Texans Topple Titans
Written by: Quintin Bentley Crevling
The Houston Texans have won the AFC South in a cartoonish fashion as teams stumbled over each other grasping at a division title at the end of the season.
Not a single team in the division can field both an elite offense and defense, leaving an entire division in a rebuilding process. A losing season in the AFC South could cost a head coach their job.
In fact, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was not guaranteed a job next season until they beat the Oakland Raiders in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
The Texans 5-1 division record was the difference between hosting a wildcard game and missing the postseason entirely.
The Houston Texans made a huge splash in the offseason by signing free agent running back Lamar Miller and quarterback Brock Osweiler, who dejectedly left the Broncos after being benched in the 2015 playoffs for NFL legend Peyton Manning.
Osweiler threw for a dismal 2,957 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions, which did not live up to the value of his $37 million contract. The Texans were the only division winner to allow more points scored against them than points scored by their offense.
Brock never got on the same page with his All-Pro receiver Deandre Hopkins who caught 33 fewer passes than he did last season.
The Houston defense lost All-Pro JJ Watt who was placed on injured reserve due to a nagging back injury. Watt is quite possibly the best defender in the NFL and this left some large shoes to fill along the defensive line.
Former number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney heard the call to challenge and stepped up, producing the best season of his short career amassing 52 tackles and 6 sacks. Clowney was backed up by second year inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney who accumulated a team high 132 tackles.
It looks as though Bill O’Brien has earned himself at least one more year with the Texans, placing his fate in Brock Osweiler’s hands. The offense has all the necessary weapons in place and they just need to produce. The defense could use an additional defensive lineman as fan favorite nose tackle Vince Wilfork is mulling retirement.
The Titans were so close to winning the division they could taste it.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota fell victim to this year’s broken leg plague in week 16 as his lower body was rolled under a defender breaking his fibula in the process. The team proceeded to lose the week 16 matchup and were eliminated from playoff contention.
The highlight of the season was All-Pro running back DeMarco Murray who resurrected his career after a terrible career decision to leave the Cowboys for the Eagles in the 2015 season. When the Eagles fired head coach Chip Kelly, Murray was traded to the Titans as the teams swapped fourth round draft picks. The Titans came out well ahead from this trade, only moving down a few picks in the draft and signing a hungry running back who was ready to prove he could still play at an elite level.
If the Titans hope to make the playoffs next season, they will need to boost a lackluster receiving corps and address their struggles on defense. This all hinges on Mariota making a full recovery from a gruesome injury. If Mariota can’t get healthy, I would expect to see the Titans at the bottom of the pack next season.
Quarterback Andrew Luck took this Colts team much farther than most players could have. Luck was one of two players on this team who played up to their potential, finishing the season with a 96.4 passer rating. The other player is All-Pro receiver T.Y. Hilton, who amassed 91 catches for 1,448 yards and 6 touchdowns.
No other player on the team was close to leading the NFL in a statistical category.
The struggling Colts fell victim to a very difficult schedule, losing 6 of 7 games against teams who made the postseason. The Colts were fortunate to finish the season with an 8-8 record.
Head coach Chuck Pagano will have his job on the line this coming season as the front office will surely want to do better than 8-8 with miracle worker Andrew Luck under center.
The Jaguars were the most confusing 3-13 division loser this season.
The team’s major weakness was their inability to run the ball effectively this year with their leading rusher getting only 465 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Jags have a whole stable full of talented receivers who never seemed to click with quarterback Blake Bortles.
Jacksonville’s defense is jampacked with young studs including: Telvin Smith, Johnathan Cyprien, Jalen Ramsey, Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler, and Myles Jack. With this many talented young players, it will only be a matter of time before the Jags hit their stride.
The Jaguars fired head coach Gus Bradley after the season ended.
The organization has never won the division in it’s 15 season since the AFC South’s inception. They will need to address the offensive struggles and with Blake Bortles heading into a contract year I would expect Jacksonville to make a serious push next season.