AFC South 2009: Why It Is The Best In The NFL

Darren SanchezContributor IJune 3, 2009

Which is the best division in the NFL? That is not an easy question to answer.

The first thought out of your head might be the NFC East. The Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, and Redskins routinely put out competitive, sometimes even outstanding, teams.

But one look past the Giants will take you to mediocre-ville. With their losses on offense (Burress, Toomer and Ward), even the mighty Giants may fall back to the pack this year.

How about the Black & Blue division, the NFC North? With the Lions, Packers, and Bears, no way.

The AFC East is a better candidate on the strength of the Patriots, the upstart Dolphins and the Jets. Sorry, Bills fans, but bringing up your team only hurts the argument.

I'm still wondering if Miami can do it again. Wildcat offense and miracle finishes aside, they were a marginal playoff team at best.

And how good will the Patriots be this year? We'll see.

This is a very good division but the Dolphins, Jets and Bills don't instill fear in anyone.

The NFC South, behind the Panthers, Falcons, Bucs and Saints puts up a strong argument.

Although this is a deep division (all four were .500 or better last year), the top teams (Panthers, 12-4, and Falcons, 11-5) are unproven and have not fared well in big games against other great teams.

This may have been the best division in the NFL in 2008 and is still the best division in the NFC in 2009, but that is as far as it goes.

Neither of the west divisions deserve serious consideration, unless the topic of this column was "Reasons For a Revised Playoff System." When the 9-7 Cardinals and the 8-8 Chargers are your respective champs, you don't have a leg to stand on.

That leaves just two divisions to decide from: the AFC North and the AFC South.

For all of you that are less than 30 years old out there, last season wasn't the first time the Steelers and Titans/Oilers franchises have clashed.

There is a long history there from the AFC Central days before realignment. That rivalry looks to be starting up all over again, to the delight of football fans in Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

Now, I am in no way diminishing the talents of the two stud teams in the North. The Ravens and Super Bowl champion Steelers are teams that can be considered elite in the league, and opponents that make other teams dread that Sunday on their schedule.

But the Browns and Bengals simply do not hold up their end of the deal and basically amount to four easy wins for the rugged two. Even looking forward to 2009, there is no reason to believe either Cleveland or Cincinnati will contend for that division.

Which leaves the AFC South. Looking forward to 2009, all four teams could rise to the top and win the division.

Last season's division-winning Titans had the best record in football at 13-3, while the No. 2 Colts finished at 12-4.

The top is elite, and the bottom was mediocre last season but on the upswing this year.

This is undoubtedly the best division in football right now. Need more reasons?

The Texans' defense looks to be much improved with their recent draft picks, going defense with three of their first four picks (LB Brian Cushing, DE Connor Barwin, and CB Glover Quin) while also picking up LB Cato June in free agency.

The loss of Ahman Green is addition by subtraction in the eyes of most Texans fans as Steve Slaton looks to follow up a great rookie year. A healthy Andre Johnson will help Slaton and QB Matt Schaub to improve the offense as well.

The Jaguars finished just 5-11 last season, but look to rebound by staying healthy (the O-line was devastated last year) and regaining their swagger of a few years ago.

Torry Holt's presence should help David Garrard improve his passing numbers, while Derrick Harvey, Maurice Jones-Drew and rookies Eugene Monroe and Derek Cox should help strengthen this sleeper team.

At the top are the Titans and Colts. Tennessee was a Chris Johnson ankle away from meeting Pittsburgh in what would have been a tremendous AFC Championship game.

And the Colts are capable of running off another 12-4 season and rolling all the way to the Super Bowl every year.


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