With the NFL season in full swing, and the AFC South division completely up in the air after two weeks, there are many questions to be asked. We brought together the AFC South team here at cover32 for a roundtable discussion.
Ben Pfeifer: cover32 Colts Managing Editor
Brian Moore: cover32 Titans Managing Editor
Brandon Ray cover32 Jaguars Managing Editor
James Mastrucci: cover32 Texans Managing Editor
Maxx Hotton: cover32 Colts Writer
Jesse Pierson: cover32 Colts Writer
Question One: Who will be crowned the AFC South champion, and what will each team’s record be?
Pfeifer: 1) It seems that in the blink of an eye the Tennessee Titans have gone from a team that would be bottom of the barrel for many years to come, to one who could be a super bowl contender in due time. Their explosive offense has potential to be one of the best in the NFL. Along with their lethal running game, they added Corey Davis and the criminally underrated Taywan Taylor to help out Marcus Mariota. The Titans’ defense is the only thing holding them back at the moment. 12-4
2) The Texans are a quarterback away from being a legitimate super bowl contender, and it has been this way for a while. The Texans’ offense has struggled mightily over the past two games, and that will continue to be their achilles heel until they can find a decent quarterback. Houston is a fringe playoff team. 8-8
3) Jacksonville shares a similar problem with Houston; their defense is one of the best in the league, but their offense is nowhere near good enough. The root of the Jaguars’ issues is Blake Bortles, who is arguably the worst quarterback in the NFL. Leonard Fournette has the making of a future NFL star, but without a passing attack he has little avenue to succeed. Allen Robinson’s season ending injury was the final blow to the Jaguars’ season. 6-10
4) My Colts are unfortunately not in the best of positions with their superstar quarterback sidelined indefinitely. Andrew Luck has already been ruled out for week 3. Luck turns this team from a bottom five team to one who is a playoff contender. This team is moving in the right direction though, with young players such as Malik Hooker and Ryan Kelley marking a bright future in Indianapolis. 4-12
Moore: 1) Titans built a very deep team quickly and can withstand injuries. Jon Robinson has been quite fortunate and deserves a lot of credit for the remarkable turnaround.
2) The Texans don’t look as good thus far with J.J. Watt back. It’s very odd given his immense talent, but they were the top defense last season. They’ll only go as far as Watson can take them.
Ray: The Titans look like they will be the team to beat in the AFC South. They’re team looks amazing with a young quarterback in Marcus Mariota and a nice offensive line. While the defense still needs help, as long as they can do the minimum to keep opposing offenses’ out of the end zone, expect the Titans to clinch the division.
Team records: Titans: 11-5, Jaguars: 9-7, Texans: 7-9, Colts: 3-13
Mastrucci: The AFC South will be won by the Titans. Every other team in the division does not appear good enough to compete for the divisional title.
Records for AFC South Teams are as follows
Hotton: Tennessee, they are the most balanced team in the division, and with no luck for most of the season, Tennessee has the best available quarterback. Derrick Henry will probably take over for Murray, giving them a top running game again, defense is improved enough to get to at least 10 wins which is all they’ll need.
Pierson: AFC South winner and why: Tennessee because of Mariota’s continued development, a physical defense, and improved team speed.
Question Two: Who is the best player in the AFC South?
Pfeifer: When healthy, Andrew Luck is undoubtedly the best player in the AFC South. The last season he was fully healthy, he was an MVP candidate. Luck’s absence this season proves just how great he is
If we are speaking of this season, I think I have to give the award to Marcus Mariota. The guy is a flat out game changer. He single handedly turned the Titans around, and is trending steeply upward. Mariota could be a top three quarterback in the NFL in a few seasons. His game really reminds me a lot of Russell Wilson at his height.
Moore: Normally its J.J. Watt but I haven’t seen him be his ol’ self just yet. Probably DeAndre Hopkins. After the Texans went from Andre to DeAndre, the entire division had to spend many picks on their secondaries. Marcus Mariota could finish as the MVP if there was such an award.
Ray: The best player in the AFC South is Calais Campbell because he brings the mentality to a defensive line that a coach wants and produces consistently. It’s a close battle between him and J.J. Watt, but with Watt’s recent injuries, Campbell has the edge on him.
Mastrucci: The actual best player and who the best player is right now are two different people. The actual best player is J.J. Watt, however he has not performed up to the level we are accustomed to seeing. The best player right now is Marcus Mariota. He will carry the Titans to the division title.
Hotton: The best player is Andrew Luck; no one can do more for a team at the most important position. He can make any play in any system, and can make literally awesome, in the biblical sense, plays, and can will his team to victory. If we are going in healthy it’s J.J. watt, for the same reasons as Luck without the quarterback part, he can do everything you want, change a game on single play, absolutely dominate, and can do anything you ask of him.
Pierson: JJ Watt. When he is on and healthy, he is unstoppable.
Question Three: Grade your team’s offseason. If you could have one do over from your offseason, what would it be?
The only thing holding me back from grading this offseason higher was a lack of offensive lineman signed. And I wish we would have put a bigger focus on keeping Andrew Luck upright. New GM Chris Ballard did the best anyone could have asked for in erasing the giant blemish that Ryan Grigson spawned on the face of this franchise. He made some under the radar free agent signings that have been very impactful thus far this season, such as John Simon and Al Woods. The Colts’ draft was undoubtedly the best class since Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton. Ballard drafted two impact players in the secondary in Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson, an explosive runner in Marlon Mack, and more. The mark of any great GM is finding diamonds in the rough, and Ballard seems to have found a few in the making in players such as Jeremiah George. Chris Ballard has built a solid foundation in Indianapolis in a short amount of time.
Moore: B-. The Titans added Logan Ryan but were otherwise quite questionable with free agency. The trio of special teams free agents have yet to make an impact. The draft was exceptional. The cuts had a couple illogical moves as they usually do. Antwaun Woods went from starter to the practice squad. Years ago, Quinton Spain had the same thing happen. It’s very odd. The team needs to move on from Kevin Dodd. They kept Sylvester Williams although he has been ineffective and clearly looks down often at his surgically repaired ankle that impacts his ability to get leverage. There’s a vibe growing that JRob can not own up to mistakes. As wonderful as he is, as he grows in the GM role, he must own up to these. This may be the best rookie class I’ve seen. Besides production, they are all good people with great mindsets and work ethics.
Ray: Jaguars offseason- B+
If I could have one do over from the Jaguars offseason, it would be drafting a quarterback in the draft at some point. Who exactly? DeShone Kizer because once Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were off the board, he was the next available option. With the way Blake Bortles has been performing, this could motivate Bortles to perform well since he is on a short leash. If he couldn’t get the job done, then Kizer would be the next guy up.
Mastrucci: Texans’ offseason grade is a D. Still have not resolved the Duane Brown situation which will result in Deshaun Watson getting pummeled week in and week out. The second issue is that the secondary is not as good as advertised. If the Texans got a do over it would be paying Duane Brown, but they aren’t and Watson appears destined to be another rookie quarterback who will get sacked 50+ times.
Good: hiring Chris Ballard, signing Johnathan Hankins, John Simon, Jabaal Sheard, and Al Woods for essentially one year deals. Drafting top give talent Malik Hooker; Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston at cornerback. Awarding good contracts to Darius Butler and Jack Doyle. Trading/ridding bad contracts Dwayne Allen, Arthur Jones and Kendall Langford.
Bad: not firing Chuck Pagano, this group of head coaches hired seem incredibly bright and successful, but we are stuck with Chuck. Back up quarterback situation was mismanaged; Brissett move looks fine now, but way too late. Beside getting lucks surgery week 16 after Oakland, the redo would be to fire Pagano and Ryan Grigson on black Monday, then hire Ballard ASAP, let him hire next coach, who could have been Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan.
Pierson: Off-season grade: B-, although firing Grigson was an A+++
Should the Pats/Raiders game in Mexico be moved?