AFC South Division Winners: Can the Titans Win the Division for a Third Straight Year?


Thanks to one of the most eventful NFL offseasons of all time, the bridge between last year’s Super Bowl and next year’s opening kickoff has felt a little shorter than usual.

Still, to fans, summer’s arrival means our desire to consume all things football grows to nearly uncontainable levels. Talk shows, podcasts and Twitter timelines are zeroing in on the upcoming NFL season. Fantasy drafts and competitions are popping up left and right. Sportsbooks are taking bets on futures like division, conference and Super Bowl champions.


Throughout June and July, I’m going to attempt to feed your hunger for NFL content by previewing every division. I’ll cover key division storylines, provide a breakdown for each team and give out my pick to win each division.

(Check out the division previews so far: NFC East | NFC NorthNFC SouthNFC WestAFC East | AFC North | AFC West)

AFC South Preview

Divisions like NFC West, AFC West and AFC North probably look at the AFC South with a special type of disdain. Despite it being possibly the weakest division in the NFL, someone has to win the AFC South and at least one team will represent it in the playoffs.

So far in the 2022 offseason, there have been a few major shakeups for the division’s top teams – the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans – while the Jaguars and Texans look to continue their respective rebuilds. Here, I’ll explain why this season will be different in the AFC South, with the ever-inconspicuous Titans handing over their crown to the Colts.

1. Indianapolis Colts

(FanDuel Sportsbook division title odds: -105) 

After a one-year experiment with Carson Wentz, the Colts moved on and traded the quarterback to the Washington Commanders. Then, they traded for longtime Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Remarkably, Indianapolis will trot out a different Week 1 starting QB for the seventh straight season. 

Ryan won’t have to be in MVP form to lead the Colts to the playoffs, however. Behind a strong offensive line, Jonathan Taylor ran his way to an All-Pro season and the NFL rushing title in 2021. Indianapolis will almost certainly lean on its star running back to carry the offense and ask Matt Ryan to limit mistakes, much like Wentz did last season. 

Michael Pittman 2022 AFC South Division Preview

Ryan additionally won’t be throwing to receivers with the same pedigree as the ones he threw to in Atlanta. Michael Pittman broke out in 2021 and is an emerging star, but behind him, the depth chart is young and unproven. Someone will need to step up as the Robin to Pittman’s Batman if the Colts want their offense to level up. 

Defensively, Indianapolis was especially stout in the run game last season. Its coverage and pass rush left a little to be desired, but the team went out and addressed those concerns in a massive way this offseason. 

First, the Colts traded for Raiders’ edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded 10 sacks in 2021. Then, they signed two-time All-Pro and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore as an unrestricted free agent in April. 

Indianapolis is by far the most balanced team in the AFC South and has the tools to win it convincingly. Don’t be surprised if Ryan and the Colts run away with the division title. 


2. Tennessee Titans

(FanDuel odds: +150)

In the last three seasons, the Titans have reached the AFC championship, won two AFC South titles and clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The whole time, almost nobody dubbed them the conference’s best team or picked them to make the Super Bowl. 

So, here we are before the 2022 season and I, an openly self-pitying Titans fan, am not even picking them to win the AFC South. Tennessee’s title chances diminished this offseason as the team didn’t do nearly as much to improve as the Colts and the rest of the AFC did.

The Titans did make waves, however, when they traded star wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles on draft night, then selected his presumed replacement in Treylon Burks. Brown is a huge loss for the offense as he made Ryan Tannehill a more efficient quarterback and took pressure off Derrick Henry and the ground game.

One-year rental Julio Jones is gone as well, so Tennessee acquired former Rams wideout Robert Woods and former Browns tight end Austin Hooper to add some experienced pass-catchers. Pass-catchers or no pass-catchers, the Titans want to feed King Henry as much as possible, as illustrated by league-leading carries per game over the last several seasons.

For Mike Vrabel and company to three-peat, Tannehill will have to return to 2019 form, the offensive line will need to overachieve and the defense – led by Kevin Byard and Jeffery Simmons – must continue to force turnovers at opportune times. It’s a tall task for the two-time reigning AFC South champs. 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

(FanDuel odds: +700)

There were high expectations for Trevor Lawrence after an illustrious Clemson career. Unfortunately, Lawrence’s career with the Jaguars got off to a rocky start. The Jags paired their rookie QB with head coach Urban Meyer and failed miserably, with Meyer being ousted in December.

Trevor Lawrence 2022 AFC South Division Preview

Now, Super Bowl champ Doug Pederson takes over with hopes of developing Trevor Lawrence into the quarterback everyone thinks he can be. Jacksonville also added ex-Giants tight end Even Engram and former Cardinals receiver Christian Kirk to support that effort.

Lawrence’s college teammate and fellow first-round pick Travis Etienne is recovered from an injury that prevented him from having a real rookie season and figures to aid his quarterback in the passing game as well. Signing free agent guard Brandon Scherff should help keep Lawrence upright and allow him to use his new weapons to pick apart opposing defenses more than he did as a rookie.

The offense should improve a bit, but the defense will need to as well if the Jags want to challenge for the AFC South title or at least take a step forward. In 2021, the Jacksonville defense was awful across the board. Number one overall pick Travon Walker should help the pass rush, and former Rams cornerback Darious Williams will bring championship experience to the secondary, but that likely won’t be enough.

If Trevor Lawrence takes a massive jump in his second season, the Jaguars could be a surprising force in a weak division, but they’re probably looking at another bottom-half finish in the AFC South.


4. Houston Texans

(FanDuel odds: +2500) 

New head coach Lovie Smith has a tough task at hand: Rebuild the franchise and escape the black cloud that Deshaun Watson cast over it for more than a year. He’ll inherit a team that has mustered just eight wins since the start of the 2020 regular season. 

Last season, the Texans had the worst coverage grade and worst run blocking grade in the NFL, but they invested in those areas through the draft. In April, Houston used its two first-round picks on LSU cornerback Derek Stingley and Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green.

2021 third-round quarterback Davis Mills started 11 games last season and showed some flashes of brilliance. Outside of Brandin Cooks, he didn’t – and still doesn’t – have any explosive playmakers. Despite that, he recorded 300 passing yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions twice, as many times as Joe Burrow. Mills’ development should be the franchise’s biggest focus this upcoming season.

Defensively, Houston got run over to the tune of 142 yards per game on the ground and the secondary was just as awful. Against the pass, the Texans ranked as one of the worst five teams in the NFL in forced incompletion rate, open target percentage and yards per reception. Basically, opposing wideouts were often roaming downfield, wide open. 

Without any major additions during the 2022 offseason, the Texans will have to improve quite a bit in just about every facet of the game if they want to overachieve and steal a few games in the AFC South.

Previous Second-Year Scouting Report: Rashod Bateman Next NFL Splits Tool: The Jets Offense With and Without Zach Wilson in 2021