AFC South: Indianapolis Colts Are No. 1, But Who's No. 2 In The Division?
The AFC South came into existence in 2002.
Prior to that time, the Colts were in the AFC East (with the Pats, Dolphins, and Bills).
The Jaguars and the Titans (or Houston Oilers depending on how far you go back) were in the AFC Central .
And the Texans didn't exist.
Since it's inception, the Colts have been the dominating force in the AFC South. Indy has won six AFC South Championships and two trips to the Super Bowl.
Picking the Colts to be the champs in the south, is pretty much a given, but the question is: who's #2?
Probably Not The Jacksonville Jaguars
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After the 2007 season the Jags looked like they were going to make the leap to serious playoff contenders.
That year they posted an 11-5 record (losing twice to the Colts) and placed second in the AFC South.
After beating the Steelers at Heinz Field (for the second time), the Jags went to New England, where Tom Brady set the record (single game) for completion percentage, by completing 26 of 28 for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
Jacksonville lost that game 20-31.
Since then, it's been all downhill for the Jags.
The past two seasons they've won a combined total of 12 games, and this is probably not the season that they jump back into the playoff hunt.
They still need a legitimate #1 wide receiver (maybe Mike Sims-Walker is the answer). Corner back Rashean Mathis hasn't played a full season in three years and when he's on the field he let's too many big plays get by him (which is understandable, since he plays Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne twice a year).
Oh, and even though they traded for defensive end Aaron Kampman they still need help rushing the quarterback, because...
In the AFC South, the road to the play-offs goes through Indy (and even though they always play the Colts tough) the Jags just don't have a solution for stopping Peyton Manning and company.
Maybe The Tennessee Titans
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Without a doubt, the Titans have the best coach in the division, Jeff Fisher.
They've also got (arguably) the best running back in the league with Chris Johnson (with the biggest ego).
But, what else have they got?
A quarterback... Maybe?
A lot of Titans fans are under the impression that: if Vince Young had started last year, they would have been serious playoff contenders.
Really? Granted the Titans had a better record with Vince Young at the helm (they still got swept by the Colts), but contenders?
Here are the stats. Last year Vince Young played in 12 games (started 10) he threw for 1879 yards and 10 touchdowns with seven picks- his quarterback rating: 82.8. Not bad, except if you look at the real numbers.
As a starter, Vince Young only played against three playoff teams: Indy, San Diego, and Arizona. The Titans only won one of those games, the Arizona Cardinals (minus Kurt Warner). Against the Cardinals backup QB the Titans manged to eke out a 20-17 win. Young threw a whopping... one touchdown.
Then there are the playoff teams they lost to. Against Indy he had a 77.8 quarterback rating (he played sparingly in the first meeting and had a rating of 39.6), not bad- but not good either. Against the Chargers, he went 8 of 21 for 89 yards with two picks- for a quarterback rating of 11.9.
Vince Young needs to make a big jump forward this year, if Titans fans expect the rest of the NFL to start drinking the Vince Young Kool-Aid.
And of course there's one more issue (and it was the same issue for the Jags).
The road to the playoffs in the AFC South goes through Indy. In order to stop the Colts you have to stop Peyton Manning. Although the Titans drafted a pass rusher, Derrick Morgan, in the first round- they still need to find a way to slow down the Colts offense. That's a lot of pressure to put on a rookie defensive end.
Probably The Houston Texans
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A lot of Colts fans don't pay much attention to their own team in the preseason, much less other teams.
That being said- the Texans (starters) looked good.
Besides Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub was the best quarterback in the preseason. His worst game was August 29th against the Cowboys. When he was 18 of 29 for 183 yards and a touchdown. His quarterback rating was (only) 91.6. Against the Saints, he completed 80% of his passes and had a rating of 115.4. And in the preseason opener (against Arizona) his rating was 158.3 (granted he only threw six passes).
Andre Johnson could also be the best receiver in the league. Over the last two seasons, he's caught 216 passes and surpassed the 1500 yard mark both seasons.
Plus, if tight end Owen Daniels can make a full come back from injury, the Texans will have some serious weapons on offense.
Their defense isn't so bad either.
Linebackers, DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing, are nothing short of sensational. MLB Ryans has been their most consistent player on defense since he came into the league in 2006. And his play opens up the field for reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year- Brian Cushing.
The Texans biggest defensive asset is Mario Williams. Williams is the kind of pass rusher that can change the outcome of the game.
Which is exactly what you need in the AFC South. Because in order to stop (slow down) the Colts, you've got to have an answer for Peyton Manning.