The Colts’ loss to the Bengals in week one was a major disappointment. It wasn’t that anyone expected them to absolutely win the game, we entered it with modest expectations for their play. However, they were in command of the game and let it slip away, ending on a hope-crushing turnover. It was a tough way to lose your first game.
The good news is, 2 of the other 3 AFC South teams lost their openers as well, so the Colts are in good company within the division. So let’s take a look around the AFC South and see how our divisional opponents fared in week one.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
Our first stop is with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are widely viewed as a team in “win now” mode and they have one of the most complete teams with the exception of one position. Unfortunately, that position is quarterback. This fact was evident in their week one matchup against the New York Giants.
They punted on seven straight drives, and simply struggled to get any real offense going. The saving grace for the team was that they were playing a Giants team that, despite having several stars on its offense, could not overcome the Jaguars’ smothering defense. In fact, if not for a Myles Jack interception that was returned for a touchdown, this game would have been a loss as well.
One area of concern is that on an already stagnant offense, the Jags lost their star running back, Leonard Fournette, to a hamstring injury during this game. The team is optimistic that he will be able to return quickly to action, but the loss of their only significant weapon on the offense will be tough to overcome, even with a nasty defense.
Having said all that, the Jaguars went on the road and got a win in tough conditions. That is what good teams do, and they are definitely a good team. Time will tell if their flaws are too difficult to overcome.
Tennessee Titans (0-1)
The Tennessee Titans are in big trouble. It is tough to make sweeping conclusions after just one week of play, but the Titans lost three of their four most important pieces on the offensive side of the ball on Sunday.
In what was a very odd contest punctuated by delays due to inclement weather, the Titans dropped a game to the Miami Dolphins in week one. A loss is bad, but the injuries suffered by the team are worse. Marcus Mariota left the game after sustaining an injury to his elbow. Mariota simply struggles to stay on the field and healthy, and if that injury affects his play or lingers for any amount of time, it is a problem for this team.
Tight end Delanie Walker, arguably the best tight end in the division and the Titans’ best offensive passing weapon, was lost for the season after sustaining an ankle injury. Additionally, Taylor Lewan, the Titans excellent starting left tackle was knocked out of the game by a nasty blindside block that landed him in concussion protocol. If Lewan isn’t healthy, that is a major blow to the offensive line that was already missing Jack Conklin at right tackle.
The Titans’ schedule is not going to be forgiving over the next couple games either, as they face the Texans at home, then the Jaguars on the road, before coming home to face the Eagles. All three of these teams have defenses that would love nothing more than to tee off on a battered Titans’ offensive line.
Houston Texans (0-1)
Speaking of trouble, the Houston Texans may be in it too. Why? Because they entered the season as arguably the team with the worst offensive line in the NFL. That was before they lost their starting right tackle, Seantrel Henderson, for the season with a broken ankle.
Behind that line, second year quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled. He looked very much like a player who was returning from injury, and he’s going to get hit a lot. New England’s defense is not even close to as good as what the Texans will face throughout the season, and they made the offensive line look as bad as it is.
Personally, I don’t think Watson will play as poorly all season as he did Sunday. He has talent, and that will come through. However, he was very fortunate in many of his passes last season, and it would not be surprising if he regressed some this season, especially given the pass rush he will face given the line’s dearth of talent.
There is enough talent on this team to get some wins, but they cannot afford any more injuries to their offensive line if they hope to have any kind of offense, or keep their quarterback healthy.
Where do the Colts stand by comparison?
I actually think the Colts are in a good place comparatively. The Colts are very likely to be the only team in the AFC South who can consistently produce any significant offense. They also have a young and exciting group of defensive players who will make some plays but who will undoubtedly make a lot of mistakes as well.
However, the other teams in the South have got some really critical divisional matches early on, and the Colts play only the Texans prior to their bye week. That gives those young defenders a lot of time to learn and grow throughout the season before hitting that critical part of the season.
Perhaps that will matter very little. The Colts need to ultimately start winning games to be relevant, and if the defense doesn’t play better, and the offense goes stagnant in the second half, they won’t win many games.
It seems that much has been made about the rise of the AFC South as a new power, but at this point it may be prudent to pump the brakes on that sentiment.