Ell and Mike’s NFL AFC Division Predictions for 2018-2019
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars should continue to lead the weak AFC South with one of the toughest defenses in the league, but the defense is undergoing transition with the retirement of Paul Posluszny who was a very valuable leader in the middle. This leads to Myles Jack gaining more responsibility in the middle, but he has the skills to play just, as well, however this leaves an open LB spot outside which will be a situation to watch. The rest of the defense remains intact with good depth and talent especially along the defensive line; let’s not forget about best CB duo of last season in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. The offense again will determine how far this team can go, as Blake Bortles will have to continue to play well and limit his turnovers. Bortles will still have a strong running game to lean on with Leonard Fournette slimmed down to last the long run, a healthy T.J. Yeldon, and Corey Grant who figures in the mix, as well with speed. The WR core will once again be a fight of young talent, but the skill level is there for a few to emerge mainly Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, as we saw last season, especially with the injury to Marquise Lee. The line should be a year better, after playing very well last season and the addition of Andrew Norwell who left Cam Newton untouched last season; the added depth also created good competition. If Bortles can take the next step of becoming, Ben Roethlisberger light, then the Jaguars could be a problem in the playoffs.
The Jaguars still looked to be the most well rounded team in the division with the best defense. The Jags defense is loaded and they know how to get to the QB. You know what’s scary??? The Jags defense may have gotten better with the offseason acquisitions. They signed DB D.J. Hayden and drafted safety Ronnie Harrison and DT Taven Bryan. The defense didn’t need any more playmakers, but why not add depth in case of injury. Let’s not forget, they have arguably the best corner in football in Jalen Ramsey. So the defense will be ready but what about the offense. I believe that Leonard Fournette will only get better and may have his best season yet as he a trimmed some weight to add some elusiveness to his power. Blake Bortles had a solid season last year as he did enough to keep the Jags in games and not cost them those games. They lose former Pro Bowler Allen Robinson and replace him with Donte Moncrief. Moncrief is solid but often is injured so we will how that plays out. I think the Jags will be formidable again and will make the playoffs but can Bortles get then to the promise land, we will see.
Season Prediction- 12-4
2. Houston Texans
The Texans have unfinished business from the injury to QB Deshaun Watson, but the Jaguars have developed since which means they will have to earn this division. With his QB back, DeAndre Hopkins should be more than ready to show that he is in the same league with AB and Julio as the best. The key return could be his sidekick Will Fuller who battled injuries all last season, but proved his speed is a huge problem for defenders. RB Lamar Miller returns, as the dual threat, but the goal is to mix in some power backs to keep him fresh. The Texans have overhauled their offensive line which was a problem area, with big, smart lineman with starting experience through free agency; worst case this should be an upgrade, but how good we will see. The defense returns healthy with leader J.J. Watt and consistent pass rusher Whitney Mercilus. Jadaveon Clowney should be another year better in his role and the key addition is Tyrann Mathieu who should sure up a weak safety position, but also gives versatility. This team will be dangerous defensively; can the offense reclaim their magic (and stay healthy)?
This team has the potential to win the Super Bowl this year. Yes, I said Super Bowl. Also note that I said potential. Let’s start with the offense and all of the playmakers. Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller are a great 1-2 punch along with Lamar Miller out of the backfield. They will need a tight end to step up after the sudden retirement from C.J. Fiedorowicz. This offense will come down to how former Heisman trophy winning quarterback Deshaun Wilson will bounce back from a torn ACL last season. Watson was having a stellar rookie campaign before his injury. If he returns to that same form this season it could not only spell trouble for the rest of the AFC South but the entire NFL. Another problem last year was the offensive line and it must get better if the Texans want to have a deep run in the post season. They did add big offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson to the mix to help fix that issue. The Texans defense is where this team really gets scary, where do I began. The front seven is led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Nothing needs to be said about them as they are two of the most prolific pass rushers in football today. Don’t forget that Whitney Mercilus also plays in their front seven and he is a good pass rusher in his own right. The secondary is also loaded especially after they added pro bowl DB Tyrann Mathieu, the ball hawking safety formerly of the Arizona Cardinals. Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph still occupy the corners and will do a solid job of covering wide outs. The Texans look poised to have a great season, just remains to see how great.
Season Prediction- 11-5
3. Tennessee Titans
The Titans were hoping to grow after making the playoffs last season, but the team will be very competitive, as they are a few pieces away offensively. The key as usual will be the play of QB Marcus Mariota, who has not been as accurate or consistent as the team hoped, but he does excel as a runner; a new OC was brought in to give him a different look. The running game should continue to be strong with Derrick Henry taking over, as a bull dozer and Dion Lewis coming in to be a sneaky dual threat like he was with the Patriots. The O-line has two good tackles in Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, with Lewan being heavily rewarded; the hope is that they finally put it together as a full unit. There are limited weapons at WR again with 2nd year WR Corey Davis expected to take an even bigger step, the wildcard Rishard Matthews, who they can’t seem to upgrade, and young WRs who need to step up. TE Delanie Walker has been the most consistent and underrated player, but they are hoping 2nd year TE Jonnu Smith steps up. The defense has upgraded a secondary weakness adding Malcolm Butler as a #1 CB giving them a Patriots light combo with former Patriot Logan Ryan. The front 7 remains strong behind pass rushers Brian Orakpo, Jurrell Casey, and Derrick Morgan, as well as, rookies Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, who will find their way on the field.. The secondary added enforcer Kenny Vaccaro next to coverage safety Kevin Byard who broke out with 8Ints last season; should be an interesting pair. Until the offense can find a way to win through the air, this team will be limited; the defense, running game, and special teams will make them a tough opponent every game; as HC Mike Vrabel put his mark on this team in his 1st year.
The Titans come off a season where they made the playoffs and I love Marcus Mariota as a quarterback, I had him projected to be the closest thing to Steve Young since Steve Young. Unfortunately, he has been inconsistent despite having a solid running attack. The Titans will lose some steam in their running game though due to the recent retirement of DeMarco Murray. However they do add all-purpose back Dion Lewis so he will help Mariota in the passing game. After Delanie Walker and Dion Lewis there aren’t too many proven weapons for Mariota. Corey Davis in his second year will need to step up this year if this offense has any hopes of being what it can be. Mariota needs to make the leap in what will be his fourth year in the league. The defense looks to remain stout after they drafted two linebackers in the first two rounds and signed DB Malcolm Butler. This team will go as far as the defense and run game takes it as has been the case the last 3 seasons. If Mariota makes the jump, then so will the team.
Season Prediction- 8-8
4. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts will continue to be one of the worst teams in the league with limited offensive weapons, a defense with limited talent, and a question mark around how well Andrew Luck can still throw the football. The offensive line should be improved with rookie G Quenton Nelson and everyone at full health. Andrew Luck has finally returned to the field, but how productive will he be? He has his favorite target T.Y. Hilton, but there are questions about if he can throw deep; if not, expect a lot of TEs Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle. 2nd year RB Marlon Mack should own the job with the exit of veteran Frank Gore, but can he handle the bulk of the carries as a dual threat? The defense is even more lacking in the secondary without its’ best player over the past few seasons in Vontae Davis and last year’s surprise Rashaan Melvin was allowed to sign with the Raiders. No one in the front 7 outside of pass rusher Jabaal Sheard should strike fear in any offense this season and 2nd year FS Malik Hooker should continue to develop as a playmaker, but he will have to be a one-man wrecking crew; this team needs an infusion of talent defensively.
Let’s be honest after Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton what else do the Colts have that could possible make this team a playoff contender. Maybe u could say Eric Ebron, but what has he done since being drafted into the NFL besides be a disappointment which is why he is now with the Colts. Their run game will depend on 2 year back Marlon Mack who only rushed for 358 yards last year. They have upgraded their offensive line through the draft. I don’t believe their defense will be a good one and I don’t expect much from them, there are very few playmakers on that side of the ball. I do love second year DB Malik Hooker, but he is only one player. I look for Andrew Luck to will this team to a few wins, but they will miss the playoffs.
Season prediction- 5-11