AFC South 2017 Preview

For the overall 2017 NFL Preview click here, and see the links at the bottom of the page for the rest of the divisional previews.

Titans 11-5

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the surprise team of 2017!

If Marcus Mariota hadn’t gone down with a knee injury late last season, Tennessee likely would have won this division over Houston. Mariota is healthy and back with some new offensive targets: rookies Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Jonnu Smith were all good value picks. Eric Decker is the steady veteran the Titans needed and Rishard Matthews is coming off a breakout season. Add that to a rushing attack featuring DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and you have a balanced offense that should make beautiful music in Nashville.

Adoree Jackson and Jonathan Cyprien hope to improve a defensive secondary that struggled last season and Sylvester Williams is a good get for the D-line. Tennessee is a good team that got even better in the offseason and should be ready to win a game or two in the playoffs.

Texans 8-8

Fifteen years after their inaugural season, Houston has a problem far beyond their lackluster offense.

The Texans have dedicated the 2017 season to their city as it recovers from Hurricane Harvey. As we saw with New Orleans in 2005, such a catastrophe can derail a season (which, obviously, is the least of the city’s concerns).

Houston might now long for the days when their biggest catastrophe was the Brock Osweiler signing, a crazy expensive mistake they were lucky to move on from, but now they’re relying on QB Tom Savage to play caretaker even though he’s thrown just as many career TD passes in the NFL as rookie Deshaun Watson, who will spend this year learning how to play in a pro-style offense. Toss in a Duane Brown holdout and coach Bill O’Brien foolishly leaving the offensive coordinator post open to call plays himself, and you have a unit destined to struggle mightily. Again.

The NFL’s top-ranked defense in 2016 finally has J.J. Watt back, so they have the luxury of playing him and Jadeveon Clowney together for the first time in what feels like forever. Even without A.J. Bouye and the now-retired Vince Wilfork, this defense should be among the league’s best (if not dominant).

While I doubt Houston struggles through a 3-win campaign like the 2005 Saints in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, their best case scenario is struggling their way to a futile Wild Card effort.

Jaguars 7-9

Jacksonville made me look ridiculous last season. And a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous!

So this year, I’m not buying into the hype coming from the Jaguars defense. Malik Jackson’s Super Bowl talk? Nah dude. Barry Church thinking this team has 13-win talent? Nope. I like the Calais Campbell signing, and the defense will probably be much improved, but no good can come of doing a lot of talking in the offseason.

The offense as a unit has less swagger, but fourth-overall pick Leonard Fournette is talking like he’s ready to dominate the pros. The wild card is Blake Bortles. The fourth-year starting QB had a rough camp, got benched in the preseason, and there are signs his teammates are losing patience. If he finally puts it all together and becomes the second coming of Big Ben, the Jags are a playoff contender. But if he continues to turn the ball over at a league leading rate (his 63 turnovers the last four seasons are the most in the NFL and holds the distinction of having as many pick-sixes — 11 — as wins), this will be another losing season in Jacksonville.

Colts 4-12

If you thought this was the biggest wreck in Indy this year, wait’ll you get a load of the 2017 Colts.

Their alleged franchise QB Andrew Luck still isn’t back from a shoulder injury that plagued him in 2016, and that spooked the Colts into trading for Jacoby Brissett over the weekend. Center Ryan Kelly will miss multiple weeks with a foot injury and though Frank Gore is on the precipice of history, he’s an ancient 34 year-old running back still being asked to carry the load behind a lousy offensive line. This is a recipe for disaster.

Speaking of disasters…the Colts defense completely (and justifiably) overhauled their linebacking corps and their best (and arguably only) cornerback, Vontae Davis, will miss the first part of the season with a groin injury. Indy used its first three draft picks on defenders, with Malik Hooker a nice first selection. But it’s going to take some time for those pieces to come together — time I’m not sure the Colts will have.

The league’s easiest schedule won’t be enough to help Indianapolis. The Colts will be bad this year—and so will the ensuing fallout for head coach Chuck Pagano.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

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Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on

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