We’re on the cusp of the 2021 NFL Season. Before we get there, it’s time to prepare by looking at each of these divisions and the prospects for the season. Next up is the AFC South, where there are a couple of contenders and a couple of pretenders.
In 2020, a pair of teams from the AFC South made the playoffs as the Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts battled it out most of the season. Both teams made bit acquisitions this off-season, further fueling the rivalry. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are re-building, and the Texans are, well, still in the NFL.
2020 Record: 11-5
Key Additions: Julio Jones, WR, Josh Reynolds, WR, Bud Dupree, LB, Caleb Farley, CB
Key Departures: Corey Davis, WR, Adam Humphries, WR, Jonnu Smith, TE, Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Adoree Jackson, CB
Key Question: Is the Titans’ defense good enough?
The 2020 Tennessee Titans had an explosive offense. Derrick Henry ran for more than 2,000 yards, A.J. Brown had a great second season, Corey Davis hit his stride, and Ryan Tannehill was there to lead it all. But they needed the offense as the defense often couldn’t stop anyone. The Titans saw several offensive role players leave this off-season, including Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith. But the team brought in former Falcons’ standout Julio Jones and returned Brown, Henry, and Tannehill, so the offense should be solid. But the Titans will only go as far as their defense can take them. The question is, did the team do enough? The Titans spent five of eight draft picks, including three of the first four, on defense and added Dupree from the Steelers. If the Titans’ defense can be better, the team can make another playoff run.
2020 Record: 11-5
Key Additions: Carson Wentz, QB, Eric Fisher, LT, Kwity Paye, DE
Key Departures: Philip Rivers, QB, Jacoby Brissett, QB, Justin Houston, DE, Trey Burton, TE
Key Question: Can the Colts stay healthy?
After winning 11 games and making the playoffs in 2020, the Colts didn’t change much this off-season. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers retired, but the team snagged Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz, who had his best seasons when Frank Reich was his Offensive Coordinator. That seemed to set the team up for success, but this Training Camp has presented challenges. Wentz broke his foot and required surgery, as did star guard Quentin Nelson. Rookie QB Sam Ehlinger hurt his knee, and now TY Hilton is on the IR with a neck injury. The Colts still have weapons and potential but face a brutal opening schedule and need everyone to stay healthy and available to maximize potential.
2020 Record: 1-15
Key Additions: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Travis Etienne, RB, Marvin Jones, WR, Carlos Hyde, RB, Shaquill Griffin, CB
Key Departures: Gardner Minshew, QB, Keelan Cole, WR, Dede Westbrook, WR, Chris Conley, WR
Key Question: How quickly can the team come together with Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer?
The 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars were a disaster. The team finished a woeful 1-15, looked lost most of the season, and started over this off-season. Coach Doug Marrone was fired, and Urban Meyer was hired. The team spent a First Round pick on Trevor Lawrence and began shaping a new attack. Part of that was derailed when rookie running back Travis Etienne was lost for the season. The Jaguars have a scrappy roster and new energy, but it remains to be seen how the team will move forward in Meyer’s first year and how quickly Lawrence can develop. Those questions will define how much improvement the Jaguars can make in 2020.
2020 Record: 4-12
Key Additions: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Davis Mills, QB, Phillip Lindsay, RB, Mark Ingram, RB, Nico Collins, WR, Rex Burkhead, RB
Key Departures: J.J. Watt, DE, Will Fuller V, WR, Nick Martin, C
Key Question: Will the Texans win a game?
The 2020 Houston Texans weren’t great. The team finished 4-12, and Head Coach Bill O’Brien was fired. It’s possible the 2021 Houston Texans could be worse. Due to off-field issues and conflicts with the team, star Deshaun Watson is still on the roster but unlikely to play a game. The Texans saw star J.J. Watt move on and have a mediocre roster at best. The Texans also started a fire sale. The team will likely roll with a combination of Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills at quarterback, and it figures to be a long season for fans.
AFC South Prediction:
I think the Titans remain atop the division. The defense will be good enough, while the offense won’t miss a beat with Jones joining a core led by Tannehill, Henry, and Brown. The Colts should still be in the mix, finishing over .500 and in the mix for the playoffs. I don’t think the other two teams are contenders, though the Texans could be contenders for the No. 1 overall pick.
Tennessee Titans: 11-6
Indianapolis Colts: 9-8
Jacksonville Jaguars: 5-12
Houston Texans: 1-16
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL Fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.