Everyone uses different indicators when predicting divisional winners. There are four keys, in no particular order, that I consider when carefully calculating my AFC South 2017 predictions:
- How good is your quarterback?
- How tough is your strength of schedule?
- How many miles does your team travel?
- How many games does Vegas have your team winning?
These are not the “end all, be all” qualifications. These are the key indicators that help decide who wins and who loses. Quarterback play is extremely important in the NFL, especially when trying to make a playoff run. As teams continue to win in January, there is a direct correlation with how good their quarterback is.
The strength of schedule is also an important factor. It gives an objective base to start with and make predictions based on their opponents 2016 win/loss record. Regardless of what the popular opinion is, traveling wears on people and yes, that includes athletes. The more your team travels, the harder it is to get ready game after game. And finally, Vegas. When people involve money, everything changes. You’ve heard the phrase “Follow the money” – there is a reason Vegas is so successful. They know what they are doing.
And from there game-by-game selections are made; sometimes going against my better judgment. Additional keys to consider are home field advantage, coaching, offensive/defensive line play, and skilled playmakers.
Now that I’ve bored you with my selection process, let’s talk football. The AFC South has the easiest “strength of schedule” in 2017. All four teams rank in the top seven in worst opponents 2016 winning percentage. From last to first, below are my AFC South 2017 predictions.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to finish last in the AFC South in 2017. Let’s go through “the checklist” to objectively see why.
- Blake Bortles continues to show no signs of improvement. And Chad Henne isn’t much of an upgrade.
- The Jaguars are tied for 30th with the Titans in “strength of schedule”.
- The Jaguars travel the most of any AFC South team (6th most overall): 24,522 miles.
- Vegas has the Jaguars winning 6.0 games; the least of the AFC South teams.
While I think the roster and coaching staff has improved, the Jaguars haven’t won more than six games since 2010 (they won eight in 2010). The defense tremendously improved from a talent perspective, but at the end of the day, the workload falls on Blake Bortles’ shoulders. And I don’t think he has what it takes to lead this team.
The Jaguars easily have the worst quarterback situation in this division and there are no signs of it improving. Leonard Fournette has a chance to redeem this offense, but at the end of the day, to be successful in this league you need to throw the football and the Jaguars cannot do that if Blake Bortles is the player leading this offense.
I am not in a comfortable place if I am a Colts fan. Andrew Luck’s recovery is taking much longer than expected. While it’s possible it’s precautionary, the likelihood is “he still hasn’t recovered”.
To understand a full timeline of events, read here. It seems elementary, but the longer Andrew Luck is out, the worse the Colts record will be. As Andrew Luck goes, so do the Colts.
Let’s go through the checklist.
- Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in this division, but it doesn’t matter if he isn’t healthy.
- The Colts have the easiest 2017 strength of schedule based on 2016 results.
- The Colts travel the least amount of miles in the AFC South: 11,236.
- Vegas has the Colts winning the division in 2017 at 9.0 games.
If Andrew Luck is not healthy and ready to go, the Texans will easily overtake the Colts. And at this juncture, it appears h will not be ready for the season opener.
The addition of new general manager, Chris Ballard, has already paid dividends. The talent on this roster is significantly better than it was a season ago. The Colts are still a very young team and will endure growing pains. Each game the Colts play in will result in an offensive shootout.
Frank Gore is their starting running back – he is entering his 13th season. How long can they rely on him? They are going to be extremely one-dimensional and simple to gameplan against. The biggest question remains – Will Andrew Luck be healthy enough to lead this team?
At the drop of a hat, Bill O’Brien can name Deshaun Watson the starting quarterback of this football team and I absolutely believe the team would be better for it. However, reports from Texans’ camp are O’Brien has finalized his decision to stick with Tom Savage.
With that being said, the reason this team will finish second in the division is the quarterback position and O’Brien’s stubbornness to play Tom Savage. With Tom Savage as the starting quarterback, let’s go through the checklist.
- Tom Savage does not have the upside of Deshaun Watson.
- The Texans have the toughest schedule in the AFC South (25th overall).
- The Texans travel the 14th most of any team: 18,546 miles.
- Vegas has the Texans winning 8.5 games, tied with the Titans for second in the AFC South.
The Texans defense is still the best defense in the NFL. And if O’Brien named Watson the quarterback of this team, I think they at least win nine games; maybe ten or eleven. But with Tom Savage leading this team, this looks like a team that will not win the division.
The Tennessee Titans are my selection to win the AFC South. There are too many question marks surrounding the other teams:
Will Andrew Luck start? If so, how many games? What are the Jaguars going to do with their quarterback situation? How are the Texans going to beat teams?
When Marcus Mariota showed signs that he was completely healthy in training camp, Titans’ fans everywhere exhaled. All signs point to this being a big season for them.
- Marcus Mariota is quickly becoming the best quarterback in this division. And with the amount of talent around him, there are no more excuses.
- The Titans are tied for the second easiest strength of schedule in the NFL with the Jaguars.
- The Titans travel the 23rd most miles in the NFL in 2017: 13,048.
- Vegas has the Titans winning 8.5 games in 2017 – tied with the Houston Texans.
The Tennessee Titans are a very interesting team to study. They dominate on the ground but have a quarterback that can really spin it – like a fringe top 10 quarterback in the NFL good. Now, the Titans have shown their commitment to getting weapons for Mariota on the outside. Not to mention they improved at all three levels on defense too.
It all starts at the top with general manager Jon Robinson. And in two seasons, he has really turned this football team around.
Who do you have winning this division?