Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota took another big step in his second NFL season in 2016. He cut down on his interceptions (10 to nine in three more games in 2016), boosted his QBR from 56.5 to 65.2 and continued his remarkable success in the red zone with 33 touchdowns against zero interceptions for his career. And he led the Titans to their first winning record since 2011.
Mariota is clearly on the rise. Will this be the season he surpasses Andrew Luck as king of the AFC South quarterbacks? Our division roundtable weighs in:
Sarah Barshop, Houston Texans reporter: Mariota could overtake Luck this year, but it would take a big season from the third-year quarterback. He would have to stay healthy, lead the Titans to a division title and probably win a playoff game as well. Luck is the most talented quarterback in the division, but his team's success has not mirrored his ability. Mariota had the Titans one win away from a playoff spot last season, and with an improved offensive roster, there's no reason to believe he can't take a big step forward in 2017, building on his impressive run last season.
Michael DiRocco, Jacksonville Jaguars reporter: Possibly, but not anytime soon. Mariota's growth in his first two seasons is impressive. He has had fumble issues (11 lost), but he has thrown six fewer interceptions than Luck (25) despite playing in five more games. He has done that despite having only one receiver with more than 70 combined receptions (tight end Delanie Walker had 159). The Jaguars have had five, the Colts four, and the Texans three. However, Mariota also has had the benefit of playing behind a much better offensive line and last season was helped by the third-best running game in the NFL (the Colts ranked 23rd). Luck has three playoff appearances, including a trip to the AFC Championship Game, and has carried that team when he has been healthy. Mariota hasn't shown the ability to do that -- yet. I think the gap between the two is smaller than most people would think, but until Mariota starts taking the Titans to the playoffs, Luck is still the king of the division.
Mike Wells, Indianapolis Colts reporter: I'm not ready to go that far. Luck is still the best quarterback in the division. He's a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. Luck beat the Titans three straight times while dealing with a shoulder injury that caused him to have surgery on it in January. But Mariota is the second-best quarterback in the division and an argument could be made that the Titans have a better overall team than the Colts. The reason that I won't give Tennessee the edge for first place in the AFC South next season is because of Luck. What got lost in the 2016 season with Indianapolis is that Luck completed a career-high 63.5 percent of his passes and had a QBR rating of 71.2, which also was the best of his career. He also was fifth in the NFL in touchdown passes (31). Luck put up those numbers while being limited in practice at least one day every week last season.