The Rich Get Richer In The AFC South
By Brett Spielberg
While the NFL is a league known for its parody and that feeling that any team can win any week regardless of the circumstances, life in the AFC South is starting to get a bit more predictable.
The Colts and Texans are two of the elite teams in the AFC and both are poised to be perennial playoff powers.
On the other hand, the Titans and Jaguars are bottom-feeders. While the Titans do have their players of interest, like the on and off dominance of Chris Johnson, as well as a history of former head coach Jeff Fisher leading competitive teams, the Jaguars have much less to speak of.
Tom Coughlin, Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith are the team’s all-time greats. One’s a Giant, the other is known in town for his restaurants as much as his deep-ball and the latter is incarcerated.
The new front office in Jacksonville is ambitious and hopes to upgrade its squad through shrewd drafting and strong player development. However, upgrading the second-worst team in football will not be smooth sailing. There’s an aging running back at the heart of the offense, a “franchise” quarterback no one even wants as their backup and a defense that hasn’t stopped a drive since Jack Del Rio was the head coach.
Like in every industry, the whales devour the fish, and so on all the way down the food chain. When it comes to football in the AFC South, this is no different.
The Colts and Texans should each win five of their six divisional games. They’ll each sweep the Jags and Titans, and will likely split the series against one another. Four big divisional losses is a death sentence for a season: it’s beyond improbable to secure a playoff spot when you can’t win in your own division.
As the Titans add pieces to their offensive line with the hope that their running game will rebound and propel them to the playoffs, the Jaguars are just grasping at straws. No legit free agent is going to ever sign with Jacksonville. That’s a fact. What’s more is that the Jaguars aren’t even the biggest show in a town where they’re the only show in town.
College and even high school football still are the bigger draws to the masses, other than the few die-hard Jags fans who struggle to buy up enough tickets to prevent local television blackouts.
With a fragmented fanbase, an atrocious roster and no signs of really improving on the horizon, the Jacksonville Jaguars are basically on NFL welfare. Their 16 games are gifts to the other 31 teams in the league, a lottery for almost a free victory whether at home or away. Their draft picks the last three years have been inconsistent: Blaine Gabbert and Tyson Alualu were both overwhelming reaches, and unless Luke Joeckel can protect Gabbert and give him the time in the pocket he needs to shine, it won’t be long before he’s another early first-round bust.
Then take a quick look at the Colts and Texans. Superstars on offense, superstars on defense, a consistent history of playoff berths and success, not to mention loyal fanbases, state of the art stadiums and most importantly, quarterbacks that can be built around for the long-term.
This kind of inequality preserves the dominance of the elite over that of the weak. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and we’ll all have a front row seat to watch the never-ending struggle that we should all really get used to watching in the emerging Andrew Luck era.