You’ve heard this before, but I swear it’s true this time.
The Tennessee Titans are the favorites to win the AFC South.
That’s because two major moves happened on Monday.
The Titans placed the franchise tag on running back Derrick Henry — essentially guaranteeing he’ll return to Nashville in 2020.
Henry was the centerpiece of the Titans’ offense in 2019 (especially in the playoffs). The return of Henry, plus the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill (the Titans extended Tannehill on Sunday) will ensure that Tennessee’s offense continues in the manner it finished the 2019 season.
The other move that happened on Monday was the Houston Texans trading wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins — one of the best players in football — to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson.
Houston’s deal was immediately met with ire on social media. And for good reason — Johnson is a 28 year old running back who has missed 28 games over the last three seasons. He’s only rushed for more than 1,000 yards once in his career.
Hopkins, on the other hand, is 27 and has missed only two games in his seven year career. He also has over 8,000 career receiving yards.
The Texans, the defending AFC South champions, are a worse team after dealing Hopkins. There’s just no other way to spin it.
With the Colts trying to figure out which direction they’re going as a franchise, and the Jaguars coming off a 6-10 season with a combination of Nick Foles/Gardner Minshew at quarterback, it leaves the Titans as the team to beat in the division.
If the Titans would’ve started Tannehill from beginning last season, Tennessee likely would’ve ran away with the division. With the Titans’ main competition getting weaker on Monday, and the fact the franchise is returning the core of a team (minus a few key parts, like offensive lineman Jack Conklin who signed with the Cleveland Browns on Monday) that reached the AFC Championship, it’s obvious that everyone will be chasing the Titans this fall/winter.
Of course, anything can happen. That’s why the games are played. But for now, I can’t see why any other team beside the Titans would be the favorites in the division.
Featured image via Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports