August 07, 2006


NFL Preview: AFC South

Here's the third of my preseason NFL previews. I'm posting twice today, partly because I don't have anything else to do, and partly because I don't know how much I'll be able to post over the next couple weeks. I have already previewed the AFC East and the AFC North. I had zero wild-card winners coming out of both those divisions, so I guess I'll have to have someone out of this division, unless I want to have both coming from the West.

Houston: The Texans had the worst record in football last year, a 2-14 season that gave them the #1 draft pick. DE Mario Williams will have to be a pro-bowler soon in order for the fans to forget that they passed up Reggie Bush; Williams should be a good talent but he probably won't outshine the spectacular USC running back. Regardless of who they have on the defense or at running back, this team will not be any good until they can field a decent offensive line. From what I've heard, the Texans have made some progress on that front, though it would be hard to go down from where they were. An interesting fact: The Texans have never beaten the Indianapolis Colts. An interesting stat. It's still hard to judge David Carr's talent, given that he never has time to throw the ball. This year, we should be able to find out how good the former #1 pick really is. They won't be as bad as last year, but I still think they have a couple seasons to go before contending. I'll give them 5-11.

Indianapolis: The Colts are fairly easy to predict - they had a 14-2 record last year, and they're sure to see double digits again. They're in an easy division, and they have tremendous talent on the offensive end. But, at this point, the regular season doesn't matter for the Colts. All that matters is how they do in the playoffs. And that's not what I'm predicting right now. So this should be short. The one thing to look at is how they will survive the loss of Edgerrin James. It doesn't take a great running back to put up yards in that system, with teams all playing back to protect the deep ball from Manning to Harrison. But James was good enough that he was able to take some of the pressure off the passing game, while Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai will not. I believe that whoever ends up getting carries will post good numbers, but the offense overall will suffer. Looking at that schedule, I see no way the Colts could possibly finish with less than 11 wins, so I'll pick 13-3.

Jacksonville: The Jaguars were easily the most underrated team in football last year, and they could be again this year. They don't have a flashy offense or lots of playmakers on defense, but they wear opponents into the ground with their physical style. The Steelers come to town on Monday night during Week 2, and I think the Jags will show America what they're made of in that game. Jacksonville doesn't really have a go-to guy at WR, though, and Byron Leftwich hasn't quite reached his full potential. The Jags won most of their games last year against teams that missed the playoffs, but sometimes that's enough. I don't think Jacksonville can match their 12-4 record from last season, but I'll take them to go 10-6 and make the playoffs as a wild-card team.

Tennessee: The Titans were 4-12 last year, and are officially in rebuilding mode. Billy Volek will open camp as the starting QB, but Vince Young should take over that role by November. I think Norm Chow will improve that offense again this year, but I don't think it should be enough to make a huge difference. The defense isn't really good, and overall I see no reason why the Titans will be better this year than they were last year. I predict a one-game improvement, a 5-11 season.

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