AFC South Preview
New season same results… At least that is what I see coming out of the AFC South this year. The top two teams remain the same. The bottom two teams follow suit from last year, and it may just cost their coaches their jobs.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Jack Del Rio era is coming to an end sooner rather than later. Unless the Jaguars put together an amazing run and go at least to the second round of the playoffs, this should be the last year under JDR. On the bright side, the Jaguars have put together some nice pieces on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, the problem being there are not enough pieces to get into the playoffs this year.
Who to Watch For- This is an easy one here, Maurice Jones-Drew has a lot to prove. He has been a great 1 or 2 in the Fred Taylor MJD 1-2 punch over the last couple of years. He is electric and took advantage of all the touches he got. Now he has all the touches to himself and will have to prove that he can stay healthy for the entire season while still producing.
Final Outlook and Analysis- 7-9
David Garrard has been nothing spectacular, but has definitely been effective. He is a great ball control, game managing quarterback, but he will not win you many games. MJD is a bolt of lightning, and can score from anywhere on the field. Yet both of those players have more questions right now than answers. Can MJD and Garrard answer the questions on offense and save Del Rio’s job? Can the defense get any pressure on the quarterback? So many questions, so little answers, right now.
3. Houston Texans:
Every year the “experts” proclaim this is the year the Texans make the playoffs. Every year, they come up short. I see no reason this season will be any different. They have one of the top three receivers in football. They possess an effective running game. The defense has shown flashes of being dominant. Yet, they never seem to put it all together, whether that is because of injuries, ineffectiveness or drafting another defensive lineman that doesn’t pan out this year will be no different from the Texans.
Who to Watch For- You could go with the old standby answer of Matt Schaub, but I think the defense is more important for the success of the Texans than Schaub is. Can they stop the Colts passing attack? Can they stop the Titans running game? That is why Antonio Smith is the player to watch this season. He signed a big deal to move over to Houston to play alongside the best defensive end in the game in Mario Williams. Now will that be the help Super Mario needs in order to lead his team to the playoffs? Can Smith build on his strong playoff performance from a year ago, and become an impact player?
Final Outlook and Analysis- 8-8
Will this be the year that the Texans finally put it all together? I don’t know, simply because of the division they play in. Having to face the Colts, Titans and even the Jags twice a year is a tough task. Add in that they have New England and Seattle at home, and go on the road to Miami and Arizona and they have a tough road to get to where they want to be, over .500 and even more, in the playoffs.
2. Tennessee Titans:
A year ago at this time, no one was picking the Titans to have the great season that they ended up having. Now, they are looked at as one of the top teams in all of the AFC. Personally, I see them somewhere in the middle. Are they a good team? Of course, but are they one of the top teams in the AFC, I don’t buy that. They lack some of the key components necessary to win, and even though Chris Johnson, LenDale White, and Nate Washington are all great weapons to complement the savvy Kerry Collins, I worry about something else.
Who to Watch For- This is easy, Tony Brown, Jason Jones, Jovan Haye, Kevin Vickerson, Sen’Derrick Marks and any other DT trying to replace the monster in the middle Albert Haynesworth. This is the key to the season for the Titans, if they can get consistent play out of the DT spot, meaning clogging up running lanes, keeping the O-Line off of the linebackers, and getting a decent pass rush up the middle, then they can not only be contenders, they can be real players. If they are unable to get anything out of these guys, it could be a tough season.
Final Outlook and Analysis- 11-5
The Titans have a great roster, and a more than capable offense to compete. The problem, they may not be completely reloaded on the defensive side of the ball, especially against the run. I expect big years from Johnson and White, and the passing game should get a boost with the addition of Washington, but will they be able to compete with the balanced offenses in the AFC? Will they be able to continue to dominate on defense?
1. Indianapolis Colts:
This is not always a popular team to pick as number one. The Colts get a lot of
crap for being regular season wonders and never taking it into the playoffs. Unfortunately for the haters, they still have Peyton Manning, and he still knows how to win, during the regular season. Will they be able to continue to win without Tony Dungy? Is Peyton Manning the real key to the Colts success?
Who to Watch For- Another coach makes the list here. The Colts have had a ton of success under the guidance of Tony Dungy, few can argue that fact. What is now the question is, was it Dungy, or was it Manning. That will be easily answered this season. If Jim Caldwell is able to come in and continue the Colts winning ways, then you have to believe it was more Manning than Dungy. If the Colts struggle and are unable to continue their run of regular season success, then we know who the real mastermind was.
Final Outlook and Analysis- 12-4
This is a huge year for the Colts and their fans, as it is the first year without Dungy in a while, and the first look into the future. Will the offense continue to flourish? Will the defense step up and drive the Colts to long playoff run? Can Joseph Addai stay healthy, or will Donald Brown take over? Can Anthony Gonzalez be the next great Colts receiver? So many questions, yet when it all comes down to it, the Colts season will go as Manning goes. Or so we may think.