NFL: Preseason AFC South Predictions

In previous seasons, the AFC South has been one of the easiest divisions to gauge. The Indianapolis Colts seemed to consistently enter as the favorite, while the Houston Texans had a talented enough defense to give them a run for their money. Now, though, everything seems to be changing. While the Colts are likely the favorites in the eyes of many, the Texans aren’t the only team poised to give them a run.

The Jacksonville Jaguars improved massively this offseason, while the Tennessee Titans are also trending in the right direction. Oh, and to go along with that, the Texans added some offensive firepower to work with their tremendous defense. After breaking down multiple other divisions, we’re going to break down our preseason AFC South predictions for the 201617 season.

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Tennessee Titans

Houston Texans

NFL: Preseason AFC South Predictions

J.J. Watt is excited to play football. | Scott Halleran/Getty Images

While not the biggest believers in Brock Osweiler, he’s still an upgrade over the quarterback situation in Houston from the previous years. Plus, he has a ridiculously talented option to work with, DeAndre Hopkins.

Tack on a solid group of receivers to pair up with Hopkins, as well as the addition of Lamar Miller in the backfield, and you have a pretty talented offensive group. Far more gifted than the playoff team we saw last year in Houston.

Yes, the Texans caught a break last season with the Colts lacking Andrew Luck for much of the year, but it won’t matter in 2016–17. The offense/defense combo for Houston is good enough to help them take the crown and return to the playoffs once again, where they seem poised to do some damage.

Indianapolis Colts

NFL: Preseason AFC South Predictions

Al Bello/Getty Images

The Colts will make the playoffs in 2016–17, but it’ll be as a wild card team. The Texans will hold off Indianapolis when all is said and done, even though Luck will likely put up some absolutely huge numbers in a healthy return. The Colts’ problem is that their defense just isn’t strong enough to really hold off opponents, which will put a ton of pressure on the offense.

Expect multiple high-scoring games for the Colts this coming season, with them being on the wrong side of the final score a few times. In the end, some of those close, high-scoring losses will wind up costing the Colts their chance at retaking the throne in the AFC South in 2016–17.

Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL: Preseason AFC South Predictions

Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The Jaguars will be right there, but the AFC South will not get three teams into the playoffs next season. We fully expect to see an improvement from the 5-11 record in 2015, and Blake Bortles seems to have really turned a corner as well.

Jacksonville will be back in the playoffs within the next 2 or 3 seasons, but it won’t happen overnight. They’ll be close, and Bortles, paired with a strong defense will make it so that the Jaguars are no longer a team who opponents can overlook on their schedules.

The real question for the Jaguars comes in the running game. Will it be Chris Ivory or T.J. Yeldon who carries the load next season? To go along with that, will they do enough to help ease the pressure on Bortles? It’s hard to imagine they won’t.

Tennessee Titans

NFL: Preseason AFC South Predictions

Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans throws a pass under pressure. | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the Titans come up at the bottom of our AFC South predictions once again. This will now be the third season in a row that we’ve seen it go this way, and while things seem gloomy after a 2-14 season in 2014 and a 3-13 season in 2015, it’s not nearly as bad as it seems.

Marcus Mariota is one of the budding stars in this league, and the Titans have an intriguing duo at running back in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. To go along with that, Dorial Green-Beckham has massive potential to be a rising star in the league as well.

The main issue for Tennessee? A defensive unit that allowed 26.4 points-per-game last season, ranking them No. 27 in the NFL. It will be slightly tough sledding in an improved division for Tennessee, but at the very least they won’t wind up with a top-two pick this year.

Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com.

More from Sports Cheat Sheet: