Questions abound when it comes to picking the likely winner of the AFC South Division in 2016. First, after snapping the Indianapolis Colts’ two-year run as division champs, can the Houston Texans repeat and take the next step toward becoming legitimate Super Bowl title contenders. Second, after failing to win the AFC South for the first time since 2012, will the Indianapolis Colts get back to being the dominant team they’ve become accustomed to?
Next up…can the Jacksonville Jaguars build on their impressive finish to the 2015 season and get back to being a ‘respectable’ NFL franchise after years of struggles? And, last but not least, can the Tennessee Titans fix their myriad problems while keeping prized second-year signal-caller Marcus Mariota upright and uninjured? Let’s find out the answers to all four questions right now!
Early 2016 AFC South NFL Betting Prediction – Can Texans Take Next Step, Will Colts Rule Again?
The Indianapolis Colts took a big step backwards in 2015 despite being expected to be one of the top contenders in the AFC. Still, the Colts should be able to get right back to being a double-digit win team as they experienced an injury-riddled campaign that would have ruined any team’s chances of having a successful season.
Andrew Luck will be fully healthy after missing seven games last season, but Indy addressed their offensive line woes by drafting center Ryan Kelly in the first round and two more offensive linemen in the third ad fifth rounds respectively. Four division games against Jacksonville and Tennessee, combined with matchups against mediocre Detroit, San Diego, Chicago, lead me to believe Indy will win 10 games to take the AFC South division crown.
Bill O’Brien has been absolutely phenomenal in leading Houston to consecutive nine-win seasons despite not having a legitimate starting quarterback either season. Now, with Brock Osweiler set to take over, the Texans could soar to even higher heights in 2016.
Houston added a pair of wide receivers that should contribute right away in Will Fuller and Braxton Miller and a center that could make his way into the starting lineup immediately in Nick Martin. The Texans also added veteran offensive lineman Jeff Allen and underrated former Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller to replace former franchise star Arian Foster.
Will Osweiler sink or swim as a full-time starter? Can Miller replace the talented, but oft-injured Foster’s productivity? Only time will tell, but right now, I’m thinking the Texans are looking at their third consecutive nine-win season and a second place finish in the AFC South in 2016.
The Jacksonville Jaguars played some hella’ good football late last season in winning three of their final eight games and suffering four of those five losses by six points or less. Now, Jacksonville will look to take the next step in their evolution, but they face a juggernaut of a schedule in 2016.
The Jags did have a fantastic draft by nabbing defensive back Jalen Ramsey with the fifth overall pick before selecting gifted linebacker Myles Jack with the fifth pick in the second round. Not only that, but Jacksonville will have linebacker Dante Fowler back on the field after he tore his ACL on the first day of minicamp a year ago, not to mention they signed the best defensive player in free agency this offseason in veteran defensive lineman Malik Jackson. Still, the Jags face a hard way to go in 2016 with non-division dates against the Packers, Ravens, Chiefs, Broncos and Vikings on the docket. The Jags are heading in the right direction, but I have them winning seven games at best and more likely five or six.
Tennessee Titans (5.5)
The Tennessee Titans will turn to Mike Mularkey to lead them back to respectability I 2016 and beyond and I say that’s not the worst move they could make, although I’m not real high on the former Bills head coach. The Titans also made a smart decision to trade the No. 1 pick in the draft for a bounty of picks. Mularkey addressed Tennessee’s need to keep prized signal-caller Marcus Mariota upright and healthy by drafting tackle Jack Conklin with the eighth overall pick while shoring up their defensive line and running game by nabbing a pair of defensive linemen and former Alabama star running back Derrick Henry all in the second round.
Tennessee also traded for veteran running back DeMarco Murray, but that makes the drafting of Henry, a Murray clone, in the second round, look foolish. The Titans went 2-7 under Mularkey as interim head coach last season and I just don’t see them improving all that much this coming season despite their bevy of offseason transactions and impressive draft. Tennessee faces the same gauntlet of NFC North and AFC West teams that each AFC South resident does. Unfortunately, they simply don’t have the talent to beat many of them. Right now, I’m thinking four or five wins at best sounds about right!