2018 NFL preview: AFC South outlook

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05 Sep 2018, 04:04 IST
Derrick-Henry-012117-USNews-Getty-FTR
Derrick Henry

The AFC South has rapidly emerged as one of many hardest divisions within the NFL, however the 2018 season shall be fascinating as two of the division’s 4 groups function new coaches who undoubtedly will alter the competitors.

The Tennessee Titans will see a brand new recreation plan underneath Mike Vrabel, changing Mike Mularkey, and are definitely a group on the rise as they proceed to construct underneath quarterback Marcus Mariota. Tennessee made the playoffs final season for the primary time in 9 years and have key items that can assist the group keep aggressive, starting with Derrick Henry stepping in because the lead again to exchange now-retired DeMarco Murray.

The opposite group with a brand new man on the helm are the Indianapolis Colts with the addition of Frank Reich, after Josh McDaniels notoriously determined to cross on the job and return to the New England Patriots. Reich is coming off a Tremendous Bowl win with the Philadelphia Eagles as offensive coordinator, however the huge query with the Colts’ success is quarterback Andrew Luck. They could possibly be on the rise if he can keep wholesome however might battle to remain aggressive if he suffers one other setback coming off his shoulder harm.

The Jaguars are the reigning division champions, returning with one of many league’s strongest defenses, which implies they might replicate one other huge season like final 12 months.

In the meantime, the Houston Texans may have quarterback Deshaun Watson again from a torn ACL and defensive finish J.J. Watt, who’s coming back from a damaged leg. With these two key items and the addition of security Tyrann Mathieu, the Texans might go from the underside of the division to the highest and provides the Jaguars a run for his or her cash.

Right here’s what to search for within the AFC East this season:

PLAYER TO WATCH

Derrick Henry, Titans

The Titans working again has the chance to steer Tennessee’s offense now that Murray has retired. Underneath Mike Mularkey, the offense all the time turned to Murray regardless that Henry all the time appeared to get the job achieved when given the chance. Henry may have some assist with former Patriots star Dion Lewis, and the 2 might change into the highest backfield duo within the league.

Henry totaled 744 yards speeding and 5 touchdowns on 176 carries (4.2 yards per try) in 2017, and with an elevated position, he’ll solely add to these numbers.

IMPACT ROOKIE

Quenton Nelson, Colts

The Colts chosen one of the best guard out of the 2018 draft in Nelson, and he shall be a key addition to assist defend Indianapolis’ franchise quarterback. The Colts used their No. 6 total decide on the guard out of Notre Dame, and he already is being thought-about one of many high gamers within the league. Nelson enters the season because the beginning left guard between deal with Anthony Castonzo and middle Ryan Kelly.

Guards do not often go as early as Nelson did within the draft, however he was definitely spectacular in his final two seasons at Notre Dame, permitting zero sacks. He is anticipated to be a big contributor for a group that gave up probably the most sacks within the league final 12 months (56) and ranked 28th in speeding yards per carry (3.7). 

COACH IN THE HOT SEAT

Invoice O’Brien, Texans

O’Brien sooner or later goes to should show he is able to being one of many high coaches within the AFC. He hasn’t had a breakthrough season but with the Texans, however he is getting into 2018 with a wholesome roster as Watson and Watt again on the sphere, so there will not be a straightforward excuse for one more disappointing season.

The Texans dropped to the underside of the AFC South final season with a 4-12 document, however O’Brien went 9-7 in every of his first three years in Houston, together with two playoff appearances. It is potential Houston might soar to the highest and knock off the Jacksonville Jaguars with everybody wholesome.

KEY MATCHUP

Texans at Jaguars, Week 7

A faceoff between the Texans and Jaguars will say quite a bit in regards to the leaders of the AFC and the result of the sport might decide who doubtlessly will take house the division title on the finish of the season. A quarterback battle between a wholesome Watson for the Texans and Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles will problem each defenses.

PREDICTED FINISH

Jaguars: 13-3

Titans: 11-5

Texans: 10-6

Colts: 5-11

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