Where Do the Indianapolis Colts Stand in the AFC South Now?

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Where Do the Indianapolis Colts Stand in the AFC South Now?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Colts and Texans split the season series in 2012, and will battle for the division crown in 2013.

Although the offseason isn't over, and the most important part (the draft) is yet to come, it's never too early for us to begin looking forward to next season. After several key losses and gains throughout the division, we can already see some indicators of where each of the AFC South teams will end up next season. 

First, let's take a look at where each team ended up last season, and what key losses and additions they've endured since the end of the season. 

Houston Texans: 12-4, 1st in AFC South

Key Losses

CB Alan Ball (JAX)

OLB Connor Barwin (PHI)

P Donnie Jones (PHI)

S Glover Quin (DET)

FB James Casey (PHI)

RB Justin Forsett (JAX)

WR Kevin Walter (CUT)

Unsigned: G Antoine Caldwell, LB Barrett Ruud, LB Bradie James, OLB Jesse Nading, LB Keyaron Fox, S Quintin Demps, OT Rashad Butler, OT Ryan Harris, DL Shaun Cody, K Shayne Graham, CB Stanford Routt, LB Tim Dobbins

Key Additions 

 S Ed Reed 

FB Greg Jones

P Shane Lechler

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Reed isn't a bad option in free agency, but he likely will be a downgrade from Glover Quin.

Indianapolis Colts: 11-5, 2nd in AFC South

Key Losses

DL Clifton Geathers (PHI)

WR Donnie Avery (KC)

QB Drew Stanton (AZ)

CB Jerraud Powers (AZ)

LB Moise Fokou (TEN)

G Seth Olsen (MIN)

S Tom Zbikowski (CHI)

Unsigned: LB A.J. Edds, DL Antonio Johnson, WR Austin Collie, OLB/DE Dwight Freeney, OLB Jamaal Westerman, RB Mewelde Moore, G Tony Hills, OT Winston Justice

Key Additions

DL Aubrayo Franklin

G Donald Thomas

OLB Erik Walden

OT Gosder Cherilus

CB Greg Toler 

S LaRon Landry

OLB Lawrence Sidbury

QB Matt Hasselbeck

DL Ricky Jean-Francois

FB Stanley Havili

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Donald Thomas (64) is a little-mentioned signing that could go a long way in solidifying the interior offensive line.

Tennessee Titans: 6-10, 3rd in AFC South

Key Losses 

TE Jared Cook (STL)

S Jordan Babineaux (Cut)

QB Matt Hasselbeck (IND)

G Mitch Petrus (Cut)

G Steve Hutchinson (Retired)

Unsigned: DE Dave Ball, G Deuce Lutui, LB Gerald McRath, DE Jarius Wynn, RB Javon Ringer, C/G Kyle DeVan, DL Leger Douzable, G Leroy Harris, CB Ryan Mouton, DL Sen'Derrick Marks

Key Additions

Al Bello/Getty Images
Andy Levitre was the big catch for the Titans, and should help Tennessee protect against guys like J.J. Watt for years to come.

G Andy Levitre

S Bernard Pollard

TE Delanie Walker

S George Wilson

LB Moise Fokou

G Robert Turner

DL Ropati Pitoitua

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

DL Sammie Hill

RB Shonn Greene

Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-14, 4th in AFC South

Key Losses

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Aaron Ross wasn't great in 2012 for the Jaguars, but the team will need to find someone to replace him in the lineup, and Alan Ball probably isn't it.

CB Aaron Ross (NYG)

S Dawan Landry (Cut)

CB Derek Cox (SD)

FB Greg Jones (HOU)

OT Guy Whimper (Cut)

WR Laurent Robinson (Cut)

DL Terrance Knighton (DEN)

Unsigned: LB Daryl Smith, G Eben Britton, DE George Selvie, RB Jalen Parmele, C John Estes, QB Jordan Palmer, LB Kyle Bosworth, RB Rashad Jennings, CB Rashean Mathis, C Steve Vallos, CB William Middleton, TE Zach Potter

Key Additions

CB Alan Ball

LB Geno Hayes

RB Justin Forsett

DL Roy Miller

Analysis

While I'm not a huge fan of the strategy Ryan Grigson has had throughout free agency, overpaying for average players, he certainly has improved the team, replacing horrible players with average or above-average players and adding depth to the roster. 

The only team in the AFC South to even approach the Colts' level of improvement through free agency was Tennessee, who added a stud in Andy Levitre, a promising young TE in Delanie Walker, and depth across the board.

But, even with that, the Titans still won't reach the Colts' and Texans' level until they rectify the quarterback situation. Jake Locker has yet to show enough promise to put any confidence in him, although Ryan Fitzpatrick should give him some competition for the job. 

Meanwhile, the Jaguars are nowhere to be seen, as their rebuilding process will take a couple years, and didn't get much progress in free agency so far. 

So, at the top of the division then is Indianapolis and Houston. The two teams were separated by just one game last season, although it seemed like it was even less after the Colts knocked the Texans from the No. 1 seed in the playoffs to a No. 3 with a big win during Week 17. The teams simply didn't have that much separating them before this offseason. 

While Houston had the much better run game and defense, Indianapolis has a much better quarterback and offensive weapons. The Colts improved their offensive line and defense in free agency, but Houston is still missing offensive weapons and pass rushers.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Greg Toler has had some injury concerns, but has a lot of potential as a No. 2 corner.

Indianapolis has a much improved and deeper secondary with a cornerback group of Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler, and Cassius Vaughn to go along with Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry in the back. Their defensive line added some depth with Ricky Jean-Francois and Aubrayo Franklin (as well as a re-signing of Fili Moala), and the offensive line got two new starters in Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas. 

Indianapolis is a little weak at wide receiver with the losses of Austin Collie and Donnie Avery, but it should be fairly easy to replace that production with a high pick on a wide receiver or the continuing development of Lavon Brazill

Meanwhile, Houston's only additions were Shane Lechler, who is an upgrade over Donnie Jones (but still a punter), Ed Reed (who probably is a downgrade at this point in his career), and Greg Jones (a good player, but still only a fullback). Meanwhile defensive depth is a concern with their current roster, as is wide receiver. 

Who will win the AFC South in 2013?

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There will obviously be a better, more complete look at the rosters after the draft, but for now, it's easy to say that Indianapolis should be considered, along with Houston, one of the favorites to win the division. The two teams were close last year when the dust settled, and Indianapolis has improved areas in which they were horrendous in in 2012. 

I don't think you can give the Colts the division crown just yet, as the roster is still clearly a work in progress and last year's season was definitely an overachievement.

That being said, I don't think you can just give the advantage to Houston either. They lost a huge game to the Colts at the end of last season that Indianapolis didn't even need. Now they haven't improved their team much at all through this point in the offseason?

They've allowed Indianapolis to catch up with them. The offseason isn't over, but right now the Colts should be considered co-favorites with Houston to win the division in 2013.

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