Sunday, September 1, 2013

AFC South Preview

This division is weird to me. Maybe it's because my team resides in it, but this division has an odd feel going into the new season. There isn't a new super-team in the division, and there aren't many possible surprises. But, it still could be fun to watch the budding stars in Houston and Indianapolis. And for the other 2... well for the Titans you have the early 2000's to look back on and the Jags have a new helmet that's interesting... I've got nothing.

After not making the postseason from 2002-2010, the Texans have won the AFC South in back-to-back seasons, which is impressive, despite the fact they probably had won the division by default the past 2 seasons. The Colts are a far more formidable challenge now, but the Texans still have a talented defense.  Their front 7 is as good as any in the league, and even if you exclude J.J Watt, players of note are still present, like Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed, and Antonio Smith. Their secondary now has Ed Reed, but does that really make a unit that struggled mightily at the end of last season that much better? There are depth issues at corner and safety, and the good teams the Texans will be facing will certainly try to exploit that. Arian Foster and Andre Johnson are still great, but the depth behind them is questionable. They are a playoff team, but with a team breathing down their necks, the division 3-peat will be tough.

The Colts have a budding star QB, talent everywhere on offense, and a defense that has been reloaded well in the offseason. So, they should be division favorites right? Maybe, but the defense having better talent doesn't necessarily mean they're that much of a better unit. They should be able to run the ball better with Ahmad Bradshaw, and T.Y Hilton should have a breakout season, so the offense will be fine. The defense added players like Bjorn Werner, Greg Toler, Ricky Jean-Francois, so on paper it is better, but they have still had trouble stopping the run in preseason, and the secondary does have some question marks. I think they'll gel very well this season, and will give the Texans a good run for their money to take the AFC South back.

In Nashville, the Titans are in a crucial year for the franchise. Mike Munchak, Ruston Webster, and Jake Locker are all under pressure to win this year to appease Bud Adams who was not amused by their poor performances last season. Jake Locker especially is under immense pressure to win, now that he has a full complement of offensive weapons to work with now with Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, etc. They've strengthened their offensive line, but it's still not a particularly strong group. The defense has been supplemented decently, but it's largely the same unit that had major problems at the back end of last season. If it all goes wrong for the Titans this season, a total regime change might be in order, like the team below just had.

Onto the Jaguars, and yes, I don't approve of the helmets (but the uniforms are awesome). They have changed everything this offseason, and at least the arrow is pointing up as opposed to last season. They have problems in many places, but they do have some notable players. Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts will combine to become a very good duo eventually, and Maurice Jones-Drew is back and healthy. The defense will still struggle to rush the passer (stop me if you haven't heard that one before), and the secondary is very young, so they'll have some growing pains. They'll be tough to beat because of the personality of Gus Bradley, and they'll probably scalp one or two wins they're not supposed to get. It won't be a great year in Jacksonville, but compared to last year, anything is an improvement.

In summary... the Colts and Texans will slug it out for the division once again, and it's truly a toss-up, although the Colts have reloaded more than the Texans have... The Titans could be in for a total change if it goes wrong this season, and the Jaguars re-building will be painful this year, but at least produce some light at the end of the long, long tunnel. 

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