The AFC South starts another years in the NFL and on the top it looks as if nothing will change — the Indianapolis Colts are the favorites to win the division. Indy does face questions about the holes in their offensive line and their defensive back seven though. The Houston Texans have a lot of questions to answer on their offense and, no matter how awesome he is, J.J. Watt can’t answer them. The Jacksonville Jaguars have year two of Blake Bortles to look forward to. The Tennessee Titans will have the excitement of last year’s Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota, to watch as they figure out how to make their future brighter.
Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
The Colts look to pick up where they left off last season by expanding the capabilities of their offense through their field general, Andrew Luck. The Colts will continue their no-huddle offense, which works to Luck’s advantage.
The receiving corps does not look like it will miss too much of their rhythm, even with the departures of Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks. The wide receivers will be fine with former Texans receiver Andre Johnson and Donte Moncrief to pick up the slack. TY Hilton is on board for the long haul as well with his $65 million extension.
Tight ends Dwayne Allen and Colby Fleener will give Luck the insurance he needs with their combined 16 touchdowns from last season. The questions for the Colts offense will come from the offensive line. Injuries have already plagued the Colts during the preseason with Donald Thomas being shelved with a torn quad and center Khaled Holmes fighting the injury to make to week one.
The offensive line will have to find a way to protect Luck during the season and help out a backfield that is having its own issues with injuries. The running backs look like slim pickings with Vick Ballard’s injury and an unproven rookie in Josh Robinson, and Frank Gore could be asked to be the workhorse for Indy–a task that will not be easy because of the offensive line.
Houston Texan (9-7)
If Jadeveon Clowney can stay healthy, the Texans will have an answer for Andrew Luck–with the Houston second-year man paired with the beast that is J.J. Watt. The combination of Clowney and Watt will give a number of offensive coordinators nightmares during the season.
The departure of Ryan Fitzpatrick to the soap opera known as the New York Jets left the quarterback position to be filled. Despite Ryan Mallett’s best efforts, Brian Hoyer will take the reign as the Texans leader. Hopefully, for the team’s sake, Hoyer can throw more touchdowns than interceptions this season since he’s capable of throwing over 3,000 yards in a season.
While head coach Bill O’ Brien tries to figure out the quarterback situation, it will be up to Jonathan Grimes and Alfred Blue to pick up the slack for Houston with Adrian Foster recovering from groin surgery.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
The good news for Jacksonville is that they have Blake Bortles in his second year as he looks to improve from his promising rookie season, which saw him post over 2,900 passing yards. More good news; it looks like the Jags have an offensive line that will at least block for Bortles.
Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon steps in as the starter in Week 1 and the Jaguars hope that he can provide a spark at running back, much like Dernard Robinson was able to do last season for the Jags. Toby Gerhart continues to slide down the depth chart, but Yeldon and Robinson should take some pressure off of Bortles in 2015.
Defense does not show much promise after promising safety Winston Guy went to Indianapolis, but there is a gleam of hope in Jonathan Cyprien who brings 218 tackles with him to the table.
The Colts will not have to worry about the Jags this year. But with no solid quarterback in Houston, the Jags could stun fans in the Lone Star state.
Tennessee Titans (2-14)
Year one of the Marcus Mariota experience is ready to launch, but what about the talent surrounding the rookie? Staring wide receivers Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright combined for over 1,200 receiving yards last season.
The running backs, Bishop Sankey and Dexter McCluster, could be good complimentary pieces, but not what Tennessee needs to start competing in the South. There is hope in Sankey and rookie David Cobb that the running game will show improvement and prevent Mariota from having to lead the team with his legs as well as his arms. Although, Cobb is starting the season on the short-term injured reserve with a torn calf muscle.
The Titans don’t look like they have much on defense to compete in the division with Houston or Indianapolis. They have no answer to J.J. Watt and definitely won’t stack up to the Colts line that will give Mariota nightmares.
This season will be the year to see what Tennessee can get out of Mariota as they look into the future and what they can do to address their defense.