This article will put me at four divisions finished, with four more to go. Tomorrow I will be tackling the NFC North, and hopefully you have enjoyed my previews on theNFC South, AFC West and NFC West. Let's get to a half.
The AFC South is going to be a tough division. The top two teams, Indy and Jacksonville, should compete right down to the wire for the divison. Tennessee could be a surprise and Houston is on the rise.
I know that there are some questions around the Colts, most namely on Peyton Manning's knee, but I'm not worried at all. This is a guy who knows his body, and more importantly, the absolute most valuable player to the Colts. They wouldn't screw up with him. I trust that they know what their doing.
With that being said, what's not to love about this team? They have a strong running game with a feature back in Addai complemented by the trio of Rhodes, Keith, and Mike Hart. Seriously, Mike Hart might just have become my favorite player (I'm a big Wolverine fan too, if you didn't know). I know it's hard for me to look at this objectively, but I really think Hart will be better than a sixth-round pick. You can bet on that.
They also have a strong line with rising youngster Tony Ugoh at left tackle and stable veterans in center Jeff Saturday, left guard Ryan Lilja and right tackle Ryan Diem. The receiving core should be strong with Reggie Wayne, who broke out of Marvin Harrison's shadow, who should be coming back at full strength this year and might possibly become the number one target again. Slot receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Roy Hall complement each other and the top two quite well, with Gonzalez's speed and Hall's size. Makes me giddy just thinking about it.
The defense should be fantastic again, with Bob Sanders leading a defense that was third in overall yardage given up last year, with every impact player coming back. I love it.
On to Jacksonville. As much as I love the Colts, It really wouldn't shock me if they finally passed the Colts this year. Its going to inevitably happen sometime in the future, I just hope it's not soon.
Anyway, this team is a defensive team that has taken huge leaps on the offensive side. They have shored up the QB position with David Garrard, have possibly the best RB tandem in the league with Fred Taylor and MJD and a revamped receiving core with Jerry Porter, Troy Williamson and veteran Reggie Williams.
The defense is led by DT John Henderson and future stars in Reggie Nelson and Justin Durant. This defense is built on speed, just like Indy's, but might have a little more overall talent. The future is bright in Jacksonville.
Tennessee is an enigma. When you look at this team and who they have on their schedule, you have trouble finding more than six wins, maybe seven. But they always seem to overachieve, which is another thing that makes this division great. They have a stud lineman in DT Albert Haynesworth and a future HOF'er in LB Keith Bulluck. Safety Chris Hope leads an above average secondary.
They do have some questions offensively. It's hard to say what Vince Young is. Here's a guy who won the Offensive ROY award with only a 12-13 TD to INT ratio but ran for near 800 yards two years ago while providing great leadership as a rookie. Everyone thinks he took a gigantic step back last year, and while a 9-17 TD to INT ratio is both a regression and absolutely atrocious, he improved his completion percentage from the low 50's to the low 60's, went from around 2500 yards to around 3200, and still ran effectively. Still, the experts say he just looked horrible on the tape, so I'm not going to say he doesn't have a lot of work to do, I just think he will turn it around. He's a special talent.
Houston rounds out the division. They seem to have found a good QB in Matt Schaub and if they can keep Andre Johnson healthy, he might have a huge season. DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams, and Amobi Okoye are youngsters who are leading a burgeoning defense. It's too bad for them that they are in such a tough division, or they might win a few more games. Here's how things will finish.
As always, I would love to year your feedback and comments.