AFC South 2009 Preview

Richard O'NealSenior Analyst IJune 3, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts unsnaps his helmet during the game against the Tennessee Titans on December 28, 2008 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Retirements, trades, free agency, and drafting: These are a few of the main changes that have occurred during the offseason for the AFC South.  So what does it mean for the division?  Will it continue to be one of the stronger divisions that it has been known for over the past few years or will it take a step back? 


Indianapolis Colts: The retirement of Tony Dungy was a major blow to the Indianapolis Colts, though it was inevitable.  New coach Jim Caldwell will lead the Colts into the new era and hopes to keep them at the same playoff-caliber level that they were under Dungy—good luck filling those shoes.  It will be interesting to see how the addition of former UConn Huskie, Donald Brown works out for the Colts and their running game.


Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags made a smart decision by bringing in new GM Gene Smith to clean house.  He started by letting veteran Mike Peterson walk via free agency, along with long-time Jag Fred Taylor and continued by getting rid of Jerry Porter, Matt Jones, Kalif Barnes, and Drayton Florence.

Now is the time to rebuild and look to a strong 2009 campaign and with Gene Smith at the helm, it’s a great possibility.  The Jags had a very strong draft, choosing to go for the BAP philosophy. It might take a year or two, but I definitely see the Jags being a major player in the division.


Houston Texans: Last year was a solid one for the Texans and at 8-8. They might be turning the corner in the division. (See my 2009 Prediction column)  The Texans will be the sleeper in the division due to the other stronger teams but watch out, Houston will turn some heads.  Mario Williams and Steve Slaton will look to build on breakout seasons and Matt Schaub will look to stay on the field to team up with Andre Johnson in the endzone. These aren’t your Texans of old.


Tennessee Titans: It will be very interesting to see what direction the Titans go in.  Will they still be one of the league’s premier teams or will the departure of Albert Haynesworth cause the team to collapse under its own weight?  The Titans really didn’t do too much in free agency and other than getting Kenny Britt, had a relatively quiet draft. 

The biggest problem that they have now is Vince Young coming out with the “play me or trade me” comment a few days ago that is putting pressure on the organization.  The running game will still be solid, but will Kerry Collins be the same safe-decision making, low turnover quarterback that he was last year? 

With Haynesworth departing to Washington how will the defense respond?  These two big questions will be the difference between dominance and mediocrity for the Titans. 


All in all, I see it coming down to the Colts and Titans for the division again because the Jags and Texans still have some growing to do, Nonetheless it will be a very entertaining season in the AFC South division.