It's always fun to look back on the season that just passed to get a new perspective on the year. Team-by-team I will describe each franchise's 2016 season in three words and then break it down further from there. Let's look at the AFC South in edition #2.
'MONEY WELL SPENT'
Of course the three words for Houston come from an ironic place, as the one thing everyone will remember from this season (barring a Super Bowl appearance) will be the joke that is the Brock Osweiler salary. The Texans, their fanbase, and most experts thought signing Osweiler was a good idea given the carousel of quarterbacks the Texans shuffled through in 2015 - Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, and B.J. Daniels (plus Jonathan Grimes and Cecil Shorts also attempted at least one pass for a total of 7 different players to attempt a pass). Houston also had six players throw a pass in 2014 including four quarterbacks, three of which didn't appear on the roster the following year - Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and Tom Savage (as well as Mallett again). Osweiler still helped the Texans reach the playoffs by winning the AFC South for the 2nd straight year but he was benched for Tom Savage in week 15 ... only to get the job back due to an injury suffered by Savage in the season finale.
The Texans aren't all laughs though as they boast one of the league's top defenses. They finished 11th in points allowed and 1st in yards allowed and they did that without superstar J.J. Watt after he was lost for the season in week 3. The Texans also have pieces in place on the offensive side in Lamar Miller and an offensive line that's better than more than half the units in the league. They also have DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best talents at the wide out position who the aforementioned Osweiler didn't get involved in the offense near enough, to go along with speedster Will Fuller, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Braxton Miller in the receiving corps. If they get the QB situation straightened out, along with the return of J.J. Watt, this team should be even more dangerous in 2017 than it was in 2016.
'SOMEONE, PROTECT LUCK'
Very few teams have a legitimate franchise quarterback that makes the fans think, no matter what is going on with the rest of the team, 'we have a shot this year.' The Indianapolis Colts are one of those elite few teams with a QB that should be able to lead a franchise to multiple titles in Andrew Luck. The problem is Andrew Luck is being slapped around like a first-time boxer stepping in the ring with Mike Tyson. Luck was sacked 41 times in 2016 - 5th most in the league. Only the Browns, Rams, 49ers, and Bills had their signal-caller taken down more than Luck behind the line of scrimmage but none of those four teams have a franchise quarterback; at least none near the caliber of Luck. This was the 2nd season of Luck's 4 full years that he was sacked more than 40 times. The Colts offensive line was in shambles this year as 10 of 12 lineman on their roster saw action this season so a revolving door on the line means no chance to gel and that means a scrambling Luck. That's not what you want to see.
Despite being under fire constantly, Luck still managed to put the offense on his back throwing for 31 touchdowns (2nd best of his career) and 4,240 yards (his 3rd season of 4,000+ yards) while tossing just 13 picks. Luck has plenty of weapons to target in T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, and Dwayne Allen plus the two-headed monster that Frank Gore and Robert Turbin formed in the backfield (1,000 yards for Gore and 8TDs a piece) make for a strong offense. All Indy needs to do is beef up that line and the sky's the limit for this Colts squad.
'NOT ANY IMPROVEMENT'
Obviously record wise 2016 was a downgrade compared to 2015 as they won two fewer games, but even wth a smaller number in the 'W' column the Jags could have, and should have shown some improvement with the young, talented nucleus they have. The saga of Gus Bradley is over as the Jags fired him after the team lost two separate double-digit leads in Houston ... to back up Tom Savage. Bradley finished his tenure with just 14 wins compared to 48 loses despite putting together an offense that would make plenty of other franchises foam at the mouth for the opportunity to have. Quarterback Blake Bortles took a big step backwards throwing for 500 fewer yards and 12 fewer touchdowns than 2015 despite throwing 20 more passes over the course of the year. The Allen's also took two steps back after their 2015 step froward. Robinson had 151 targets both years and caught just 7 fewer passes in 2016 compared to 2015 (80 to 73) but his yardage dipped by over 500 while his 14 touchdowns in 2015 were cut in more than half in 2016 (6). Hurns posted double-digit scores in 2015 as well as his first 1,000 yard campaign. in 2016 he only managed to find the end zone 3 times (fewest of his career) to go along with career-lows in receptions (35) and yards (477). Even though he played just 11 games this year he averaged a score once every 4 games - he scored once every 2 games in his first two seasons. New coach Doug Marrone should be able to get the most out of this offense with a full offseason of scheming.
I hate to be totally negative so on the bright side the Jaguars defense did show some improvements. They gave up the 6th fewest yards in the league - their 3rd best finish in franchise history - and while they finished 25th in points allowed, that is their 2nd best finish in the last six seasons. That all happening with a ton of young players on the defensive side of the ball (6 of 11 starters in 2016 were in their 3rd year or younger) is a huge plus in Jacksonville's corner. This roster has a lot of young and talented pieces and if this coaching change works, the Jaguars could make more of a roar than a meow in the division in the near future.
'FUTURE IS BRIGHT'
The Tennessee Titans season ended in a horrifying way with their franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota breaking his fibula in week 16 and that ended that chances that Tennessee had to win the AFC South and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. It was a heartbreaking finish for such a promising season but when reflecting on 2016 you have to say one thing about the Titans; the future is extremely bright. You see how well the Dallas Cowboys are looking over on the NFC side of things? Well I believe that the AFC version of Dallas could very well be the Titans. Not only do they have a franchise quarterback who seems to be poised beyond his years - Mariota still has yet to throw an interception in the red zone while he's tossed 33 touchdowns, but they have a strong run game with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry not to mention one of the best tight ends in the league in Delanie Walker and a young receiving corps with Rishard Matthews, Kendall Wright and Tajae Sharpe. The offensive line is a huge strength for the Titans as well with rookie Jack Conklin (selected to All Pro 1st Team in his first season), 2nd year left tackle Taylor Lewan and the entire line under the age of 28 this Titans offense is set up for success for years to come.
The defense does have some room for improvement as they finished 16th in points allowed and 20th in yards allowed. But Tennessee does have two first-round draft picks this year after they traded their top selection to the Rams last year, so picking twice in the top 20 (once inside the top 5) will go a lot longer for a team like the Titans with just a few holes compared to a team like the Browns or 49ers who have more holes than those cheeseheads in Green Bay.
That's your AFC South season recap in just three words per team. What would your three words be for each team in the AFC South? Let me know in the comments below and check out my other 'Three Word' breakdowns by division!