2017 NFL Preview – AFC South

IN the week leading up to kickoff for the 2017 NFL season, it’s time to break down each of the 32 teams preparing for the upcoming season. As we hurtle closer each day to the season opener check out the division by division primers to find out where your team is heading in the upcoming season!

AFC East Preview
NFC East Preview
AFC North Preview
NFC North Preview

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Houston Texans

The 2017 Houston Texans Will…
…STRUGGLE to win a third straight division title. Even though they will regain the monstrous J.J. Watt, Houston lost three starters on defense and there are too many gaping holes for them to be a serious contender. If they stay healthy, their secondary doesn’t drop off and they figure out the Tom Savage/Deshaun Watson dilemma though they could still be a playoff team.

Breakout Candidate: Kevin Johnson, CB
A broken foot last year undid all the good that Kevin Johnson did in his first season in 2015. With Johnson limited to just six games, A.J. Bouye stepped up and became a star, which saw him get a massive pay day and join the Jaguars. Not only will Johnson regroup again in 2017, his success will play a role in how far the Texans go.

MVP: J.J. Watt, DE
THERE may be no player more important to a team than Watt is to Houston. The 3x Defensive Player of the Year and sack machine played in just three games last year after never missing a game in his career previously. All eyes are on Watt’s health and no one is praying that he can get back to his best more than Bill O’Brien and the Texans fans.

2017 NFL Preview – AFC South 1Image from chron.com

Record: 9-7
THE ceiling for Houston is somewhat handicapped by their quarterback problem. After drafting their future starter in Watson 12th overall, the pressure is on for Savage to perform. If he can’t though the Texans may be reluctant to throw the first year stud to the wolves. The defense is once again their strength and no doubt will they give opposing play callers nightmares heading into a matchup. I think a wild card spot is up for grabs, but they will concede the division banner.

Indianapolis Colts

The 2017 Indianapolis Colts Will…
…BE worse than last season. It all comes to the health of Andrew Luck and with the QB out for the first game of the season I’m expecting even when he does return he won’t be 100% fit. They didn’t do much too sure up their O-line and invest in the health of Luck and their inability to stop the run and rush the passer may be on show again.

Breakout Candidate: John Simon, LB
IN his first year as a Colt the spotlight will squarely be on John Simon. The linebacker has been nestled between the stars of the Texans defense for the last three years and now Indianapolis will see whether he can be good without the safety blanket of stars around him. With two straight seasons of 50+ tackles and 8.5 total sacks, the Colts would love him to put up similar numbers.

2017 NFL Preview – AFC South 2Image from chron.com

MVP: Andrew Luck, QB
LUCK’S last two seasons have been cause for concern in Indianapolis. If he can’t stay healthy, or should I say if the Colts can’t keep him healthy then he could see his career spiral downward quickly. Luck has been sacked 156 times in his career including a career high 41 times last year. That number needs to decline for them to start recording more W’s.

Record: 6-10
A higher win total is only possible if Luck is healthy. The Colts open the season against the Rams, followed by the Cardinals, Browns and Seahawks. There is a possibility they are 0-4 after that stretch and they don’t possess the talent to come back from that type of record.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars Will…
…FINALLY part ways with Blake Bortles. There is only so much torment that you can take and while finding a starting quarterback with no issues is one of the toughest tasks in the NFL, Bortles has had enough chances and time and time again failed for Jacksonville. The rest of their roster is nice, after spending top dollar on a revamped defense and talented receivers coupling rookie back Leonard Fournette. End the torment for Jags fans and axe Bortles.

Breakout Candidate: Dante Fowler Jr, DE
ONCE again an injury ridden player is looking to make another jump in 2017. After losing his rookie season to an ACL tear, Fowler sacked the quarterback four times last year, defended five passes and had 32 tackles. Respectable numbers, but he should make a jump and improve those stats again this year.

MVP: Calais Campbell, DE
NEW to the Jaguars defensive line Calais Campbell spent the first nine years of his career with the Cardinals, twice being named a Pro Bowler. Since his second year, Campbell has recorded at least five sacks a year and gives Jacksonville a competent threat up front that will hopefully kick start the rival in the wins collum for the Jaguars.

Record: 5-11
OK, Jacksonville isn’t going to be very good. However, if things break right like their defense gelling quickly and Fournette living up to the hype five wins is attainable. Of course, the offensive line and quarterback issues could and likely will derail that train of thought, making it tough for the new defense to perform.

2017 NFL Preview – AFC South 3Image from bigcatcountry.com

Tennessee Titans

The 2017 Tennessee Titans Will…
…BREAK their eight-year playoff drought. They HAVE to. All signs are pointing to the Titans claiming their first division title since 2008 and live up to the hype they have flirted with for years. A stellar offensive line will help Mariota continue to grow and an upgraded secondary could solve their Achilles heel.

Breakout Candidate: Kevin Byard, FS
HE didn’t star right from the get go last season, but Kevin Byard definitely showed progression throughout his rookie campaign. You can’t ask for much more than that from a first-year player and I think he will continue to take strides this season. His ability to defend against passes over the top will help his cornerbacks from giving up big plays and he should be the full-time starter in year two.

MVP: DeMarco Murray, RB
NO not Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray is the Titans MVP. After a yo-yo few years, Murray landed in Tennessee last year and was a safety blanket for the quarterback from day one. A 1,200-yard rusher a season ago there’s no reason that Murray can’t repeat those numbers and contend for the rushing title.

Record: 11-5
DOUBLE digits wins should be a benchmark for Tennessee, but regardless of if they win the division or not the playoffs are a must. Tough games against Oakland and Seattle in the first month are a test with a cushy stretch in the middle of the season that should see them shoot up the standings. If they don’t drop easy games and claim a scalp or two more on the road than expected a first round bye isn’t out of the question.

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