yards, while posting the fourth most passes defensed and fifth most sacks in the NFL. With Watt and OLBs Mercilus and Clowney, the pass rush prowess should continue. RB Miller will thrive in their scheme and Hopkins is one of the top playmakers in the entire league. Bill O’Brien’s team is not dominant on either side of the ball, but solid throughout is good enough to win the AFCS. - Vasilis Lericos

The Texans have the best defensive player in football and maybe even the most valuable to any team, JJ Watt. He's a beast incarnate. After witnessing Brian Hoyer's atrocious playoff performance, not to mention the play of TJ Yates, the team went out and signed former Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler to hopefully be their franchise quarterback. Lamar Miller is a solid acquisition in the running attack and the draft picks of wide receivers Will Fuller and Braxton Miller will take pressure off DeAndre Hopkins. That recieving core might very well burn some corners and safeties. With a promising offense and a nasty defense, the Texans will take the AFC South once again. - Evan Mazza

Second Place : Indianapolis

The Colts almost made the playoffs last year with Matt Hasselbeck as the quarterback. If they can keep Andrew Luck on the field for the whole year, this team is likely to regain the division crown. The tight end situation finally worked itself out with Coby Fleener leaving for New Orleans, and the rest of the receivers will look to rip defenses to shreds. The offensive line improved greatly with the addition of Ryan Kelly. Frank Gore is aging, but for now is a fairly reliable option running the ball. - Matt Cohen

The Colts were arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL last season, largely due to Andrew Luck's poor health and poor play. When he is healthy, he can carry a roster that has holes very far into the playoffs, so watch out for the Colts' money man to do just that in 2016. - Jacob Louque

While they will likely bounce back from their down year in 2015, led by star QB Andrew Luck, the team just doesn't have enough around him to win a much improved division. While Jacksonville is the sexy pick, the teams that win the offseason don't usually win in-season.  I think the Colts, with their experienced QB and deep receiving corps, will throw their way ahead of the Jaguars despite the other flaws on the roster. - Yitzi Weiss

Third Place : Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars had alot of cap room to go out and make some moves in free agency to improve a team that has only won 12 games in the last 3 years. Boy, did they ever. The team signed Malik Jackson, Chris Ivory and Tashaun Gibson. They then get Dante Fowler Jr coming back from injury to go along with 2016 first round pick Jalen Ramsey. Quarterback Blake Bortles took some steps forward in his 2nd year and he has probably the best young receiving core in the NFL with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. TE Julius Thomas should bounce back after missing the first four games of 2015 with a thumb injury. After finishing 24th in total defense in 2015, the Jaguars D seems ready for major improvement thanks to their acquisitions, draft picks, and young players like Telvin Smith. The Jaguars are a team to watch out for in 2016. - Evan Mazza

Potential best describes the Jags, their roster is chocked full of talented but inexperienced players. The offensive boasts good depth with a pair of competent backs, two game-breakers at wideout with a couple upside receivers behind them and complimentary tight ends for improving QB Bortles. The defense has some serious speed at OLB with Jack and Telvin Smith, while Jalen Ramsey should become the best rookie of the class. If DE Jackson, S Gibson and CB Prince Amukamara can improve the 29th ranked pass defense, a playoff bid is feasible. - Vasilis Lericos

While many have high expectations for this team, there is generally a learning curve in the NFL and I expect the same for the upstart Jaguars. While they have loaded up on talent on both sides of the ball, the defense still has a ways to go before they start winning division titles despite a prolific passing offense which reminds me of the old days with star wideouts Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. I expect a bounceback year for TE Julius Thomas, and the addition of burly back Chris Ivory will keep the run game going. But at the end of the day, inexperience on the defense and a below average offensive line will hold them back. I expect the top 3 teams to be very close in the standings, but none should win more than 4 games in the division, which has greatly improved since last season. - Yitzi Weiss

Fourth Place : Tennessee Titans

The Titans will look to keep their rebuilding process going this year. They have future stars on offense in the form of Marcus Mariota, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Derrick Henry. The front office has done a great job drafting pieces that will help them down the road. They acquired a king's ransom of draft picks in the trade with LA. That said, the DeMarco Murray deal is a bit puzzling if they wanted to draft Henry anyway. The Titans are still a few years away from contending, and need help on defense, but they are getting closer. - Matt Cohen

While the team did finish 3-13 in Marcus Mariota's rookie year, there is a glimmer of hope in The Music City. Mariota will get major assistance in the running game with the acquisition of Demarco Murray and the draft pick of 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. After Delanie Walker, there is some major question marks at the playmaking positions for this team. Dorial Green-Beckham has the skills to be that playmaking reciever, but he must be able to put the pieces together. Newly signed Rishard Matthews should help this receiving core. Defensively, they are strong up front thanks to Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey, to go along with DaQuan Jones and Al Woods. The draft pick of Kevin Dodd adds another pass rushing option to team up with Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo and the secondary will welcome back Jason McCourty after he only played four games in 2015 thanks to a groin injury. With a much tougher division, the Titans will have to ride this ship for at least one more season and see how Mariota progesses in year 2. - Evan Mazza

This team has as many cute names for its backfield as it had wins in 2015, but if the hype surrounding Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry is real, then all of them are warranted. If they really are able to run the ball and protect Marcus Mariota, their ceiling for wins is probably around six or seven. Their time will come eventually, but you don't get the first pick in the draft for no reason. - Jacob Louque