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What to Make of the Complicated AFC South in 2022

In honor of “Throwback Thursday” tomorrow, let’s throw it back to last season when the Indianapolis Colts were a fringe playoff team. The Tennessee Titans were the AFC’s top overall seed and have had consistent success under Mike Vrabel. The Jacksonville Jaguars were in shambles during and after the Urban Meyer saga. And, well, there were problems in Houston. In other words, half of the AFC South were good/decent ball clubs and the other two would select near the top of the draft in April.

Flash forward to now, and the AFC South expectations have completely upended.

afc south jacksonville jaguars
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

What to Make of the 2022 AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)

I think I say speak for everyone when I say we are pleasantly surprised with the Jaguars so far. Trevor Lawrence has arguably been the highest-rated QB prospect since Peyton Manning. So, with the way this offense is rolling, it’s great to see his development unfold before our eyes.

After starting the season on the wrong side of the win column, Jacksonville has won the last two weeks in a row. In Week 2, they shut out their division rival Colts, 24-0. Shockingly, they also beat the highly-touted Los Angeles Chargers with a dominating performance over them. While some might chalk up the victory to Justin Herbert’s injury, he still played the entire game. Additionally, it was a solid performance from all three units of the Jags, as they handily beat the Chargers, 38-10.

The offseason additions the organization made have paid off so far. While it was rough to watch, the tanking they committed to last season led to them selecting one of the top defensive draft picks, Travon Walker. The defense has been disrupting opposing offenses, as they are one of the top turnover generators in the NFL so far. Lastly, the additions of Evan Engram and Christian Kirk drew their fair share of criticism from fans around the league. Both players were laughed at for either not having enough 1,000-yard seasons to warrant big contracts or were laughed at for being thought of as “washed up.” But, they have been great additions and have surrounded Lawrence with the talent to throw to.

Indianapolis Colts (1-1-1)

Technically speaking, the Colts currently possess a winning record. Albeit, it is not the ones fans wanted nor the one expectations warranted. Admittingly, it’s been frustrating for fantasy managers, as Jonathan Taylor was the consensus first overall pick this season.

Back to the realm of reality, and the Colts have just not lived up to expectations. Matt Ryan was brought in to replace the lackluster results from Carson Wentz. Well, it hasn’t exactly seemed like an improvement. Shaquille Leonard has yet to make his season debut, but the defense isn’t exactly struggling.

On the opening day of the 2022 season, the AFC South went winless, with two of the teams playing each other. Yes, the Colts tied the Houston Texans to start the year off. Looking back, it might have been a foreshadowing of what is in store for this year: not quite winning, but not quite losing. The Colts are a slow team on offense and their defense isn’t exactly playing lights out. If things stay like this, it might just add up to an aggressively average season in Indiana.

Derrick Henry injury update
Credit: Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee Titans (1-2)

Tisk, tisk, tisk. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The hardest fall is always from the top, eh? Last season, the Titans had the best record in the AFC and went as far as the AFC Divisional round. Mike Vrabel has arguably been the most successful coach from Bill Belichick’s tree, and his time as a head coach is in its relative prime. So, it’s been hard to see Tennessee struggle this year. They snatched their first win last Sunday against the Raiders, 24-22.

While the franchise has had consistent success under Vrabel, doubt started to creep in this past offseason. Making headlines everywhere, their unwillingness to pay A.J. Brown caused them to trade the star WR to Philadelphia. Immediately following the trade, they drafted his replacement, Treylon Burks, in the first round. Also, it seems that defenses around the league have discovered that if Derrick Henry is shut down, the team is too. The drafting of Malik Willis has certainly caused controversy, as the rookie QB has already seen action this season, which isn’t good for Ryan Tannehill’s confidence.

Unless the Titans can adjust to the rest of the league, it’ll be an ugly year in Nashville.

Houston Texans (0-2-1)

The Houston Texans organization has been entrenched in holes they have dug itself in. It seriously seems like eons ago that David Culley was the head coach… and that was last year. Needless to say, this organization has always had a fascination with controversy.

This team is competing to be the worst in the NFL. If the Raiders live up to expectations and start winning, then Houston could have the worst record. That tie against the Colts is the only thing keeping this team from being ranked as the worst team right now. At least in Vegas, they have the superstar talent. In Houston, Davis Mills is still trying to prove himself as a franchise quarterback. Their defense doesn’t have a household name and the offense is a committee scoring group. While that might sound like a true team effort, in reality, it just means they are inconsistent.

However, Dameon Pierce has been an appetizing prospect for fantasy football. But alas, this is reality, and they just haven’t won any games yet for me to get excited about them.

Expectations of the AFC South

In conclusion, things are murky in the AFC South. Surprisingly, Jacksonville has the lead for the divisional playoff spot. Perhaps we shouldn’t have doubted Doug Pederson to work his magic. Mike Vrabel has proven himself to be a worthy coach, but the team he helms isn’t the same anymore. The Colts look flustered and it’s translated to frustrating play for both them and fans to witness. Last, and currently least, the Texans have been struggling to win games.

I expect the Titans and Colts to adapt, but the Jaguars have been deceivingly well so far. This division might be reshaping its power structure.

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