Division Series Preview, Part 7: AFC South
Combined Record: 26-28
2011 Division Winner: Houston Texans (10-6, 4-2 Division)
2011 Playoff Teams: Houston Texans
Well first of all, to disrupt the order of things, I went with the AFC first, because well....why wouldn't I put the Saints & the NFC South last? C'MON MAN! The AFC South will be one to watch this season, well unless you live in Jacksonville. When you think about Andrew Luck, Blaine Gabbert, & Jake Locker....in a couple of years, it could become one of the more exciting divisions to watch. The Texans finally had the drought end for making the playoffs, as they were able to get in for the first time since the Franchise started in 2002, and even managed to win their first playoff game at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. This season, the AFC South will play the NFC North & AFC East.
Houston Texans (10-6, 4-2 Division, 8-4 Conference)
Noteworthy Arrivals: John Beck, Justin Forsett, Bradie James, Alan Ball, Donnie Jones
Noteworthy Departures: Matt Leinart, Lawrence Vickers, Jacoby Jones, Joel Dreesen, Eric Winston, Mike Brisiel, Kasey Studdard, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Jason Allen, Neil Rackers
2012 Predicted Record: 11-5
We should all take a minute to say congratulations to the Texans. They finally put it together to get into the postseason. What's even more impressive is that they did this banged up. Matt Schaub played in 10 games, Andre Johnson played in 7 games, and Arian Foster played in 13 games. Let's also add that Mario Williams was gone for the vast majority of the season too. Credit Gary Kubiak & Wade Phillips for some good coaching, and especially Phillips for the rise of the Texans defense. The 2012 Texans are healthier, and have a 99.9% chance of repeating as division winners to get into the playoffs again. The way this season goes will depend on how healthy the Big 3 can remain. They'll also have a tougher schedule (like the rest of the division), so I dare say they will have to 'steal' some games. Games of interest: @Denver, @Jets, Green Bay, @Ravens (that's three straight weeks), Buffalo (The return of Mario), @Chicago, Detroit, @New England
See Dallas? It's the Texas team that didn't choke.
Tennessee Titans (9-7, 3-3 Division, 7-5 Conference)
Noteworthy Arrivals: Steve Hutchinson, Kamerion Wimbley, Leger Douzable, Kendall Wright (DRAFT)
Noteworthy Departures: Daniel Graham, Jake Scott, William Hayes, Jason Jones, Cortland Finnegan, Chris Hope
2012 Predicted Record: 8-8
The award for the team that flew most under the radar in 2011 goes to: The Titans - at least in my eyes. This team fell just short of the playoffs just like Kevin Dyson fell short of the goal line against the Rams. Remember that 2010 Chris Johnson beast mode of a year? Yeah, I do too (because he was on my fantasy team). Last year Johnson just did get over 1,000 yards....finishing at 1,047 for the season. Johnson has reportedly worked hard in the offseason, so there's upside for the lad. Everyone laughed when Matt Hasselbeck (37) came on board, no one expected him to make as big an impact as he did. We also witnessed first hand Jake Locker coming of age against the Saints, which came down to the last play of the game. Locker should take over those duties as starting QB, and I believe with some mentorship from Hasselbeck, he'll wind up becoming something bigger. The big focus would be on their defense, who finished 2nd to last in the league with sacks (28). They answered that fairly well with the addition of Kamerion Wimbley. I like the chances of Titans to finish above .500 for sure, but it'll come down to the last few weeks to see if they'll sneak in this time. Games of interest: New England (Opener), San Diego, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, @Green Bay
The Titans hope they can 'nomnomnom' their way into the playoffs, but will need help.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11, 3-3 Division, 4-8 Conference)
Noteworthy Arrivals: Chad Henne, Laurent Robinson, Aaron Ross, Andre Branch (DRAFT), Justin Blackmon (DRAFT)
Noteworthy Departures: Matt Roth, Aaron Kampman, Leger Douzable, Drew Coleman
2012 Predicted Record: 3-13
If there's one team I would hate to be exiled to....it would be this one. It's down right nasty in Jacksonville, and I'm not saying they're all terrible. I'm just saying no one watches them! They also had a terrible offense last year, who only managed to score 15.2 pts/game, which was ranked 28th. I seriously feel for Maurice Jones-Drew, it'd be nice if he got to a team that could use him more & the lad would have a shot at the playoffs & such, however, ending his holdout cost him his starting role - at least for 1 game/series. Not many out there believe in Blaine Gabbert, but there are some clinging to the belief. They brought in some Receiver Toys to throw to: Blackmon, Robinson (who many believe that 1 hit wonder in Dallas was about all you'll see), and Lee Evans (who we all remember 'dropped the ball' against the Pats that would have sent them to the championship). All in all, the Jaguars will struggle to just be a 'meh' team for the season. It'll be a long season in Jacksonville, for the few fans left, coaches, & players. Games of interest: Chicago, @Green Bay, Detroit, @Buffalo, Jets
Get used to seeing this even more this season.
Indianapolis Colts (2-14, 2-4 Division, 2-10 Conference)
Noteworthy Arrivals: Drew Stanton, Mewelde Moore, Donnie Avery, Winston Justice, Corey Redding, Brandon McKinney, Samson Satele, Tom Zbikowski, Justin King, Andrew Luck (DRAFT), Coby Fleener (DRAFT)
Noteworthy Departures: Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Dan Orlovsky, Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme, Ryan Diem, Jeff Saturday, Mike Pollak, Tyler Brayton, Jamaal Anderson, Eric Foster, Philip Wheeler, Ernie Sims, Gary Brackett, Jacob Lacey, Melvin Bulitt
2012 Predicted Record: 4-12
Under the section of 'rebuilding', you'll find the 2012 Colts. We saw the true impact of what it's like to be without your MVP, aka Payton Manning. The Colts moved on, and had a very dismal 2011. The Colts didn't get their first win of the season until Week 15 against the Titans, and followed it up with another victory in Week 16 against the Texans. The Departed are many, as it was not only #18 to be released, but a host of others. Enter Andrew Luck, who some say is the prospect that Manning was when he entered the league. While we saw in the preseason that his first pass went for a touchdown (thank you Donald Brown), Luck looks to bring luck back on the Colts side. There are many unknowns for them this season in the air, but one thing is for sure, you can bet that you'll here 'Luck to Fleener' a lot this year. That's not being mean either, that's how Stanford offense ran, heavy on the TE. Any game they play in this year will be of interest to see Andrew Luck do his thing. Games of interest: @Chicago, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Green Bay (Early Bye, 3 straight home games), @New England, Detroit, @KC
AFC South - Bold Predictions
- The Houston Texans will repeat as division winners, and earn that playoff spot again for the 2nd year in a row
- Andrew Luck will throw for over 3,000 yards this season
- Chris Johnson will rush for over 1,500 yards this season
- The Jaguars will wind up with a Top 5 Pick in the Draft this season.