Uncertainty and expectation for the NFL’s AFC South Division

Lisa Johnson
AFC South AFC East Reporter

By Lisa Johnson // @LJ1303 

As we move towards the start of the 2020 NFL season, one thing has become crystal clear is that we are going to at least HAVE some sort of an NFL football season. We’ll even see the Vince Lombardi trophy hoisted in the air sometime around February 2021.

Many fans and season ticket holders are waiting for official word on just how the NFL is expected to handle seating amidst the COVID -19 threat, or if they’ll have seating for fans at all. Team facilities have started to slowly open back up and the coaching staff has been given permission to return to work with certain protocols set in place by the NFL.

One coach in particular that hit the door day one was Bill O’Brien of the Houston Texans. This should have been expected since his Texans square off against the Kansas City Chiefs opening night of the 2020 season. Fans still have many questions for O’Brien, who traded away the team’s superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the “go-to guy” for quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Now, the Texans will look to veteran wide receivers Kenny Stills and Brandon Cooks ( acquired via trade from the Rams) to fill Hopkins’s role. They’ll be trying to get David Johnson to return to form by pairing him with former Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson. O’Brien sees this team pushing for a spot in the Division Championship game, while fans seem to feel O’Brien might be in over his head.

So, is Bill O’Brien on the hot seat?

According to many Texans media sites, the answer is yes! Being Head Coach and acting General Manager does have its perks because he certainly isn’t going to fire himself!

Another AFC South team that doesn’t seem too far from the Houston Texans when it comes to questionable decisions would be the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars enter 2020 with most of their former number one defensive picks traded away, along with often-injured quarterback Nick Foles. They’ve given the starting job to fan-favorite Gardner Minshew who went 6-6 in his 2019 rookie campaign for the injured Foles.

During the offseason, the Jaguars did flirt with trading 4th year running back Leonard Fournette.  Although the Jaguars didn’t pick up his 5th-year option, he is still very much part of this team’s 2020 season plans. They did add some offensive help for Minshew by picking up former Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert. You can expect some exciting and wild plays out of Minshew. Defensively, however, they need to keep some core players and then build around them. This defense looks to be a work in progress.

If you are a betting person and you like good odds, then look no farther then the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. According to one Vegas insider, these two teams will be fighting for the AFC South division title. I was a little shocked that one insider had the Indianapolis Colts as the outright favorite. My only explanation is the addition of former Chargers QB Phillip Rivers, who as I expect is being put on the same level as an Andrew Luck.

Colts GM Chris Ballard wasted no time adding weapons around Rivers by drafting WR Michael Pittman Jr. (USC) and a power RB in Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin). Defensively, the Colts made some big additions to the line by trading with the 49ers to get tackle DeForest Buckner. Like a fine wine, he should pair nicely with Grover Stewart and Justin Houston. While I agree the additions look sexy, just handing them the AFC South title is a whole other matter.

Among several major betting sites, the team with the best odds is the Tennessee Titans. And, in my opinion, rightfully so. Having signed veteran QB Ryan Tannehill to a multi-year contract and using the franchise tag on RB Derrick Henry, head coach Mike Vrbal and company managed to kept the nucleus of the Titans offense together.

The defense was the major question here for the Titans. They quickly went to work adding former Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley to pair with Harold Landry. Since they lost cornerback Logan Ryan to the Jets, they will look to Malcolm Butler and veteran Johnathon Joseph to secure the secondary. If the Titans can mimic their play of the 2019 season, I look for them to easily be standing number one in the division.

 

Tell Lisa your thoughts on Twitter // @LJ1303 

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