For years, the AFC South and the NFC East were the two best divisions in the NFL. Well, since the only thing constant in life is change, both divisions recently declined. As far as the AFC South is concerned, the Titans aren’t the 2008 team that went 13-3 and won the division, while the Colts went 12-4 and earned a Wild Card spot. These are new times and for some, it’s rebuilding times. Let’s take a look at who is rising and who is falling in this division, and see who is actually contending and who is just pretending.
With a change of direction with a new coaching staff and new quarterback, the Titans are trying to build something from the ground up. If they can get the Chris Johnson situation squared away, they have building pieces with him, Jake Locker and Michael Roos. That’s just a start, but it’s not enough to compete in the AFC South right now. With a couple more nice drafts and good signings in free agency, Tennessee will be a team built to be on top of the AFC South for years.
Jacksonville made some under-the-radar moves this off season by acquiring Matt Roth and Dawan Landry. Unlike the Titans, the Jaguars didn’t change coaches, but they did draft Blaine Gabbert as the quarterback of the future in the First Round of the 2011 NFL Draft. There are still health questions with Maurice Jones-Drew, but he and Rashard Jennings should have a nice year in the backfield. There is a lack of playmakers on the team, and the loss of Mike Sims-Walker to St. Louis doesn’t help.
With a tandem of Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, you have a chance in every game. The problem with this team is that they didn’t do anything to make the team better. After a 10-6 season (after starting 6-6), the team had to make changes/additions to the roster that would have given them a better chance of keeping the AFC South crown. With Peyton Manning not getting as much work in the preseason as he would like, it’s only inevitable for the Colts to have another slow start in the regular season.
The last couple of years, the Texans have been the hot, trendy pick to make that next step (or couple of steps) and compete with the best in the NFL. This offseason, they must have felt that way, too, so they made a lot of moves for the better. Not only did they change defensive coordinators, but they also changed to a 3-4 defense, dedicated their draft to upgrading the talent on the defensive side and made two big free agent signings in Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning. This is the year the Texans make that leap and take over the division. They may just keep it for awhile, too.
There’s a big gap between the bottom two teams and the top two teams in the division. There’s no way the Jags and Titans are competing for a playoff berth this year, while the Texans and Colts will be battling it out for the division crown. The AFC is deep this year, so there might only be one representative from the AFC South. Therefore, every division game this year is crucial for both teams.
I like the Jags better than the Titans because they have more overall talent on the team, and they have an established coach in Jack Del Rio versus an unknown head coach in Mike Munchak. Every season there are surprising teams that win the division (2010 Kansas City Chiefs), surprising teams with winning records (2010 Tamps Bay Buccaneers) and teams who don’t win the division that win the Super Bowl (2010 Green Back Packers). Don't be surprised if the AFC South shakes things up a little bit this year.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think.