Some NFL divisions have the competitive feeling of a boxing match in the middle of a minefield. Talent helps win divisional games but, in most divisions, a win isn’t always based on talent. It’s based on the knowledge and bitterness that you have for the other team. A last-place team could be winless for a season except for that one game against the division’s annual playoff entrant where they played big, possibly because they had been practicing all season for that game, which is why they went winless in the first place.
The AFC South is not that division. The AFC South is the division where you know who is going to the playoffs and who definitely is not going to the playoffs. Except for that one team that could fall into the playoffs as a wild card team, but that’s not the AFC South’s fault. Blame it on playoff expansion.
We continue our asinine analysis of NFL teams that you hate to love and love to hate to prepare you for the 2015 season. Our next targets: the teams of the AFC South.
Record: 9-7. It wasn’t good enough to get the Houston Texans into the playoffs, so it wasn’t good enough for Ryan Fitzpatrick to keep his job. And it’s not going to be good enough with Bill O’Brien as the head coach. O’Brien was born on the outskirts of Boston and was an assistant coach for the Patriots. When week 14 rolls around, you’ll see what I mean.
The Good: Did you see this defense last year? Or, did you see J.J. Watt last year? Because Watt was basically the defense of the Houston Texans: 59 tackles, 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, one interception, and a blocked kick. And he even caught three touchdown passes lined up as a tight end, since the Texans had no one else to throw to. Add 326 pounds of Vince Wilfork in the middle of that defensive line, and you have an even better defense. Just imagine if Jadeveon Clowney plays in more than four games…
The Bad: With Arian Foster probably sidelined for eight games due to a groin injury, J.J. Watt may also be the best offensive force on the team. No wonder he hasn’t played a preseason game yet. Watt needs to rest up for a full season of iron man football.
The Ugly: The legend of J.J. Watt took a hit this past season as his “minimalistic” cabin in the woods was made public. It seems that when Watt used the term “minimalistic,” he was just repeating what his interior designer said, which is a far cry from the idea of a bearded J.J. Watt uprooting trees and stacking them up like Lincoln Logs while wrestling bears and catching fish out of a stream with his bare hands.
No, this is what “minimalistic” means to J.J. Watt.
Record: 11-5. For the second year in a row, the Indianapolis Colts posted an 11-5 record, won the divisional crown of the AFC South, got into the playoffs and lost to Tom Brady. Luckily for the Colts, they have gotten just a little bit further into the playoffs each year of Andrew Luck at quarterback: loss in the Wild Card round of 2012, loss in the Divisional round of 2013, then a loss in the AFC Conference Championship of 2014.
If the pattern continues, we can be assured that the Colts will lose in the Super Bowl this year.
The Good: As if Andrew Luck throwing touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen weren’t enough, the Colts went out and got a running back in Frank Gore and a big end-zone target in Andre Johnson.
The Bad: The sad reality of the Colts is that they always spend all their money on offense in order to keep up with other teams. So their defense is lousy. Robert Mathis has been trying to stop the run, the pass and the option by blitzing. I’m pretty sure the rest of the NFL has caught up with that scheme.
The Ugly: If this offensive line doesn’t get it together, Andrew Luck may not make it to week five, never mind the Super Bowl. Even the Bears defense was able to run over the Colts’ offensive linemen during their last preseason game. It’s hard to believe John Fox fixed things that fast in Chicago.
Record: 3-13. You would think that the Jacksonville Jaguars couldn’t be worse than they were with Blaine Gabbert under center. Yet here we are, one game less than before.
The Good: Julius Thomas joins a rag-tag group of youngsters starring Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and T.J. Yeldon for the money. Eventually he decides to put the pay-day aside and help the kids believe in themselves and win the big game. I would definitely watch that movie.
I also happen to believe that this second-year team is going to make some moves during the season. Maybe 8-8, backing into the playoffs? It could happen. Eventually the Jaguars will blossom enough that we’ll be able to watch playoff games from the pool in EverBank Field. If it’s still called that by then.
The Bad: This team could tank and drop down to 2-14. The Jaguars are weird like that. This was the same team fence-sitting that made fans wonder if the Jaguars were going to be shipped to London.
The Ugly: Who needs to win when losing is so much more productive?
There are no victories in losing. If this were the case, the Jaguars would have been 13-3 last season.
Record: 2-14. And not even bad enough to get the first pick in the draft. The Tennessee Titans can’t seem to do anything right. They can’t even lose right. They have to win just enough to lose at losing.
The Good: The horror of last season was well worth it as the Tennessee Titans to to select the second best quarterback in the draft with the second pick. It’s Marcus “Say My Name” Mariot …o.
Luckily, Roger Goodell only mispronounced Mariota’s name. The Tennessee Titans didn’t write Mariota’s name incorrectly on their draft sheet. If they did, the Titans would probably have a clear road to the top draft pick in 2016.
The Bad: Mariota, Marioto, Mettenberger, Manziel, Manning… it doesn’t matter what “M” name you put at quarterback for the Titans. The offense of this team just doesn’t work. Balls bounce harmlessly off of receivers’ heads. Running backs are hypnotized to believe that they are running in quicksand.
The Ugly: Former first-round pick Jake Locker retired from the NFL this offseason after four seasons. A team has to be at a certain level of terribleness to have that happen. I give Mariota two seasons before he becomes a bus driver.