Wednesday, July 06, 2005

AFC South Preview

The AFC South will be an interesting division this season. The Colts could have the firepower to go all the way this season, while the Jaguars and the Titans could both post 10 win seasons. Here is a team by team break down of the AFC South.

HOUSTON TEXANS Projected Finish 8-8 (4th)
KEY QUESTION: Is there enough experience on the defense to survive their schedule?

With Indianapolis, Pittsburg, Jacksonville and Kansas City on the schedule it is going to be tough to hold those teams down in scoring, which means the Texans are going to have to win shoot-outs.

The Texans are still suffering through growing pains and will have to wait until next season to really flourish. With three of their first four games Buffalo, Pittsburg and Tennessee, the Texans could start the season 1-4 before things get better. It will be too big of a hole to climb out of for the Texans to make the play-offs this season.

On offence David Carr has new targets TE Marcellus Rivers and WR Reggie Swinton to go along with Andre Johnson. At running back Domanick Davis has the ability to carry the ball for over 1200 yards if his line can create holes for him.

On defense the Texans lost LB’s Jamie Sharper and Marcus Spears along with CB Aaron Glenn. This leaves inexperience at both positions. The Texans did sign Morlon Greenwood who will be a starter at Linebacker and the have Phillip Buchanon to hold down one side of the field at corner. They cannot afford any injuries at either position.

KEY LOSSES: CB Aaron Glenn, LB Jamie Sharper, LB Marcus Spears.
KEY SIGNINGS: LB Morlon Greenwood, TE Marcellus Rivers, WR Reggie Swinton.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS Projected Finish 14-2 (1st)
KEY QUESTION: Is this the year that Manning gets the monkey off of his back and makes it to the Super Bowl?

The good news for the Colts is that they only lost TE Marcus Pollard off of last year’s offensive unit. The bad news is that they really didn’t attack the free agent market so they don’t have any “key signings.” The Colts should have the best offensive attack in the NFL. Manning had a record breaking season last year and should go for more records this year. Look for receivers Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley, along with tight end Dallas Clark to spread and confuse defenses. Once the opposing defenses have thinned out running back Edgerrin James will run free.

Tony Dungee is a good defensive coach and now that his offense is clicking look for him to tweak the defense to make it more aggressive. They won’t have the best defense in the AFC but they also won’t need to. If they can keep opponents under 24 points they will win a lot of games.

November 28 will be a preview of the AFC Championship game when the Colts and the Steelers play each other. Look for Pittsburg to get the win and the Colts to get revenge in the play-offs.

Key Losses : TE Marcus Pollard

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS Projected Finish 9-7(2nd)
KEY QUESTION: Can the Jags play defense?

There are not a lot of names on the Jacksonville defense, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be decent. I think they will be pretty good against the run but will struggle to rush the QB and defend the pass and that is where their problem will be against teams like the Colts and Steelers.

On Offense this is the year that QB Byron Leftwich should begin growing comfortable leading the team. He has a solid running game behind with a healthy Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith and Troy Edwards are very solid receivers along with TE Kyle Brady. The offense will keep them in a lot of games, how well they play defense will determine if they reach the 10 win plateau or not.

KEY LOSSES: CB Dewayne Washington
KEY SIGNINGS: DT Martin Chase, CB Terry Cousin, LB Nate Wayne, DE Marcellus Wiley.

TENNESSEE TITANS Projected Finish 9-7 (3rd)
KEY QUESTION: Did the Titans lose too many people during the off-season?

The Titans suffered a mass exodus of players including WR Derrick Mason and CB Samari Rolle. In turn the only name worthy player they have picked up to date is DE Kyle Vanden Bosh.

There is no doubt that Steve McNair is a warrior, but the injury questions are all around and you have to begin to wonder if 11 years of playing all out hasn’t taken it’s toll on his body. He will have to play a complete season healthy to dispel these rumors. They still are solid at running back with Chris Brown, but if he goes down the Titans have lost Antowan Smith so that leaves Jerrett Payton and Joe Smith as the most experienced back-ups.

In the absence of Mason Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico are the only receivers with experience. Brandon Jones leads a whole crop of rookie receivers looking for playing time.

Another rookie looking to get on the field immediately is CB Pacman Jones. With the loss of Rolle the Titans will need him to step in day one and be effective on a defense that could be out manned a lot this season.
KEY LOSSES: DE Kevin Carter, CB Andre Dyson, FB Robert Holcombe, QB Doug Johnson, WR Derrick Mason, CB Samari Rolle, S Lance Schulters, RB Antowain Smith.
KEY SIGNINGS: DE Kyle Vanden Bosh

AFC South Predictions
Indianapolis Colts 14-2
Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7
Tennessee Titans 9-7
Houston Texans 8-8