This article is the third installment of an eight-part series. Each part focuses on one NFL division and provides a brief synopsis of the state of each team in that division. In the last segment, I looked at the teams in the AFC North. Here, I will discuss the teams in the AFC South.
The Houston Texans went 4-13 last year. Somehow, most people thought they would be even worse without their franchise QB Deshaun Watson taking the field in 2021. For the first time since 2019, the Texans have a first-round pick.
They are clearly in the beginning stage of a rebuild and need help everywhere. It is difficult to really know how long the rebuild will take until the Texans resolve the Deshaun Watson situation.
Is Deshaun Watson Part Of The Texans’ Future?
Presently, Watson is mired in off-the-field legal battles, and it is unknown when he will be able to take the field again. Even if/when those issues get resolved, Watson has requested a trade.
The Texans have been listening to offers for the past year. It feels like just a matter of time before he is moved. A package with many young players and draft picks would certainly accelerate the rebuild in Houston.
Can Davis Mills Be The Answer At QB?
Rookie QB Davis Mills showed enough flashes last year to make the Texans think twice about drafting another young QB. With a new coaching staff, however, it almost feels like the Texans are starting from scratch.
Does Texans’ new head coach Lovie Smith view Davis Mills as any more than a stop gag until they find their next face of the franchise? In his second year, Mills will need to show the Texans that he is the long-term answer.
The way the Inidianapolis Colts’ season ended surely left a bad taste in the mouths of many Colts fans. The Colts, who finished 9-8, needed one more win to make the playoffs. They inexplicably dropped their final two games and failed to make the playoffs.
Their Week 18 loss at home to the worst team in the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars, was one of the greatest choke jobs we have seen in recent memories.
The Colts seemingly had the kind of roster that could make some noise in the playoffs. They were tough and physical in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Their second-year RB, Jonathan Taylor led the league in rushing with 1,811 yards and 18 TDs.
Where Did It Go Wrong in 2021?
Undoubtedly, the Colts’ failure in 2021 was due in large part to abysmal QB play. QB Carson Wentz produced what looked like decent statistics. He completed 62% of his passes for 3,563 yards with 27 TDs and 7 picks.
However, numbers do not tell the story in this case. Wentz was inconsistent all year long. He was inaccurate throw-to-throw and displayed questionable decision-making too often. Some of his biggest gaffes came in crunch-time of close games.
The Colts’ offense was built for the QB to be little more than a game manager. However, even with such little responsibility, Wentz lost the confidence of the coaching staff by year’s end.
The Colts Gave Up On Wentz After Only One Year
Even though they gave up a first-rounder to acquire Wentz from the Eagles just a year ago, the Colts have already cut bait with him. Last week, he was traded to the Washington Commanders for two Day 2 draft picks.
It would seem to be an ominous sign for Wentz’s future when a coach like Frank Reich gives up on him. When Reich was the offensive coordinator in Philly in 2017, he helped Wentz develop into one of the league’s best passers.
Only a few short years later, Wentz is clearly no longer the same player. And many feel that this stint in Washington may be his last opportunity as a starting QB in the NFL.
Colts Need To Find A QB
Hence, the Colts join a long list of NFL teams that need a QB. However, like Tampa Bay and New Orleans, they are on the shortlist of teams that would appear to be a star QB away from serious contention.
Their 2022 season rests mainly on who they can get to fill their vacant QB position. Stars like Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers have had their situations resolved recently. Thus, the Colts will likely have to settle for someone like Mitchell Trubisky, Jacoby Brissett, Teddy Bridgewater, or Jamies Winston.
The Jacksonville Jaguars would like a do-over. Their 2021 season was nothing short of a complete disaster. Due to multiple controversies, not to mention lackluster play, the Jags fired their head coach Urban Meyer after only 13 games. They finished with the worst record in football once again.
On the bright side, however, they have hired offensive guru Doug Pedersen to be their head coach. And they seem to have a young franchise QB to build around in Trevor Lawrence. With the first pick in the NFL draft, the Jags figure to draft a behemoth offensive tackle to shore up the weakest position on their team.
Optimism in Jacksonville Abounds
Further, their defense showed real growth last year, as they produced many fine performances. In their last four games, the Jags went 2-2. Thus, there appears to be a ton of optimism this year in Jacksonville. With that in mind, however, Jags fans should probably temper their expectations. 2022 is all about the Jags climbing the NFL mountain towards respectability.
I feel like the stars aligned for the Tennessee Titans last year to make it to the Super Bowl. The Titans survived a serious injury to all-world RB Derrick Henry to win the AFC South.
Additionally, they secured home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Henry was back for their home divisional-round playoff game vs the Cincinnati Bengals.
Having made the playoffs the last three years, the Titans were battle-tested and experienced. These young, up-start Cincinnati Bengals were supposed to be happy just to be there. Ultimately, however, the Bengals prevailed 19-16.
Titans Were Doomed By Inept QB Play In The Playoffs
In the end, as it so often does, it came down to QB play. Joe Burrow showed the ability to make plays when his team needed them most. QB Ryan Tannehill, on the other hand, proved to be the Titans’ undoing.
While Tannehill was erratic all day, his third interception of the day sealed the Titans’ fate that day. With twenty seconds left to play, the score was tied 16-16, and the game set to go into overtime, Tannehill inexplicably tried to force a throw into coverage that was picked off around midfield. Three plays later, Bengals Kicker Evan McPherson kicked the walk-off winner to end the Titans’ season.
The Titans Will Run It Back With Tannehill Next Year
Although most football fans believe the Titans will likely be a good team next year, it is difficult to imagine them going all the way with Ryan Tannehill at QB. Until they get better clutch play at football’s most important position, the Titans will remain also-rans.
And in case you are wondering if there might better options, consider this. In 2022, Tannehill will make $38.6 million with a dead cap hit of $57.4 million if they were to release him. Thus, I am sorry to inform Titans fans of this, but Tannehill is not going anywhere.
Thank You For Reading – AFC South: A Snapshot View.
I really enjoyed delving into the state of these teams, and hope I was able to shed a little light. Make sure to hit me up on Twitter or Facebook with any inquiries and/or to tell me how wrong you think I was.