In 2007 three of the four teams in the AFC South made the playoffs, while all four teams concluded the season with winning records. The only other division in the NFL where all teams were at or above .500 was the NFC East.
The Indianapolis Colts won the division with a 13-3 record, while the Jaguars (11-5) and the Titans (10-6) won the two wild card berths in the AFC. The Houston Texans, though finishing in the cellar once again, still managed the franchise's first winning season by going 8-8.
In 2008, though the Colts are still outright favorites, the Jags, Titans, and yes, even the Texans have a chance to make a run for the divisional crown. Here is a preview of why each franchise has the ability to be a serious contender in the upcoming season.
Though the Colts were non-players in free agency, they still managed to re-sign Dallas Clark and had a very productive draft.
In my opinion, possibly the biggest pick for the Colts could be Michigan running back Mike Hart. Hart has the chance to be a great compliment to Joseph Addai, much like Addai was to Dominic Rhodes in his rookie season.
As long as Indy has No. 18 in the backfield, the Colts will always be the favorite in the AFC South.
Manning returns with all his weapons, including Marvin Harrison who should return to All-Pro form following an injury prone 2007 season.
The Jags put together quite an impressive offseason, especially during free agency. Jacksonville added depth to their receiving core by bringing in Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson.
Porter will add an experienced and proven weapon that should mix well in Jack Del Rio's scheme. Troy Williamson, though rather quiet in 2007, has compiled over 1,000 receiving yards in his three years in the NFL.
With the departure of Marcus Stroud, the Jaguars filled the needs at defensive end by selecting Derrick Harvey from Florida and Quentin Groves from Auburn in the first two rounds of the draft.
With the tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, compiled with a resurgent passing game under David Garrard, Jacksonville definitely has what it takes to end the Colt's reign in 2008.
With the Titans needing to add weapons for Vince Young, Tennessee brought in Algie Crumpler from Atlanta, as well as Justin McCarreins from the Jets. McCarreins will reunite with former offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger.
With Heimerdinger now at the helm of the offense, expect more fireworks to shoot off at LP Field in 2008. Heimerdinger led Steve McNair to a career season in 2003, the year he shared co-MVP honors with Peyton Manning.
However, the Titans had a very controversial draft, especially since they didn't select a receiver until round four.
Chris Johnson, their first-round selection out of Eastern Carolina could provide an instant spark with his 4.2 speed at running back and kick returner.
With Albert Haynesworth and that stifling defense, expect Tennessee to hang around in every game and improve upon a 10-6 season a year ago.
After officially entering the Matt Schaub era in Houston last season, the Texans spent the offseason adding depth to a defense that ranked near the bottom a year ago.
They signed both Chaun Thompson and Kevin Bentley, two linebackers, as well as cornerback Jaques Reeves who had a stellar season last year with Dallas. They also brought in Nick Ferguson, who had 55 tackles with Denver in 2007.
If the defense can become consistent enough, the Texans will become a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.
With running-back Chris Brown coming over from Tennessee, the running game will get a big boost and should improve upon the 1500-plus yards they rushed for in 2007. Andre Johnson gives any defense fits and should have another phenomenal year under Gary Kubiak's system.
Expect the Texans to be no fluke in 2008.
Whatever the case, it should be exciting to see who will emerge on top of this highly contested division as the 2008 season nears.
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