For the overall 2020 NFL Preview click here, and see the links below for the rest of the divisional previews.
Remember the Titans’ unexpected run to the AFC Championship Game? I sure do.
Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry cashed in after breakout seasons, and figure to propel the Tennessee offense again. Wideout Corey Davis could improve in a contract year, which could make the passing game stronger than it was last season when Tannehill surprisingly led the league in QB rating.
Mike Vrabel’s defense was middle-of-the-road in 2019, but figures to be better this season thanks in part to the late addition of Jadeveon Clowney. Still, the Titans will rely on youngsters Harold Landry and Jeffrey Simmons to help this unit take the next step and compete for conference supremacy.
But that progression won’t come this season — if at all. Tennessee is good enough to win the AFC South, but still a tier down from Baltimore and Kansas City.
Houston is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
The Texans have established a weird front office setup that basically allows Bill O’Brien the general manager to undermine Bill O’Brien the coach at every turn. And frankly, the latter isn’t good enough to be rewarded with the former, so this franchise is ruining a championship window by placing so much faith in a man who has only two playoff wins.
The good news is franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson has a lucrative contract extension that keeps him in Houston through 2025, and J.J. Watt feels better than he has in a half decade. Those are easily the team’s two most important players. Offensively, the puzzling decision to trade DeAndre Hopkins has left the Texans with some good-but-not-great receivers and puts positions Watson to have to earn his money with more miracles like these.
Even if Watt is healthy, he’ll have a lot of the heavy lifting to do on a defense that lost D.J. Reader in free agency and has a bunch of questions in the secondary. It seems like Houston will never realize its full potential while O’Brien is running the show.
Indianapolis is a chic pick to win this division, and I don’t necessarily disagree. Adding Philip Rivers seems like an upgrade at quarterback and the trade for DeForest Buckner should solidify the defensive front.
I just question how much Rivers has left in the tank. Yes, he’s playing behind Pro Football Focus’ third-ranked offensive line. The 1-2 punch at running back (Marlon Mack and rookie Jonathan Taylor) should be good and second-round pick Michael Pittman Jr. looks like a perfect complement to T.Y. Hilton at receiver. But the cupboard wasn’t exactly bare in L.A. last year, yet Rivers threw 20 interceptions and posted just a 88.5 QB rating. Plus, he turns 39 in December so it’s not like he’s going to suddenly get better at this phase of his career.
With a talented but middle-of-the-road defense and a quarterback with a long history of losing close games, I don’t think the Colts will beat enough of the good teams on their schedule (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and perhaps, Cleveland) to win the division.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock.
Gardner Minshew isn’t as good as his mustache, he’s backed up a sixth-round pick — one of a whopping 16 rookies to make the initial 53-man roster — and the team couldn’t even drum up a trade market for 2017 fourth-overall pick Leonard Fournette. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden somehow managed to find his way to the one offense worse than the one he left in Washington.
The defense has made some weird changes to the linebacker position and traded away every one of the six Pro Bowlers that helped propel the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game three seasons ago. There’s rebuilding, and there’s gross negligence. This is the latter — and it will show on the field and in the standings.