Red used to refer to the AFC South as “The Division of Excellence” or something like that because like Rodney Dangerfield it “got no respect” from most of the pundits despite frequently having among the best collective records of any division in the NFL. Of course, the AFC South has all of one – count it one – NFL Championships coming with the Colts win over the Bears in 2006. The Colts accounted for the division’s only other AFC Championship but lost to the Saints in the 2009 Superb Owl.
Last season, the division was dominated by two excellent squads with Tennessee and Indianapolis both posting 11-5 records while the Texans (4-12) and Jaguars (1-15) soiled the bed linens. Neither the Colts nor the Titans could make it out of the Wild Card round as the Titans lost a tough game against the Ravens while the Colts almost knocked off the Bills.
Moving on to this season, Red doesn’t see much reason for change at the top or the bottom of this division.
Tennessee Titans (11-6). Red picks the Titans to repeat as division champs. Admittedly, it is hard to look at the Titans 2021 schedule and not wonder how exactly 10 wins will be forthcoming. Other than the 4 games against the Texans and Jaguars there appears to be only one soft spot on the schedule in week 4 against the Jets. But with loyal fans like Jana (originally from Germany but now woefully ensconced somewhere in Florida) who had her car “wrapped in the Tennessee Titans logo” and whose “biggest wish is for the team to autograph my car” – how can this team miss? With the amount of offensive firepower Coach Mike Vrabel and new OC Todd Downing have at their disposal, this team should easily be among the AFC leaders in points scored if not for the fact that they play in the same conference with the Chiefs, Bills, Ravens and Browns. Geez guys you got A J Brown, Derrick Henry and Julio Jones. Even All-Mediocre QB Ryan Tannehill should be able to do something with that bunch. Red also likes the addition of wily veteran Jackrabbit Jenkins to the secondary and Bud Dupree to linebacking corps. JRJ earns the wily designation because he has scored 10 career touchdowns ranking first among active defensive players (JJ Watt may beg to differ). If Dupree is fully recovered from his torn ACL he gives the Titans another legit edge rusher.
Indianapolis Colts (9-8). The most exciting news out of the Colts training camp does not involve who will replace P. Rivers under center, but rather the Throwback Game on November 28 against the NFL Champion Buccaneers. The big feature of the throwbacks will be the double horseshoes on the back of the helmet. Red for one can hardly wait to see the ghosts of Weeb Eubank, Jonny Unitas , Don Ameche and Tom Matte rallying the Colts to an OT win over the hated Buccaneers. And for Dad, the Colts Cheerleaders (claiming to be the NFL’s first cheer squad) will also be sporting throwbacks. Sorry no pictures available. As for the team, who knows? Sam Ehlinger from Texas could be the starting QB by Week 13 when the Colts come to Houston. Ehlinger is undefeated at NRG having trounced Rice in 2019 and Missouri in the 2017 Texas Bowl. The Colts could do worse. As with the Titans, the Colts don’t have a favorable schedule and one that is possibly harder than the Titans with the matchup against the aforementioned defending champion Bucs. Other than the weaklings of the AFC South and the Jets, every game looks like a toss-up.
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-11). No team in the league has tried harder to get better with fewer results than the Jags. Given the current pathetic state of London’s favorite team, it is hard to believe that the Jags were one touchdown away from playing in the Superb Owl in 2017. Things do change fast in this era. In the biggest news since Donald Trump professed his undying love for North Korean Dictator Kim Jung Un, new Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer recently declared, “I love Bobby Bowden” while mourning the death of his long-time Florida football rival at age 91. Oh yeah, and in addition to adding the second most successful college coach of the last 20 years, the Jags have a new QB who is the latest in a long line of “can’t miss” top of the draft class rookies. Red thinks the book is out on Trevor Lawrence until at least a couple of chapters are written. Ask Jonny Manziel, Sam Bradshaw, Jamarcus Russell, David Carr, Vince Young, Andre Ware and Joey Harrington about this. Coming into a sad-sack franchise often plays a role in the transformation from an NFL career back to being a working stiff (albeit a rather wealthy stiff) in civil society – and the sacks don’t get much sadder than they do in Jacksonville.
Houston Texans (3-13-1). Hey Bill, how many games do you think the Texans will win this year without your brilliant leadership skills? See photo above for answer. Well the Texans would be right in claiming that “Bad luck and trouble -my only friends.” Perhaps the Texans were born under a bad sign. Red won’t recount his personal travails with the franchise (like the 1422 days after the franchise opening win against the Cowboys and attending another game in which they eked out a win). The fallout from the Bill O the Clown era will be with the team for a good while. If there has been a more incompetent team leader, Red sure can’t summon up the name. BO the C routinely gave the store away in trades, ran off good players, pissed off the media and the fans, repeatedly showed his incompetence in game management and yet, somehow managed to win four AFC South division titles and two playoff games. Notably, BO the C only had one season with more than 10 wins in 2017 but then his team got gobsmacked by the Colts in the Wild Card round. Admittedly, some blame has to be placed on the shoulders of Team President (and leading candidate for starring in a Captain Kangaroo revival) Cal McNair whose only qualification for the job is being winner of the lucky sperm club. Oh enough whining Red. Last year it took Red about 2 seconds to take the Texans up on their generous offer to defer purchasing season tickets. This year it took Red at least 5 minutes to pull the plug on his 20 year run as season-ticket holder. All that said, Red thinks the Texans will surprise a few teams. Make that embarrass. Oh, and Red hears there is some news about DeShaun Watson. Do tell.