The AFC South preview

Ok, easy divisions done, now it’s time to try and decipher the AFC South, a job only slightly easier than the AFC West that I’ll have the joy of writing about tomorrow… It’s long been a division to mock, whoever wins is destined to go out in the first round of the playoffs because frankly, they’re probably not very good. This year however, this is going to be a very intriguing division. They may still go out in the first round, in fact (spoiler) that’s what I have with the winner of this division facing the second place AFC West team which will be no easy task.

I have the Tennessee Titans as the winners of the South with 10 wins (best priced 5/2 for the division) Along with the Buccs, they’re the hype team of the off season, and I’m buying it. They have one of the best offensive lines in the league, helping them have a very good running game last season. DeMarco Murray had a great year, helping himself to nearly 1,300 yards (avg of 4.4) and 9 TDs, as well as a passing TD to Delanie Walker, and the second part of their smashmouth attack, Derrick Henry ran for 490 yards at 4.5 a go with 5 TDs for himself in his rookie season, and looked every bit the beast that he was projected to be coming out of college. I’d expect him to get a little more action this year, especially in the passing game, he’s got great feet for a big BIG man, but it’s still Murray’s backfield and he’ll be the main guy. They have one of the best tight ends in the league, I love Delanie Walker in fantasy and I’ve had him every year I’ve played it, he’s a weapon! He got himself 7 TDs last year, BUT… there’s a little issue this year for him, they’ve greatly improved their WR corps. They took Corey Davis at pick 5 in the draft (Nice winner for me there…) and also added Eric Decker from the Jets. Davis was my favourite WR this year and i’m glad I nailed it with the pick, he set records in college, and I think he’ll adapt well to the NFL. Decker is a redzone monster so I think he’ll take targets away from Walker once they get close to the goal line. They both go in alongside Rishard Matthews who had a quietly productive year, with 945 and 9 TDs, he can provide a good downfield threat for Mariota to hit, and they also took Taywon Taylor later on in the draft who looked pretty good too.

Talking of Mariota, he didn’t throw a single interception in the red zone last year, that’s remarkable, and something you can actually get odds on this year (5/8 to throw one during the season, 13/10 to not) He was very efficient last year, throwing 26 TDs in 15 games, but less than 3,500 yards due to their mainly run based attack. With the weapons they’ve added in the passing game, I would expect that number to rise slightly, but they’ll still be a run first offence, and who can blame them. They also added a bit on the other side of the ball drafting Adoree Jackson with their second pick of the first round, he’s an athletic cornerback, and if you ignore the video of John Ross destroying him, he played well in college and they needed to strengthen there, he’s also a good kick returner and will probably get some action on special teams.

Second place I have going to the Houston Texans (5/2) also on 10 wins. I  prefer the offensive side of the ball as you may have noticed from these writeups, so I find it really difficult to get excited about the Texans. I do however appreciate they are a brilliant unit who should be even stronger this year if JJ Watt can come back at anything like 100% (I personally think he’ll have to adapt his game to take the strain off his various injuries). They coped well enough without him last season with the aptly named Whitney Mercilus and JaDaveon Clowney proving he was worthy of the first round pick they spent on him. They were a very disruptive unit and caused the Pats more issues than the Steelers did in the post-season, and if Will Fuller had caught a looped pass straight into his hands from Osweiler then who knows what would have happened in that game, we might have been hailing Brock as a legend. I’m starting to regret not picking the best name from each roster, safety Eddie Pleasant seems to be the perfect foil to Mercilus in the name stakes.

Anyway… At QB I believe they will start the season with Tom Savage, I’m not sure he’ll even get a full game though, BOB isn’t afraid to pull his starter within the first 60 mins if he feels it’s not going well, which means that DeShaun Watson will more than likely get most of the starts this season, imo anyway, but time, and the 4 pre-season games will give us a bit more of a signal either way on that front. At RB they have Lamar Miller who did well enough without impressing last year, but when teams don’t respect the QB then it’s difficult for runners to get their games going, he still finished with over 1,000 yards, but just the 5 TDs. He’ll need to get better this year otherwise he’ll lose his job to Dont’a Foreman, a player who I think was a bargain in the spot they got him in the draft, well, if he can stay out of jail and get his shit together anyway. The Texans want to be a run first offence, so he’ll have a good workload if he can stay on the field.

At WR they have DeAndre ‘Nuk’ Hopkins. The guy is brilliant, but had no help at all last year from either his QB, or anyone playing opposite him. With an adequate QB he should have a bounce-back year, and in fairness despite finishing one game with 1 catch for 4 yards, he still got close to 1,000 yards last year, so maybe not as bad as I remembered it, he only scored 4 TDs though, and 2 of them came in the first two games, it’s no coincidence that Will Fuller had his best games of the season in those openers, going for over 100 yards on both, he then forgot how to catch the ball. It really is a team game, and if he can kick on this year to help out the offence then Hopkins will have a much easier job! Tight ends got a lot of the ball last year due to Brock being crap at football, so it will be interesting to see how CJ Fed and Ryan Griffin do this year with a different QB, if it’s Watson then they will probably still get a fair few dump offs which will keep their numbers up.

Third in the Division I have the…. well, either the Jags or the Colts, I’ve got them both at 6 wins, although I wouldn’t be shocked if they were both at 9 this season, but wins and losses have got to come from somewhere and i’m more keen on the Titans, and the Texans have proven they can grind it out. So we’ll go for the Indianapolis Colts (Also 5/2 for the division)

I’m not sure why I’m so down on the Colts, on paper they’ll be fine, they’ve got one of the most highly rated QBs in the league, a 1,000 yard running back, and a decent enough WR. But maybe that’s it, there’s just not that much that excites me there. Hilton had a great season last year as the only target for a lot of the season when Donte Moncrief was out injured. He ended with a very impressive league leading 1,448 yards from 91 receptions, yet somehow only 6 TDs. By contrast Donte Moncrief in his 9 games got 7 TDs in 7 separate games from 30 receptions but only 307 yards. The issue with the team comes when Moncrief is out, they don’t really have any other pass catchers at WR, they have signed Kamar Aiken, who’s probably going to be adequate, but that’s about it. Dorsett hasn’t really done much, Chester Rogers maybe? They do have a pretty good tight end who i’m projecting good things for this season Jack Doyle, he may sound like a no-nonsense NY cop, but he had a good season last year alongside Dwayne Allen and it seems like they rate him highly because they signed him to a new contract and let Allen go off to the Pats. He finished the year with 5 TDs, while Allen had 6 TDs, so that’s 11 for the position which now seems to be firmly Doyle’s, (with a little Eric Swoope mixed in on occasion) On to Andrew Luck… As I said he’s very highly rated by a lot of people who know more about the game than I do, but I don’t really see why, It could well be the fact that his offensive line is awful leading to him always carrying an injury, including the shoulder that he’s still not recovered from despite having fixed in January, a little worrying. Maybe i’m being too harsh on him, he did throw for 4,240 yards last year while injured for a lot of it, and not having many targets to aim for. (And in the interest of clarity, I did draft him in our dynasty league… never let your opinion put you off points!) They have given him an extra target or two and new GM Chris “Do you like frogs?” Ballard (niche quote that a few people might get…) has done a better job in one off-season than the previous GM did in years at trying to help out their franchise QB. So we’ll see. Looking at my W/L I’ve got them losing to the Rams in week 1 (could be a quick start with new management…) Seahawks, Titans, Jags twice, Cinci, Texans twice, Ravens and Broncos. I don’t see that being TOO far from what could happen to them?

And finally on to everyone’s favourite off season team, The Jacksonville Jaguars (7/1 for the division)once again, on paper, they look like they should be making a challenge in this division, but they’ve burnt me too many times for me to have the faith in them, as with the Colts I wouldn’t be shocked to see them get 8 or 9 wins this season? They’ve really strengthened their defence into what should be one of the best in the league (Although looks like Dante Fowler Jnr. may well be suspended for a few games now…) they signed AJ Bouye on a huge deal from the Texans to go alongside one of the best CBs in the league and a kid who could be amazing, Jalen Ramsey, he’s really darn good. They picked up the huge Calais Campbell to stick in the middle of their D-Line, he’s a man who is going to cause issues for offensive lines this year! Alongside him is Yannick Ngakoue who had a cracking year last year, Malik Jackson and Fowler if available, and that’s one hell of a defence, oh, Paul Posluszny had a cracking year at linebacker too.

Unfortunately the season isn’t won on paper and the Jags seem to find new ways to fuck everything up every year, the difference for them this year is they have a new coach, one who knows what he’s doing, so who knows how they’ll do. On offence they kept faith with Interception machine Blake Bortles, who has reportedly “Fixed his throwing motion” that was awful last year and brought criticism from everyone who saw him, they have tried to help him out by giving him a run game. They signed Chris Ivory from the Jets last year, and while not a complete bust, he didn’t do as much as expected and TJ Yeldon wasn’t very good either, so they used the 4th pick in the draft to get Leonard Fournette who seems likely to go straight in as the lead back. If they can establish a run game they can keep the ball out of Bortles’ hands, which should lead to less turnovers and more control of the clock. If Bortles is fixed, they have the 2 Allens at WR who had great seasons in 2015 followed by a big step back last year. Both have the talent, especially Robinson, so if they can get some decent QB play there’s no reason they won’t score points.

It’s a really tough job to call the Jags season. They could win the division, they could finish with 4 wins again. I have money on them winning o5.5 games, and I was even tempted to double them with the Buccs in a division win double (would have been 31/1 for the two), but I just can’t do it. 7/1 for the division is well overpriced when everyone else is 5/2 though…

So on to the AFC West tomorrow, and possibly making a start on the NFC if @jayhatton49 doesn’t get the time to do it! 3 weeks off work have to be good for something!

 

Adam.

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