As free agency and the draft approach, every team has some level of excitement. Some are looking to contend in 2022, while others only want to move in the right direction. The NFL is unique in that every team has a chance to win the Super Bowl each season. At the same time, only one team can lift the Lombardi next February. The other 31 will fall short, and there are reasons why each team will not have what it takes. Let’s continue with the AFC South.
The Titans’ Super Bowl hopes are contingent on the team’s ability to stay healthy. In recent years, the Titans have taken many risks in the draft and in trades to acquire players with injury risks. Jeffery Simmons has been a hit. Both Caleb Farley and Julio Jones were shaky. All it takes is one of the stars to miss a month, and the Titans season could be for naught. Even in 2021 when they stayed afloat without Derrick Henry and others, Henry was ineffective when it mattered in the playoffs.
Having a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill is a time bomb in the playoffs. He does not have a high enough floor to avoid cataclysmic games, and he does not have an elite ceiling to carry the Titans to victories. He must be dragged along for the ride in most cases. Even with a strong cast of weapons around him, Tannehill’s limitations hamper the Titans’ ability to consistently win in the playoffs. If they play elite defense and Henry clobbers the opponent, the Titans can win. However, when Henry is ineffective or when Tannehill self-destructs, the Titans lose.
The Titans are a secondary Super Bowl contender, a tier lower than the likes of the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, and Green Bay Packers. While they have a realistic shot of winning the Super Bowl, they need many dominoes to fall in their favor. Ironically, every domino imaginable fell in their favor in 2021, and they blew a home playoff game. The division around them got weaker, but the Titans face an uphill climb against the elite of the AFC.
The Colts made the author’s job ridiculously easy just in the last few days. Instead of hypothesizing about Carson Wentz forgetting how to play football, the author can just say “the Colts do not currently have a quarterback that is remotely competent” and end the paragraph there. However, the author does not want to get fired by his editor, so he will write the requisite 60 words in this paragraph. The Colts traded Wentz to the Washington Commanders, and they traded their 2022 Super Bowl hopes as well.
For as disastrous as Wentz can be, he at least offers some upside in being able to make some high-end plays. The bad is among the worst in the NFL, but he offsets it with some good. Without Wentz, the Colts now reside among the worst quarterback rooms in the NFL. They are in a division that has Davis Mills as a starter, yet they are the worst in the division. It has gotten so poor that the Colts seem to seriously be considering Sam Ehlinger as a starting quarterback. The Colts might be better off playing 10-on-11.
For the time being, the Wentz trade is a double middle finger from Chris Ballard to his players, coaches, and fans. He did get reasonable draft compensation, and Wentz is off of the Colts’ salary books, but this is the equivalent of a bad private jet pilot getting thrown out of a plane. He might be a bad pilot, but at least he can fly a plane.
With Deshaun Watson’s legal situation becoming more clear, the Texans’ Super Bowl chances are about as good as a scratch-off’s odds to win the Mega Millions jackpot. Without Watson, the Texans do not have any aspect of the team that is even average. They are underwhelming in every regard, and the only somewhat valuable pieces (Laremy Tunsil and Brandin Cooks) could be shipped elsewhere. The Texans are such a disaster that the player they take with the No.3 pick in the draft might immediately be the best player on the team. Despite sharing a division with a team that has received back-to-back No.1 picks, the Texans are the only team in the NFL that this is true for.
Without divine intervention, the Texans will be eliminated from playoff contention with a month to go, if not more. Most teams have multiple ways to win games. The elite teams might have five ways. The Texans have one: hope the other team turns off their brains before kickoff. For their four 2021 wins, they needed the Titans to be missing just about every meaningful piece on the roster, the Jacksonville Jaguars to exist (twice), and the Chargers to pull a Chargers.
The Jaguars might have a pulse in 2022. However, the formula for them to not win the Super Bowl is simple. As long as Trevor Lawrence is not the second coming of Jesus himself, the Jaguars will not win the Super Bowl. Even with moderate improvements across the board and the additions of the No.1 and No.33 picks (again), the Jaguars are so far away from Super Bowl contention that Doug Pederson would have to create a way to turn Madden ratings into real-life ratings. At this point, he would adjust his team to all 99 overall players and adjust other teams to zero overall players (except for Nick Foles).
Even if Lawrence develops into being a top-five quarterback in 2022, the defense is too far gone from the elite 2017 unit that took the NFL by storm. The Jaguars struggle to rush the passer, can struggle to defend the run, and struggle to cover. Most teams can at least do one of those three basic things well. The Jaguars only have hope in their run defense (16th in yards per play allowed in 2021) at the moment. They will almost certainly spend either the No.1 or No.33 pick on defense, but even a generational talent cannot overcome the pitiful situation around him.
Are you an optimist? All four of these teams have a chance to win the Lombardi.