The Devil's Advocate: The Jaguars Have the Best Defense in the AFC South

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistMarch 23, 2012

These guys are better.
These guys are better.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Welcome to the Devil's Advocate.

Each week, I'll look at an issue from opposing sides, arguing both ends against the middle. Today's topic is: the best defense in the AFC South. Remember, there is another side to this (and most every) debate.

Earlier today, I argued that the Texans have the best defense, but I've since changed my mind. The Jacksonville Jaguars clearly have the best defense in the division.

While the Texans led in some conventional metrics in 2011, the Jaguars were secretly the more elite unit. The Football Outsiders' DVOA metric loved them; it had Jacksonville in the top five of both run and pass defense. The Jaguars were flat-out better than the Texans.

How could that be when the Texans allowed fewer points?

Traditional metrics don't really tell you how well a defense played. They only hint at it. The Texans had one massive advantage that the Jags didn't when it came to defense: a fully functional offense.

How does offense skew defensive metrics? It's simple: field position and turnovers lead to points. The Jaguars had four truly horrible defensive games in which they gave up 141 points in just four games.

Of course, the Jags offense helped out, with 11 turnovers in those games. The lousy offensive performances tilted the playing field against the Jaguars defensive unit.

Additionally, the Jags defense was forced to be on the field two-and-a-half minutes longer per game than the Texans D. It's nice to be able to sit on the sidelines and watch the other half of your team pick up first downs. The Jaguars had no such luxury.

On top of everything else, the Jags defense was far more complete than the Texans', easily topping Houston in run metrics and turnovers. The Jags were fourth in yards per carry in 2011 with Houston not even in the top 10.

But all the talk of 2011 is pointless. That season is done, and the Texans are primed for a major fall. They've lost multiple starters on defense, including Mario Williams. The Jaguars, on the other hand, have already added Aaron Ross to the mix at corner, providing more leadership and depth, while not losing anyone.

Want to talk about age?

The Jags are young, with only Rashean Mathis over 30, and he's not even expected to be a starter. Add another year of drafting much higher than the Texans, and there's no question that Jacksonville will be the best defense in the AFC South in 2012.

Unless of course the Titans get that pass-rusher...