2017 NFL season preview: Quarterback questions plague AFC South teams

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NFL teams need stability at quarterback if they are going to be successful, but the Tennessee Titans are the AFC South's only team without question marks about the position heading into the 2017 season.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has not played or even practiced this summer while recovering from shoulder surgery. Luck will sit out their Week 1 match with the Los Angeles Rams at the very least and even his return might not be able to compensate for a roster devoid of talent.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are a complete mess at quarterback and the  Houston Texans have Tom Savage as a placeholder until rookie Deshaun Watson is ready to take over.

The Titans have Marcus Mariota, who threw for 3,426 yards with 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions last season despite missing the final game of the year because of a broken leg. Mariota healed quickly from that injury and could lead the Titans to their first division title since 2008.

 

THE BREAKDOWN

Player to watch: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans — The Texans led the NFL in total defense last season despite Watt missing 13 games because of a back injury. Watt has been the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year three times. If he and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney can both stay healthy, the tandem might help the Texans overcome what could be a struggling offense.

Impact rookie: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars — The Jaguars want Fournette to be their workhorse back after selecting him fourth overall. If Fournette can have anywhere near the kind of impact that saw him rack up 22 touchdowns in 2015 at LSU, it will take a lot of pressure off under-fire quarterback Blake Bortles.

Coach on the hot seat: Chuck Pagano, Colts — Pagano was not hired by Colts GM Chris Ballard and he has little at his disposal in order to help him prove his long-term credentials. The Colts have to start the season with Scott Tolzien at quarterback, with former Patriots back-up Jacoby Brissett brought in to add competition just ahead of the season. When you factor in a running game led by the ageing Frank Gore and a defense that will need time to gel after a substantial overhaul, it’s a recipe for a nightmare start to the season.

Falling: Colts — The Colts owned the division for years, winning nine division titles since the 2002 realignment, but they have missed the playoffs the last two seasons and are expected to do so again this year.  

Rising: Titans — Tennessee drafted extremely well and added key free agents Logan Ryan, John Cyprien, Eric Decker, Sylvester Williams and Erik Walden to upgrade the roster.

Circle this game on the schedule: Texans at Titans, Week 13, Dec. 3 — The Titans and Texans meet for the first time in Week 4, but the second matchup in Nashville will go a long way in determining the division champion.  

Predicted order of finish:

Tennessee      11-5 (No. 3 seed, AFC divisional round)
Houston          9-7  
Indianapolis    6-10
Jacksonville    4-12