Best starter on each of Colts’ AFC South rivals

Jan 12, 2020; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Texans offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (78) against the Kansas City Chiefs in a AFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 12, 2020; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Texans offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (78) against the Kansas City Chiefs in a AFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans runs for a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Tennessee Titans

Let’s not beat around the bush here. Before Jonathan Taylor dominated for the Colts, the title of the best player in the AFC South belonged to Derrick Henry. Teams know exactly what he is going to do each game but they can’t stop him. The man is built like a tank, bowling over his opponents with straight-up trucks or momentous stiff arms. Taylor balling out and Henry suffering an injury last season knocked him down in the rankings. The workhorse was finally starting to show signs of wear and tear.

Despite the setback Henry still is the best player on the Titans when healthy. After only playing eight games last season, Henry rushed for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns on 219 attempts. This ranked 9th, tied for 6th, and 10th in the league respectively. According to PFF, Henry ranked 17th out of 62 running backs even with his limited playing time. Mind you this was in comparison to guys who played a full season. Henry will enter his seventh season in the league but has already been named to the Pro Bowl twice, an All-Pro once, and the AP Offensive Player of the Year once.

Everyone, especially frustrated Colts fans, is waiting for the other shoe to drop with Henry. For the past two seasons, people have been saying he has to slow down, but he doesn’t. Despite the heavy workload Henry continues to put the team on his back and put up incredible numbers. When he was out last season you could see how much the team depends on him.

An honorable mention for the Titans is Jeffery Simmons. Despite only being in the league for three seasons Simmons has stood out as one of the best defensive linemen not only in the AFC South but in the NFL. He put together the best season of his career last year setting career bests in pass deflections (6), sacks (8.5), tackles (54), tackles for loss (12), and quarterback hits (16). He was rewarded for his efforts with his first Pro Bowl bid.  He is a menace to contend with on the line as many Colts fans know. When Henry was out, he was the center of attention.

Tennessee’s defense in general has a lot of bright spots including Harold Landry III, Denico Autry, Bud Dupree, and Kevin Byard. An interesting side note, according to PFF, last season the safety duo of Byard and Amani Hooker ranked first and third respectively out of 92 safeties. Some of these guys can make an argument about being the best in their position in the AFC South. It seems to always come down to the Colts and Titans in the end and it’s easy to see why. Both teams draft and develop good talent and put together contending rosters. However, the Titans’ success this season will depend largely on how well Henry bounces back from the first real injury of his NFL career.