In a considerably more data-driven fashion that Jason La Canfora, Football Outsiders has released their initial win-loss projection for each AFC team in 2016. Here's how they have the AFC South shaking out:
1. Houston Texans: 8-8 (8.0 mean wins; SOS: 25)
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: 7-9 (7.4 mean wins; SOS: 22)
3. Indianapolis Colts: 7-9 (7.1 mean wins; SOS: 21)
4. Tennessee Titans: 7-9 (6.6 mean wins; SOS: 32)
Just one game separating the division winner from the division cellar. You don't see that every day.
And how about the Colts finishing third in the division when so many are calling for Andrew Luck's return to propel Indianapolis back to the top of the AFC South? Aaron Schatz writes:
With Andrew Luck hopefully healthy for all 16 games, it sure seems as though we should go back to favoring the Colts to return to dominating a weak division. But our projection system is accounting here for the fact that the Colts' offense wasn't very good even when Luck was on the field last season. Subjectively, we might explain away Luck's Week 1-3 performance as an early-season slump, and we might explain away his Week 6-8 performance as coming back too soon from his first injury. Objectively, our projection system sees that the Colts would have finished 20th in offensive DVOA even if we only counted games with Luck in the lineup. Meanwhile, the Colts probably will have the oldest defense in the league, generally an indicator of decline. Six projected starters will be 30 or older, as will pass-rush specialist Robert Mathis and nickelback Darius Butler.
Here's what Schatz wrote about your Houston Texans' prospects for the coming year:
The Texans are essentially forecast to be the roughly the same team as last year, which is enough to make them division favorites. Brock Osweiler is unlikely to be an upgrade on Brian Hoyer -- or at least, what Brian Hoyer did in the regular season. Lamar Miller is an improvement at running back, but that's balanced out by losses along the offensive line. Most of the defense returns, although the Texans have to figure out how to fill the giant hole opposite J.J. Watt caused by the departure of Jared Crick. The Texans also get a boost to their win chances in two specific games because they will face the Patriots without Brady and the Raiders in Mexico instead of Oakland.
How's that strike you? Reasonable? Unreasonable? Too little credit for the reigning AFC South champs?