AFC South: Ranking top 2019 storylines by team

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The AFC South is an excellent division with pretty bad storylines. We rank the current ones, and come up with a few of our own for the new season!

Near the end of May, ESPN’s offseason NFL coverage included an article that noted the most important storylines of 2019 for each team. Smartly, they asked the beat writers under their watch for all 32 teams to compile these storylines. As the offseason continues and we get nearer to the 2019 NFL regular season, let’s tackle these stories division by division — today concerning the AFC South — and answer two questions.

1. Which team has the best story? (“Best” means whatever you want it to mean.)
2. Which story is least likely to become a dominant tale of the season?

Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, debate the AFC South in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

AFC South

Houston Texans – Can Deshaun Watson take the next step?
Indianapolis Colts – Can the Colts become a top-five rushing team?
Jacksonville JaguarsNick Foles‘ attempt to fix the offense.
Tennessee Titans – Can Marcus Mariota become the offensive cornerstone?

Best Storyline

Todd Salem: Oof. While the AFC North possessed four fascinating storylines, the AFC South has fewer than one despite this shaping up to be a competitive, talented division. With apologies to Nick Foles, the best story comes down to bland Houston and blah Tennessee. Are you more interested in Watson moving from good to great or Mariota moving from average to good?

Mariota, to me, is the more interesting piece. He has always possessed that Watson-like upside, but it hasn’t come together. Injuries have often derailed his seasons. 2019 seems like something of a last chance to make a major impact. The team could still bring him back after another mediocre year if outside options don’t seem any better. Call it the Andy Dalton plan. But for all intents and purposes, this is Mariota’s last shot at being a franchise quarterback.

That is what pushes it over the top for me in terms of interest. While Mariota is on the precipice, Waston isn’t an unrestricted free agent until 2022. Nothing specifically hangs in the balance about Watson’s upcoming 2019 season.

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Dan Salem: I am super intrigued with the Jaguars, who have the best story by far. Foles is interesting for two reasons. He has a chance to buck the trend and become a successful starter on a new team with a mega deal in place, after excelling from the backup position the season prior. All other candidates have failed or gotten injured. Foles also has a chance to return Jacksonville to the heights it reached in 2017. It was only two seasons ago that this football team barely lost the AFC Championship. Foles can help the Jaguars flip flop, assuming the defense picks things back up as well.

I don’t believe Houston or Tennessee deserve much recognition, because these stories are so obvious they don’t even have legs. Watson has improved each season, but he was already very good. Whether or not he gets better, he is going to play well. Plus, Watson is not the determining factor of success in Houston. Over in Tennessee, we have a quarterback who has always been slightly above average. It would be a shock for him to suddenly become a cornerstone of the Titans’ offense. This story is also dead in the water.

Least Likely Storyline

Todd Salem: Is there any question it is Indianapolis? I can’t imagine a more boring storyline. It’s not that the Colts are going to have the best rushing attack in the sport behind that beastly offensive line. It’s not that the offense is going to become the toast of the conference. The dominant story is going to be Indy having a top-five running game? Yikes. This is so boring, I’ve already begun thinking about the AFC West before even finishing this section.

dark. Next. The top AFC North storylines of 2019, Ranked by team

Dan Salem: We agree on the story with the least legs. Indianapolis having a top-five rushing attack is inconsequential. No one is going to be talking about this. Andrew Luck should be the headline. Can he keep his team on top after a surprising rebound in 2018? Will the Colts take another step forward into the AFC elite? Can Luck avoid injury? Anything is better than discussing the ranking of one facet of this team’s offense that does not involve its best player.