Saturday, August 16, 2014

AFC South Preview

With the NFL evolving into a higher flying, quick, passing game, the most important position on the field is the quarterback. And in the AFC South, quarterback is the position that will be the difference between its teams. The Indianapolis Colts, who won the division last season, come in with Andrew Luck, the best young QB in the NFL. Meanwhile, the other three teams, the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, and Jacksonville Jaguars, all face multiple questions at the quarterback position.

Here is how I think they will finish:

  1. 1.    Indianapolis Colts 12-4
Last Season 11-5, Division Champs
photo credit
The Colts enter this season as one of the front-runners in the AFC. This season, they will have one of the most potent attacks in football, led by 3rd year QB Andrew Luck. In his first two seasons, Luck has proven himself to be an excellent NFL QB, leading the Colts to 22 victories, and 10 game winning 4th quarter drives. In the offseason, the Colts added Hakeem Nicks and rookie 3rd round pick Donte Moncrief, to an already talented receiving bunch. Veteran WR Reggie Wayne and talented young TE Dwayne Allen will be returning from injury, to join T.Y. Hilton, who broke onto the scene last season after Wayne’s suffered a season ending torn ACL. However, questions still remain on defense. With Robert Mathis being suspended for the first four games, who will step up in his place? The Colts desperately need their first round pick from 2013, Bjoern Werner to step it up. He struggled with injury last year, and was unproductive when healthy. Additionally, who will start at safety alongside LaRon Landry to replace Antoine Bethea? These questions still loom for the Colts, as their defense needs to be better in order to take down Denver and New England. Ultimately, this talented Colts squad will take advantage of the league’s easiest schedule, and cruise to 12 wins and a first round bye.

  1. 2.    Houston Texans 8-8
Last Season 2-14, 4th in the division
Change is the word of the offseason for the Texans, as they have a new head coach and QB. After firing Gary Kubiak, Houston hired former coach at Penn State Bill O’Brien. The Texans went out and signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has spent time with the Bills and Titans in his NFL career. He is the expected starter, although rookie QB Tom Savage may play well enough to eventually take the job from Fitzpatrick. The Texans will be returning Arian Foster, who struggled with injuries last year after logging over 350 carries the previous year. In order for the Texans to be a contender, they need to establish the run, and utilize Fitzpatrick similarly to the way Gary Kubiak used Matt Schaub. If the Texans avoid turnovers, and rely on their stingy defense, led by J.J. Watt, first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, and pro bowl corner Jonathan Joseph, then they can possibly ride a favorable schedule to a wild card berth. However, Fitzpatrick’s play will hold them back, and leave them on the outside looking in come January.

  1. 3.    Tennessee Titans 6-10
Last Season 7-9, 2nd in the division
photo credit USA today sports
Another season is here, and it is time to see if Jake Locker is the real deal. Although this is said every year, the Titans need quality production out of Locker if they wish to contend. Last season, the Titans were 4-2 when Locker played, and 3-7 when he did not . Ryan Fitzpatrick simply was not good enough to carry this team in Locker’s absence. Entering this year, the Titans will need Locker to stay healthy, and hope that their trio of RBs, Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster, and rookie Bishop Sankey are able to get the job done. Otherwise, the Titans have very limited talent in the passing game to threaten teams. Defensively, the Titans picked up former Broncos Shaun Phillips and Wesley Woodyard, and lost number 2 corner Alterraun Verner. The defense will be average, the offense will be mediocre, and the Titans will struggle to a 6-win season. After this year, the Titans will be on a search for a new QB.

  1. 4.    Jacksonville Jaguars 5-11
Last Season 4-12, 3rd in the division
Once again, the Jaguars are still around or in the basement of the league’s worst division. However, the Jaguars may have finally found the missing piece to the puzzle. His name is Blake Bortles. After taking Bortles 3rd overall in this year’s draft, they are hoping that he pans out into a good NFL QB of the future. However, his NFL career will be put on hold, as Chad Henne will start the season as the starter. The Jaguars do not want to immediately throw their rookie into the fire, on what is likely already a lost season for the Jaguars. In the offseason, the Jaguars did make moves to bolster their roster. They added former Bronco guard Zane Beadles, acquired RB Toby Gerhart from Minnesota, and drafted talented WR Marqise Lee. Also, they now feature two talented pass rushers, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, who both won championships with Seattle last season.

This division is the most straight forward in the NFL. The Colts will easily win it because they have what no one else does, a Quarterback. Andrew Luck is the difference between a 12 win division champion, and a 5-11 Jaguar team with almost no upside for this upcoming season.

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