Ranking the Most Optimistic Fanbases in the AFC South
The AFC South may be the most low-key division in the NFL.
While the Indianapolis Colts started the season as the clear favorites and were recognized as having a legitimate chance at challenging the New England Patriots for AFC superiority, they have struggled in the opening weeks of the season and haven't played anything close to their best football.
But the Colts know that they can turn things around when Andrew Luck regains full health and the offense finds its stride. That gives Colts fans plenty of reason for optimism.
The Tennessee Titans have reason for hope as well, but not necessarily for the 2015 season. Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota has gotten off to an impressive start, and is the Titans' key to a bright future. The fans know that a turnaround is on the horizon.
However, things are not as bright in Houston or Jacksonville. The Texans have the best defensive player in the league in J.J. Watt and a number of other talented individuals as well, but Houston rarely competes well for 60 minutes, and its fans are tired of watching an underachieving team.
The Jaguars have had low-end talent for years, and while Gus Bradley appears to have a bit more this year than he had in 2014, it doesn't look like this team is going anywhere. Jacksonville fans are used to the losing at this point.
In this piece, we'll compare the optimism levels of fanbases in the AFC South.
Warning: Links to Reddit contain NSFW language
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
There's plenty of talk about teams like the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams packing up and moving to Los Angeles.
There's one reason the Jacksonville Jaguars are not in that conversation. That reason is owner Shahid Khan, who remains committed to staying in Jacksonville and turning the team around.
That's a comforting thought for rabid, hardcore Jaguar fans—but it doesn't seem like they have half as many of those types as any other team in the league.
While the Jacksonville area doesn't have any other major league teams to compete with the Jaguars, the team still runs way behind nearby big-time college sports teams.
The Jaguars have not had a winning season since 2007 and have lost 11 or more games in each of the last four years. When they gave up 51 points at New England in Week 3, it was an indication that things aren't going to get a lot better, even though they beat the Dolphins in Week 2.
The fans are not happy with moral victories, either. The Jaguars extended the Colts to overtime in Week 4 but let that game slip away.
Jacksonville fans are simply fatigued at nearly always falling short and have made their feelings known on Reddit.
3. Houston Texans
Just three seasons ago, owner Bob McNair seemed to have written the book on how to take an expansion team and make it successful.
The Texans opened for business in 2002 and lost 10 games or more in four of their first five seasons, but they reached the .500 mark in 2007 and 2008. The Texans made it to the playoffs in 2011 and 2012 and seemed to be on their way to becoming a consistent AFC power.
But the team fell apart in 2013 and simply couldn't win. The bottom dropped out during a 2-14 season, and the team lost its way.
They bounced back with a 9-7 season, but it didn't seem like the team had any real consistency under head coach Bill O'Brien. Perhaps they got some of the breaks that eluded them in their disastrous 2013 season.
Houston fans are diehards but have lost patience with the team. Football fans in Texas follow their sport with a religious fervor and know that this team is underachieving.
Look at the defense. In addition to having J.J. Watt, the Texans have hard-hitting linebacker Brian Cushing and former No. 1 draft pick Jadeveon Clowney. Most teams would be thrilled to have one superstar on defense, while the Texans have three. The star-laden Houston defense gave up 48 points to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4.
The Texans are getting a bit of a break from the fans right now because the Houston Astros are playing postseason baseball. But once the baseball season ends in Houston, Texans fans will not hold back. They are not happy with their team and have very little patience for its continued ineffectiveness.
2. Tennessee Titans
The Titans moved out of Houston after the 1996 season, and by their third year in the state of Tennessee, the team made it to the Super Bowl following the 1999 season.
It was a magical year and a magical Super Bowl that saw the Titans fall one yard short of tying the St. Louis Rams and sending the game into overtime.
The Titans have also fallen short every year since then and were never worse than they were in 2014, when they dropped 14 of their last 15 games and finished with a 2-14 season.
As bad as that was, it didn't earn them the No. 1 pick. That went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who selected Jameis Winston. That gave the Titans a chance to select Marcus Mariota, which might be the move that helps the Titans turn it around.
Mariota came into the draft with the reputation of being a well-prepared college player who did everything the right way. He has done nothing to change that in his first year in the NFL.
The Titans won their first game of the year at Tampa Bay, as Mariota got much the best of Winston. They have also played respectable football since then, and the fans have hope that it might not take very long for Mariota to improve the team's fortunes.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts fans have had a great run. They had Peyton Manning at the helm of their franchise from 1998-2010. With Manning unable to play in 2011, the Colts ended up with the first pick in the 2012 draft, and they selected Andrew Luck.
Luck has grown steadily in each of his four seasons with the team. He played a huge role in getting the Colts to the AFC Championship Game last year, and while they have had a slow start this year and Luck is battling a shoulder injury, it seems almost certain that they will win the division again and have a chance to win in the postseason.
There are some current difficulties with this year's team. In addition to Luck's injury issues, the Colts rank 27th on defense and struggle to run the football, ranking 25th in that category.
The Colts have time to turn around their shortcomings, and their fans know it. They know that much work needs to be done to compete with teams like Cincinnati, Denver and New England, but the first thing concerning Colts fans is getting Luck back in the lineup.