2011 NFL Offseason: Pre-Ranking the AFC South
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With the flurry of signings that have occurred during free agency teams have made moves that could shake up the AFC South. For the last two years the Indianapolis Colts, led by Peyton Manning, have held the #1 spot in their division.
This year that could all change...
Key signings by both the Texans and Jaguars could help reshape the appearance of the AFC South in 2011. Whether you agree or disagree, this year should be an exciting one in this division.
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Let's face it. Until a team proves otherwise, the Colts remain the top team in the AFC South. While the Colts have the most unsigned players still on their roster they are still poised to cause havoc in the division. With offensive weapons like Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, and Marvin Harrison the points will add up on the scoreboard faster than most fans can spell touchdown.
Defensively, however, the Colts could have a weak link this season. With OLB Clint Session defecting to the rival Jaguars the Colts are left weak in the midfield. Last years phenomenon Arian Foster proved that the Colts had a porous secondary and with the loss of Session it could get worse.
Assuming the Colts re-sign their key players and can find help at the OLB position, they could be poised to maintain the top spot in the AFC South. However, if Peyton's recovery takes longer than expected, and if they fail to find help in their linebacking corps, look for the Colts to be dethroned.
2011 AFC South Pre-Ranking: #1
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With the exception of Vonta Leach the Houston Texans have re-signed most of their key players. Free agency had them signing Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning. Meanwhile, rookie J.J. Watt will be an immediate impact player.
The Texans have been considered the dark horse of the NFL for the last few years but this year is truly unusual. This is, in the opinion of many, the best free agency period that the Texans have ever had. They drafted players that will make an immediate impact where needed and signed free agents who can fix a bleeding secondary.
While many consider Leach to be a luxury player he was also instrumental in opening up gaping holes for Arian Foster last season.
If the Texans re-sign Leach and have a solid #2 receiver step up they could...wait for it...topple the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South.
2011 AFC South Pre-Ranking: #2
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished second in the AFC South last year ending the season at 8 - 8. While many would expect them to improve upon that record there are a few reasons why I don't see that happening.
Firstly, the Jaguars are losing keys pieces of the team including: WR Mike Sims-Walker, OLB Justin Durant, and OG Vince Manuwai. Losing this many key players often holds negative connotations for a team and can hurt in the short term.
Secondly, while they have added many solid players in free agency such as: OLB Clint Session, S Dawan Landry, and LB Paul Posluszny, there will be a smattering of other veteran players joining the team as well. The addition of this many new names could, in all reality, upset the chemistry of the team.
If the Jaguars' new players can adapt quickly then the team could make a solid run for the AFC South. However, I believe that the Texans are still the better team this season and therefore...
2011 AFC South Pre-Ranking: #3
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The Tennessee Titans finished dead last in the AFC South last year and I look for them to repeat that record this year.
While they have upgraded their QB from Vince Young to Matt Hasselbeck, their WR corps is still weak. Besides Randy Moss, who is entering his 14th season, the only solid receiver is perhaps Kenny Britt. Chris Johnson will still be a formidable force for the Titans but he will not be able to carry the offense on his back.
Defensively, the Titans lost DE Jason Babin and DT Tony Brown while bringing in DT Shaun Smith. The upgrade is marginal at best and will need additional help to solidify the defensive line for the Titans.
It would take some serious signing magic and amazing rookie play for the Titans to make a run at the AFC South title.
2011 AFC South Pre-Ranking: 4