Advertisement

AFC South preview: Titans poised to build off strong playoff run

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry runs a drill during NFL football training camp.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry looks for a repeat of his 1,500-yard campaign in 2019.
(George Walker IV / Associated Press)
1

A team-by-team breakdown of the AFC South along with the predicted order of finish in the division.

2

1. Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill passes in practice.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

2019| 9-7, 2nd in South

Last year in playoffs | 2019

Advertisement

Advertisement

WHAT HAPPENED LAST SEASON

Behind the play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry, the Titans finished 9-7 for the fourth consecutive season and returned to the playoffs. They then upset New England and Baltimore before falling to Kansas City in the AFC championship game.

PINNING THEIR HOPES ON

Tannehill. Now that they’ve signed him to a lucrative extension, the Titans are banking on their quarterback to continue playing at the lofty level that distinguished him last season. Naturally, they’ll need the running of league leader Henry to set up the passing game.

KEEP AN EYE ON

A.J. Brown. As a rookie last season, Brown burst onto the scene with 52 receptions for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns. Those were Randy Moss-type numbers for a first-year wideout. Now, he’s expected to take another step forward, and Tannehill is more than capable of getting the ball in his hands.

Advertisement

3

2. Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers throws a pass.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

2019 | 7-9, 3rd in South

Last year in playoffs | 2018

WHAT HAPPENED LAST SEASON

Despite the surprising retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck just before the start of the season, the Colts got off to a 5-2 start. The wheels eventually came off, however, and the Colts lost six of their next seven games to finish a disappointing 7-9.

PINNING THEIR HOPES ON

Philip Rivers. The longtime Chargers star parted ways with that team after last season and plans to finish his career playing for Frank Reich, who coached him in San Diego. Other quarterbacks have discovered a career resurgence in their late 30s, so why not a 38-year-old Rivers?

KEEP AN EYE ON

The offensive line. Finally, Rivers has a unit blocking for him that’s solid across the board. The Colts are particularly strong in the interior, with left guard Quenten Nelson and center Ryan Kelly leading the way. This is an especially deep line too, and it’s hard to overstate the value of that.

4

3. Houston Texans

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson throws a pass.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
(Brett Coomer / Associated Press)

Advertisement

2019 | 10-6, 1st in South

Last year in playoffs | 2019

WHAT HAPPENED LAST SEASON

The 2019 Texans followed an interesting pattern: lose one game, win the next two. That happened five times last season, with the Texans going 10-6 (they lost their finale) and winning the AFC South for the fourth time in five years. They lost a divisional playoff game at Kansas City, collapsing under the weight of a big Patrick Mahomes-led comeback.

PINNING THEIR HOPES ON

Deshaun Watson. One of the NFL’s most talented and exciting quarterbacks will have to get the job done without departed All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who accounted for 104 catches last season. At least Watson will be playing behind an improved offensive line.

KEEP AN EYE ON

J.J. Watt. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year missed half of the 2019 regular season with a torn pectoral muscle. The Texans are being extra careful to manage his workload, knowing if he’s healthy, he’s a game-changer.

5

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew throws a pass.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

2019 | 6-10, 4th in South

Advertisement

Last year in playoffs | 2017

WHAT HAPPENED LAST SEASON

The hopes were that Nick Foles would lead the Jaguars to prosperity, but the quarterback suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of the season. Rookie Gardner Minshew stepped in and performed surprisingly well, yet the club still finished out of the playoff mix at 6-10.

PINNING THEIR HOPES ON

Minshew. He did a respectable job in 12 starts as a rookie, going 6-6 with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 21-6. Jay Gruden replaces John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator and figures to bring in more of a timing-based, quick passing game.

KEEP AN EYE ON

K’Lavon Chaisson. With Yannick Ngakoue traded to the Minnesota Vikings, the Jaguars need to develop another relentless pass rusher. Chaisson was among the most talented defensive linemen in the 2020 draft class and figures to be an impressive bookend to rising second-year star Josh Allen.