This season could prove to be one of the toughest in the AFC South. With the Indianapolis Colts coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Tennessee Titans going 8-2 in the last ten games of the season, the Houston Texans striving for the franchise's first playoff berth and the Jacksonville Jaguars scratching to stay in existence. Of course everyone has the Colts winning this division, but I'll tell you why that isn't going to happen and why Houston won't finish in the top two in this AFC South 2010 division preview.
2009 Record: 8-8
To say last season was dissapointing for the Titans would be a huge understatement. Coming off a stellar 13-3 record just a season before, expectations were high in Tennessee, maybe too high, as the Titans stumbled off to a 0-6 record. All that changed when former 1st round pick Vince Young took over the helm at quarterback. Young led his team to a 8-2 record in the final ten games and fell just short of making the playoffs.
With the thoughts of the last ten games of the season still glimmering in the fans of the Titans, expectations are once again high in Tennessee, but not so much elsewhere.
The Titans have a lack of leadership and experience on their team after the losses of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Keith Bulluck, Alge Crumpler and Kevin Mawae. They are hoping players like safety Chris Hope and fullback Ahmard Hall and the best veteran addition in linebacker Will Witherspoon can fill those leadership roles on this years squad.
Another big question for the Titans is Vince Young. They know he can make plays and gives them a better chance to win while in the game. The question lies in his dependability to come through mentally after a bad play or tough loss. Young now has more weapons than ever with All-Pro running back Chris Johnson, and possibly the best wide-receiver core the franchise has seen in some time led by Nate Washington and Kenny Britt.
Prediction: 11-5 (1st AFC South)
2009 Record: 14-2
Just a season ago, the Indianapolis Colts were just an onside kick and an untimely interception away from winning the Super Bowl. How could I not predict them to finish first in their division? Easy, injuries.
Safety Bob Sanders is just as important to the defense as quarterback Peyton Manning is to the offense. Sanders greatest strength is also his weakness. He recklessly launches himself around the field and pays the price. Last season Sanders spent more time with the medical staff than with his teammates on the field.
The Colts offensive line is already a mess before the first regular season game has even been played. Left guard Ryan Lilja was let go in the off-season. Guard Jamey Richard will be filling in for Tony Ugoh who is working out at the tackle position for the injured Charlie Johnson. As if thats not bad enough All-Pro center Jeff Saturday will miss 2-6 weeks after having a scope done on his knee.
The bottom line, though, is that the Colts still have Peyton Manning. Everyone knows that with Manning, anything is possible in Indy, but I just don't see them overcoming the injuries on the offensive line and that could mean a long year for Peyton.
Prediction: 10-6 (2nd AFC South)
2009 Record: 9-7
The Houston Texans have been predicted as a breakout team for the past three seasons. In that time they have gone 25-23 without a single playoff appearance. What is going to be different this year? Nothing.
The Texans were 1-5 in their division last year, struggled in the red-zone, and couldn't finish off opponents when they had them down.
With Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans and Owen Daniels, Houston has stars that could align with any other teams. The problem lies in the talent of the players in the next tier below. They are largely counting on younger players to step up, but after already losing second-round pick Ben Tate that plan is already falling through.
I just don't think this team has enough talent from top to bottom to compete with the likes of the Colts and Titans to remain competitive in this division.
Prediction: 9-7 (3rd AFC South)
2009 Record: 7-9
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a franchise that are not only struggling to fill seats, but also struggling to put together a winning season. With a team that has been a focal point of many talks about moving an NFL franchise to Los Angeles, one would think the team would be concentrating on just putting together a winning season or playoff appearance. But Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio has much bigger things in mind.
"In many respects in the NFL, you’ve got to take what you want. You’ve got to set some goals and then go after them. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a goal of being champs," Del Rio said. “Now the reality is, we’ve got to cover a lot of ground. I’m not unrealistic with that. But I’m not going to concede anything. We’re going to work our tails off to maximize our potential. We can say this is our goal, this is our mission to do these things, but our focus has to be on squeezing what we can out of every day.”
Although there is nothing wrong with aiming for the stars, needless to say Del Rio might be expecting just a tad too much from a team who has a history of under-achieving.
The Jaguars definitely lack leadership and don't have much for weapons outside of Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Sims-Walker. David Garrard has established himself in the league as an average quarterback and I'm afraid with the lack of weapons in Jacksonville, thats all he will ever be.
Prediction: 5-11 (4th AFC South)