The “Sports Page 1 Elite” Staff Writer’s NFL Preview: AFC South

Houston Texans 

Brian Jones’ prediction 11-5, division champs 

 I’m actually a bigger believer in Brock Osweiler than most people are. I think he can get the job done for the Texans. In Denver he had a top-flight wide receiver, a solid running game and they went out and won games. In Houston he’s got DeAndre Hopkins, Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue – all three better options than what he had in Denver. Add in the division’s best overall talent and the most consistent defense and they’ll win the South for the second year in a row. The quarterback will be a reason they win it this year, not in spite of him like last season. Brian Jones

Antwon Smith’s prediction 8-8, 2nd in division 

Bill O’Brien finally caught his man in Brock Osweiler and his new backfield mate RB Lamar Miller should help open up the passing game and give all-world receiver DeAndre Hopkins some much needed help. J.J. Watt is still the man on defense and their front seven is still strong but their secondary is questionable and it could be pivotal to their season. Antwon Smith

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 11-5, division champs. 

JJ watt is the best non Qb in the league. Hands down. They have a good coach and a retooled offense. As long as Osweiller doesn’t shit the bed they will win this division. I’m going out on a limb here and saying JJ breaks the single season sack record and wins the NFL MVP 30 years after L.T. did it. He also ends up with more TD catches then their starting tight end. J.Russell Zinn 

Kip Ambrose’sprediction 9-7, second in division. 

The Texans made a couple of huge signings this offseason in Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller, the latter of which should be a huge upgrade from the injury-prone Arian Foster. The jury is still undecided on Brock Osweiler, and whether he becomes a starting-caliber quarterback or not could be the difference from them finishing first or the Texans not making the Playoffs. I have always been a supporter of Osweiler, so I see him becoming a mid-level quarterback this season.  

​The defense is obviously the strong point of this team, as JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus serve as one of the league’s best one-two punches. The only doubt is that Mercilus won’t hold up his current form. It was definitely unexpected that Mercilus would end up posting 12 sacks after not even getting above 7 the three years prior, but I believe that as long as Watt and Vince Wilfork are drawing defenders, Mercilus will have a lot of easy sacks this season. I know that I said that Osweiler will become a decent quarterback and they should win the division, but even with Osweiler improving, I can’t see the Texans finding a way around the Jaguars. Kip Ambrose 

Ralph’s prediction 9-7, 2nd in division 

It seems that the Texans finally have a viable option at quarterback in Brock Osweiler. Whether or not he actually pans out, we have to wait and see. We do know the Texans have JJ Watt, and even if he’s coming back off of an injury, he’s still Watt. Teams still have to game plan around him. The Texans replaced Adrian Foster with Lamar Miller in hopes of producing some kind of running game. I think the chips fall into place for the Texans and the stars align just right for a decent season. Ralph 

Scott Brown’s prediction 10-6, division champions.

The Houston Texans were 9-7 last year. Houston upgraded at quaterback. Osweiler just spent four years under Peyton Manning and John Elway. He learned from the best and he showed that he can lead an offense while Manning was hurt. Drafting Will Fuller out of Notre Dame will help their passing game because the kid has wheels. But, will the offensive line stay healthy enough for it to matter? They have a solid defense and if they stay healthy that won’t change, but you have to wonder how JJ Watt will be after back surgery. Scott Brown

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kip Ambrose’s prediction, 10-6, division Champs 

​I am just obsessed with this entire team. The amount of young talent that they have is insane, and the offseason that they had was one of the best that we’ve seen in a while. Getting arguably the Top 2 defensive players in the draft in Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack was my favorite part of the offseason. Gus Bradley, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator, is building what we have known as “Seattle Southwest”. With Jalen Ramsey, he found his Richard Sherman (or Earl Thomas, depending on where he lines up), and with Jack, he found his Bobby Wagner. The Jaguars addressed every single concern that I had with them this offseason. They needed a running back. Check! They needed to bolster their secondary. Check! The needed to bring in an elite pass rusher. Check! There are just two things holding this team back from a Super Bowl. The first is the offensive line. They brought in Kelvin Beachum, one of my favorite left tackles who is vastly underrated, in free agency to bolster the line, but aside from that, they could use a couple more stars on that line. I mean they are building Seattle Southwest so I guess that they got the offensive line part of it right. (Makes bad Seattle Seahawks offensive line joke). The second thing holding this team back is time. They have one of the youngest rosters and in a couple of years, this team will explode onto the scene with numerous superstars on every side of the ball. Kip Ambrose 

Antwon Smith’s prediction 10-6, division champs.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will finally get back to the top spot in the division and get back to respectability. The Jags young trio of Bortles, Robinson and Hurns are a throwback of the old Jags trio of Brunnell, Smith and McCardell, which means they can rack up yards fast and also put points on the board. They have quite a bit of young players on defense but the veterans they signed in the offseason should help offset some of the inexperience. Gus Bradley finally has the weapons he wants in his system, now it’s time to get them to buy in. Antwon Smith

Ralph’s prediction 11-5, division Champs 

It’s time for a new king of the division, it is the Jags turn. Bortles threw for over 4000 yards last season. The two wide receiving Allen’s each had 1000 yard seasons. Julius Thomas is back and healthy. The Jags signed Chris Ivory to running back alongside TJ Yeldon. The Jags also drafted Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack on defense.Dante Fowler is also healthy this season. The Jags have put a lot of work into their defense to help them win games. If Bortles continues to grow as a quarterback this team can be trouble for a very long time. Ralph 

Scott Browns prediction 4-12, 3rd in division.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were 5-11 last year. They strengthened their defense by drafting Jalen Ramsey and signing free agents Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson. They got their quarterback some protection on the left side by signing Kelvin Beachum if his knee holds up. T. J. Eldon and Chris Ivory give them a decent running game. Regardless, they are Jacksonville and have a tough schedule. Scott Brown.

Brian Jones prediction. 8-8 3rd in division.

This is probably the one team in the NFL that has the potential to be the most surprising team in the league and the potential to be the most disappointing. I’m going to err on the side of caution and say they’ll be (slightly) disappointing. Blake Bortles leads what should be a top 10 offense this season but the real issues with this team are on the defensive side of the ball. The health of the defense is a big question. If healthy they can help this team make some noise and grow like the offense did a year ago. Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler, Jr. are all nursing injuries and will return to make an impact for Jacksonville – but not enough of one to make the playoffs in 2016. Brian Jones

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction. 9-7 2nd in division wild card playoff team. 

This team along with the Raiders is the future of the AFC. Bortles vs. Carr will be the new Brady vs. Manning. It just won’t be this year. The Jags will look much improved, but they will struggle finishing off good opponents. They still have to learn how to win. That’s what this year is for them, learning how to be great. J.Russell Zinn

Indianapolis Colts

Ralph’s prediction, 8-8, 3rd in division 

When your starting running back is Frank Gore, I can’t take your team seriously. Last season the Colts were horrible without Andrew Luck. While he is now healthy, I don’t believe he can carry this team with an aged running back and a defense that leaves much to be desired. The Colts win some and lose some, no longer will that be a playoff caliber team. Ralph 
J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 8-8, 3rd in division 

The Colts biggest blessing is their biggest curse. Andrew Luck was too good too soon, they need one more draft of high picks to stock the cabinet. They just have too many subpar players at too many positions. Where they are great, they are great but their holes can be exploited. They also suffer from inferior coaching. This team will be a contender next year with a bunch of high draft picks and Jim Bob Cooter coaching. J.Russell  Zinn

Brian Jones’ prediction 10-6, second in the division.

Until the Colts front office proves it can keep Andrew Luck upright for 16 games and until Luck cuts down on his turnovers and stays healthy, this team isn’t going very far. The offensive line upgrades weren’t enough this offseason and the defense still has some holes to fill. Head coach Chuck Pagano was given a new contract but he has his work cut out for him. A favorable schedule will help them return to the postseason but not much farther than that. Brian Jones

Kip Ambrose’s prediction, 6-10 3rd in division. 

A couple of years ago, many, including myself, would have easily put the Colts atop this list, but in the last few years, we have learned, time and again, that defense wins games. We learned it with the Seahawks, Patriots, Panthers, and Broncos. The Colts are a team built strongly around offense, but shaky offensive line play will continue to plague this team time and time again. The big question on offense is whether Andrew Luck can stay healthy. The offensive line is a sieve and Luck just keeps on taking big hits. If I were the Colts, I would be a lot more concerned about my franchise player’s health.

​The defense, outside of Vontae Davis is below-average at best. D’Qwell Jackson posted an insane amount of tackles, but he never one of the top ILB’s, Jerrell Freeman on the other hand, was a Top-5 ILB last season. He has since moved on to Chicago. Henry Anderson is an emerging 3-4 defensive end, but I am really concerned that this team could finish last in sacks next season. The linebacking corps and secondary aren’t anything to write home about either. Kip Ambrose.

Scott Brown’s prediction 9-7, second in the division. 

The Indianapolis Colts were 8-8 last year. The big question is how will Andrew Luck look when he returns to the field for the first time since half way through last season? He should come back and make them competitive again. But, Indy has an average defense. And did nothing to upgrade it. Scott Brown

Antwon Smith’s prediction 6-10, 3rd in division.

The Colts new $100 million dollar QB looks to get back on track after missing most of last season because of a kidney laceration, but he has his main weapons still at his disposal and should pick up where he left off. The defense however is the teams weak point which is why I dropped them to third in the division. Antwon Smith

Tennessee Titans

Scott Brown’s prediction. 3-13, last in division. 

The Tennessee Titans were 3-13 last year. They had a great draft, trading for two first-round picks, two second-round picks and two-third round picks when they sent the first, 113th and 177th picks to Los Angeles. They improved their offensive line and protecting Marcus Mariota should be the team’s main concern. And they added an offensive weapon in DeMarco Murray. Yes, last year was his worst ever, but that is expected considering what he did the year before and he looks good in the pre-season. They drafted Alabama’s Derrick Henry too, giving them a very good running game. Having said that, they did little to fix the many other problems they had last year. Scott Brown

Antwon Smith’s prediction 4-12, last in division.

Tennessee has their QB of the future it seems in Mariota and they have a strong backfield to take some pressure off the young QB. They have solid players on defense but they are young and still learning. Give or take 2-3 seasons they will be one of the up and coming teams in the AFC. Antwon Smith

Ralph’s prediction 3-13, last in division 

Last place in the division again. The addition of Demarco Murray helps take some pressure off of Marcus Mariota, but it doesn’t make up for their horrible offensive line and Mariota misses time again this season. The offensive line ranked near the bottom last season and trading for Dennis Kelly from Philadelphia isn’t going to fix that.Why the Titans traded away one of their best wide receivers is beyond comprehension. Ralph 

Brian Jones’ prediction 3-13, last in division.

The Titans are attempting to use a offense geared around running the football (called “Thunder and Thunder” for some odd reason) – a year after drafting Marcus Mariota and trying to make him into a pocket passer. Clearly this franchise can’t find its right now and their roster (among other things) reflects this. They have a lot of needs (WR, LT, RT and all over on defense) and the team is short on overall talent. Luckily they have a boatload of draft picks coming up in next year’s draft. Titans fans may as well start the countdown now because this season is already over for them and they’re headed for another top 5 pick (along with the Rams picks acquired last season).Brian Jones

Kip Ambrose’s prediction 4-12, last in division

​I would have been a lot higher on the Titans had they not just pulled off one of the worst trades that I’ve seen in a while. Trading Dorial Green-Beckham, a 6’5” promising receiver, for Dennis Kelly, a backup offensive lineman, was a head-scratching move. After the Titans severely overdrafted Jack Conklin, at least in my opinion, I’m starting to wonder how this franchise judges offensive lineman. Marcus Mariota should continue his progression this season, and there is no rush for him to get better right away. One thing that I love about this franchise is their running game. DeMarco Murray is expected to come back and prove that he is still the back that he was in 2014, and Derrick Henry has been everything he was expected to be and more in preseason.

​The defense is the definition of mediocre. Jurrell Casey is vastly underrated, and with Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan coming off the edge, the pass-rush will provide some threat, but it’s nothing to gameplan about. Kip Ambrose.

J.Russell Zinn’s prediction 2-14. Last in division.

Where to start on the poor poor Titans. They got the steal of the draft in running back Derrick Henry. Unfortunately even with him I don’t see this team winning a game against the NFC North or in their own division. Mariotta needed to sit for a year and get his mechanics and decision making converted into NFL qb. This year without that time to rebuild him (much like how Mccarthy rebuilt Aaron Rodgers) and a year of tape defensive coordinators are going to force him to make his second and third read throws. All while his porous line is getting him killed. I like Mariotta but in 5 years we will be saying I can’t believe the Buccaneers had to even think between Winston and him. He landed in the worst place for him to have success. The Titans will be sitting atop the draft again next year. J.Russell Zinn

2 Comments

  1. Show me the 6 wins on their schedule and I’ll ride with you. I believe they have the rookie of the year in Derrick Henry and Dallas will be bitching for years about how they should have taken Henry over elliot. But They don’t have an easy schedule, Mariotta struggles after his first read and they are facing a lot of good ds and cbs. They have no line and are facing some of the best pass rushes in the nfl. I just don’t see them doing better this year. And I live in tennessee

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