2023 AFC South preview

September 5, 2023

Getty Images/Bryan M. Bennett

Jaguars 11-6

Trevor Lawrence’s unprecedented sophomore leap landed the Jags in the playoffs and has set some high hopes for 2023.

The underrated acquisition of Calvin Ridley last year will now pay dividends (he scored nine touchdowns on 90 catches when last we saw him for a full season) and help Lawrence continue to ascend. That should be enough to win an otherwise bad division, but the defense may prohibit Jacksonville from doing much beyond that in a loaded AFC.

Titans 8-9

Ryan Tannehill’s distaste for the new turf in Tennessee may not be his problem for long.

The Titans have used a third-round pick (Malik Willis) and a second rounder (Will Levis) on his replacement the last two drafts, making this a big season for the 35-year-old passer. If he (and an offense featuring 31-year-old DeAndre Hopkins and almost-30-year-old Derrick Henry) don’t perform, Tennessee will have no choice but to see what the youngsters can do.

Texans 6-11

Houston went back to the future by hiring former Texans Pro Bowler DeMeco Ryans as head coach, making them the first team in NFL history to hire three consecutive Black coaches (which would be impressive if it didn’t happen in three consecutive years).

Ryans’ ties to Houston makes it likely he won’t continue the one-and-done trend, and aside from that, he projects to be a fine coach. Year one will be dedicated to progressing top-three picks C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson into the building blocks for a contender.

This year, Houston will see growing pains with flashes of promise.

Colts 5-12

I found it hilarious that Jim Irsay was the harbinger of Dan Snyder’s ouster because with the disgraced Commanders owner no longer around, Irsay is now the worst NFL owner.

Long after he fired Frank Reich and literally plucked Jeff Saturday out of an ESPN studio to replace him (remember, an ex-player with no pro coaching experience?!), he put his whole leg in his mouth and made the Jonathan Taylor situation far worse.

Of course, this undermines the development of Anthony Richardson, who needs all the help he can get being a starting QB in the NFL after just 13 starts in college. He’s a terrific talent but he’s raw. The jury’s out on whether Shane Steichen is a better coach than Reich, but his task in winning with Richardson right away is a tough ask.

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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 WTOP.com.

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