We travel down to the AFC South where a healthy Deshaun Watson showed why he is the Texans franchise quarterback by adding a division title to his resume. The Colts hired a coach, lost that coach, then got another coach. They started 1-5 then went 9-1 to make the playoffs. Do they like rollercoasters? The 9-7 Titans were the most boring 9-7 team in the league. Finally, the Jaguars went from the AFC championship game to 5-11. Bye, Bye Blake Bortles hello Nick Foles.
Indianapolis Colts, 1st AFC South
Team MVP: Andrew Luck
If a player has the potential to be the MVP of the NFL, then he is surely going to end up the team’s MVP at the minimum. If that isn’t enough proof look at the Colts record each of the last three years. With Luck in 2016 8-8, without Luck in 2017 4-12, with Luck in 2018 10-6. With a lot of Luck, the Colts are Superbowl contenders.
Breakout Player: Malik Hooker
Malik Hooker spent his first two NFL offseasons rehabbing injuries on top of learning new defenses in each. Neither of those is an issue heading into the 2019 season. All of this leads to the potential Mailk taps into the talent that made him a first-round pick and becomes one of the top safeties in the NFL.
Season Outlook: Chris Ballard fixed a suspect offensive line by drafting Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith to protect Andrew Luck. He then drafted defensive rookie of the year and All-Pro Darius Leonard to improve the defense. These moves have made the Colts the best team in the AFC South and a legit Superbowl contender.
Houston Texans, 2nd AFC South
Team MVP: Deandre Hopkins
Deandre Hopkins is arguably the best receiver in the game. What isn’t arguable is his importance to the Texans. Can you say wide receiver injury hell? With Watson on the verge of a breakout season (hint hint) and Hopkins at the peak of his abilities, this could end up the best season of an already stellar career.
Breakout Player: DeShaun Watson
Watson burst onto the scene as a rookie lighting up scoreboards until an ACL tear ended his season. He followed his rookie year with a season throwing for over 4000 yards and 26 touchdowns. He still has Deandre Hopkins and a robust set of skill players in place. The Texans then added Duke Johnson while writing this as another weapon in that group. Deshaun now has the experience and weapons to take his play from excellent into the elite in 2019.
Season Outlook: The Texans are a good football team with a good coach, but until they win when it matters most, that’s it. The weapons are in place on both sides of the ball to be an elite club, yet they seem to fall short every year. If your the Texans owner do you begin to wonder if its Bill O’Brien holding this team back from its full potential?
Jacksonville Jaguars, 3rd AFC South
Team MVP: Nick Foles
Foles comes over from the Eagles to take the reigns of a team not that far removed from an AFC championship game. He brings a Superbowl MVP and hopes of playoffs to Jaguars fans. While this is not the huge step up that most think, he will make the Jaguars better, and that makes him their MVP.
Breakout Player: Ronnie Harrison
Harrison took over the starting safety job last season and held his own in a talented group. Being surrounded by all of that talent will raise a players knowledge of the game. Combine that with the physical tools Harrison owns, and a stellar season doesn’t seem out of reach.
Season Outlook: The Jaguars got their quarterback in Nick Foles and still one of the most talented defenses in the NFL. A bounce-back season is not out of the question, but that lands squarely on his shoulders. Should Foles falter, the Jags could end up making another top ten pick in the 2020 draft.
Tennessee Titans, 4th in AFC South
Team MVP: Derrick Henry
Henry had his breakout last year rushing for over 1000 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Titans. He will do more of the same in 2019 as the lead back in a run-oriented attack. With questions surrounding the quarterback position, this could lead to surpassing last seasons numbers and having a career year as the most important to the Titans offense.
Breakout Player: Rashaan Evans
Evans injured his hamstring in training camp last year leading to a rough start to his rookie season. He struggled to make quick reads and looked lost most of the year. Then something clicked, and Evans became a playmaking monster over the last six games of the year culminating in the fourth-down stop of Leonard Fournette that lead to Derrick Henry’s 99-yard TD run. Evans looks like a guy primed for a massive season in 2019.
Season Outlook: The Titans have a great coach and a talented group of players. The big questions surround Marcus Mariota. Will he finally take his play to the franchise quarterback level in 2019? The answer to that will determine a fringe playoff team once again from a legit contender. Ryan Tannehill is waiting in the wings should Mariota stumble, but is he really the answer?