AFC South preview: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans
By Tom Julian
Last Updated: 29/08/19 2:34pm
The wait is nearly over and the new NFL season is almost upon us!
The league's 100th year begins on Thursday, September 5 when the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers, live on Sky Sports.
Before then, it's time to assess 2019's contenders.
We are previewing all eight divisions, and here you can find our views on the AFC South and cast your vote on who you think will win below...
Head Coach: Bill O'Brien
Key Man: In the conversation for best wide receivers in the NFL, DeAndre Hopkins can tend to go under the radar. In 2018, the two-time All-Pro had 115 receptions without a single drop. No drops!
Despite having to deal with double - and sometimes triple - coverage, 'Nuk' comes up with the goods year on year, and will be invaluable in the Texans' bid for a ring.
Major Additions/Departures: Safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Kareem Jackson left, which weakens a secondary that already ranked 28th in passing yards allowed in 2018.
Houston used two of their first three draft picks to bolster the offensive line; improving the protection around Deshaun Watson, who was the most sacked quarterback last season, was vital.
Duke Johnson arrives as the direct replacement for running back Lamar Miller and will want to prove himself as a bonafide RB1.
Last season: 11-5
Prospects: The Texans will see themselves as clear front-runners for the division, particularly given what transpired in Indianapolis last weekend. The secondary remains a question but they have unquestionable talent on both sides of the ball and stand out as an AFC South favourite.
The big question is: can they do it in January? The question still lingers.
Prediction: 11-5 (1st)
Head Coach: Doug Marrone
Key Man: Not only is Jalen Ramsey one of the best players on the roster, but he is also one of the most vocal. All well and good when you are winning, but last year Ramsey's mouthing off was not well received, inside the organisation or around the league.
In a dismal season, the 24-year-old's comments caused friction among the team and he is already talking up his desire to get a bumper new contract next summer. However, if Ramsey can use his powers for good and bring this team together, a rejuvenated D could be enough to see Jacksonville return to the playoffs.
Major Additions/Departures: After four years of largely disappointing play, former first-round pick Blake Bortles left to back up quarterback Jared Goff in Los Angeles. Super Bowl 52 hero Nick Foles replaces Bortles and, reunited with quarterback 'guru' John DeFilippo, Jaguars fans are hoping Foles can perform the same miracles he worked in Philadelphia.
Last Season: 5-11
Prospects: After a disappointing 2018, the Jaguars are largely relying on the defense to lead them to a bounce-back season. The defensive depth chart features a wealth of talent and can be the foundation for a season that stretches into the new year, particularly given the team's relatively kind schedule.
The questions remain on offense. Can Foles get the best out of Dede Westbrook and co? If he can, then 2019 will be a much improved year for the Florida faithful.
Prediction: 9-7 (2nd)
Head Coach: Frank Reich
Key Man: Jacoby Brissett. If I had written this a week earlier, the question would have been: 'when will Andrew Luck return?' But after the QB's shock retirement ahead of the Colts' pre-season game against the Chicago Bears, the expectations of a team on the rise transfer to his back-up.
- Luck retires after 'four years of pain'
- Colts turn page to 'rare leader' Brissett
- Andrew Luck: Hope, disappointment and what-ifs
Having learned at the hand of Tom Brady and latterly Luck, Brissett has shown glimpses of NFL pedigree. Can he sustain that for a season? We're about to find out…
Major Additions/Departures: Justin Houston's arrival from Kansas adds a pass-rushing threat that the Colts desperately needed but it is Luck's departure that could potentially derail a season that had looked so promising for Indianapolis.
Last season: 10-6
Prospects: Up until last week, the Colts were considered one of the most exciting teams ready to challenge the powerhouse Patriots for the AFC Championship. However, expectations may now have to be tempered without their All-Pro quarterback under center.
There is quality across the field, but Luck was the difference between a competitive team and a Super Bowl contender.
Prediction: 8-8 (3rd)
Head Coach: Mike Vrabel
Key Man: After Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan called time on their careers at the end of 2018, questions surrounding the team's pass rush have rightly been raised. Enter Harold Landry.
The Titans' 2018 second-round pick totalled 44 combined tackles and 4.5 sacks in just three starts last year, and he will be eager to prove himself as one of the NFL's best outside linebackers in 2019.
Major Additions/Departures: Ryan Tannehill's arrival from the Miami Dolphins provides genuine competition for the starting quarterback position, with incumbent Marcus Mariota given the chance to keep the job.
Wide receiver Adam Humphries will give whoever is passing the ball a genuine weapon in the slot, while veteran defensive end Cameron Wake is an experienced head to partner Landry in the pass rush.
Last Season: 9-7
Prospects: While the Titans remain a threat in the run game, questions surrounding Mariota's durability and consistency still swirl around Tennessee and time is running out for him to prove himself a franchise QB.
Vrabel has turned the defense into a top 10 unit but they will have to carry the offense if the Titans are to play January football.
Prediction: 7-9 (4th)
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