Previewing the 2010 NFL Season – AFC SOUTH EDITION

In this segment I am going to preview every team in the NFL, division by division, and predict their level of success throughout the season.  Today, I will cover the AFC South and over the next few days work my way to the AFC East.

AFC SOUTH

1. Indianapolis Colts (12-4)

(Notable games: Week 1 – September 12th at Houston, Week 8 – November 1st vs. Houston, Week 10 – November 14th vs. Cincinnati, Week 11 – November 21st at New England, Week 12 – November 28th vs. San Diego, Week 13 – December 5th vs. Dallas)

The Indianapolis Colts can do no wrong.  They sign the right players, draft well, resign their veterans, and cut ties with players that don’t buy into their philosophy.  How can you argue with at least 10 wins in ten of the last eleven seasons?  You know what you’re going to get from Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and Joseph Addai.  The Colts’ lone offensive question mark is Pierre Garcon.  In Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez’s absence, Garcon had a breakout 2009 in which he amassed 47 receptions for over 750 yards and 4 touchdowns.  If Garcon can follow up on that performance with similar or even better numbers, the Colts again will look to be in that 13 to 14 win range.  If Garcon struggles now that he has become less of a mystery to defenses, than I wouldn’t be surprised if Indy posts an 11 win season.  Wouldn’t you love to be disappointed in your team if they only put up 11 wins?  The return, and continued health of Bob Sanders will help their defense immensely.  Jerry Hughes looks to fill that “Raheem Brock” role as a situational/3rd down pass rusher.  The effectiveness of Sanders and Hughes will be key to the overall success of Indianapolis’ defense.  I expect another good season for Manning and the Colts, and yet another AFC South title.  A trip to the Super Bowl is what many are predicting, but I don’t know if Indy will be able to get past Baltimore.

2. Houston Texans (10-6)

(Notable games: Week 1 – September 12th vs. Indianapolis, Week 3 – September 26th vs. Dallas, Week 8 – November 1st at Indianapolis, Week 9 – November 7thst at New York Jets, Week 14 – December 13th vs. Baltimore) vs. San Diego, Week 11 – November 21

To all of you die hard Houston Texans fans out there, this is the year that your team finally makes the playoffs!  Since the Matt Schaub reign began in 2007, the Texans have posted records of 8-8, 8-8, and 9-7.  This is the year they finally get over the hump, reach double digit wins, and get to experience playoff football.  Schaub looks primed to have another big season, especially with a healthy and newly resigned Andre Johnson as well a relatively unknown wide receiver named Jacoby Jones both looking for a lot of receptions.  Arian Foster beat Steve Slaton out for the starting running back spot and has looked great all preseason.  The loss of Brian Cushing for the first four games due to a suspension is a big blow to the defense, but they are still a solid unit all the way around.  The biggest x-factor for the Texans will be the play of rookie corner Kareem Jackson.  Houston let former number one corner Dunta Robinson leave via free agency, and subsequently drafted Jackson to fill the void.  If Jackson plays like a number one corner, the Texans defense will again be among the top ten in the league.  I expect a 10-6 record from Houston this season, and it would not surprise me if this team made a lot of noise in their first postseason birth ever.

3. Tennessee Titans (8-8)

(Notable games: Week 5 – October 10th at Dallas, Week 8 – October 31st at San Diego, Week 12 – November 28th at Houston, Week 14 – December 9th vs. Indianapolis, Week 15 – December 19th vs. Houston, Week 17 – January 2nd at Indianapolis)

The release of rookie safety and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle was a big blow to my respect for the Titans’ organization.  Come on Jeff Fisher, you’re better than that!  The dude is a Rhodes Scholar, and you’re trying to tell me that he can’t even offer a little bit to a team allegedly “led” by Vince Young…the same Vince Young who got into a fight at a strip club because someone made the Longhorns sign upside down to him.  I don’t understand the logic behind the move, but who am I to judge?  Anyway, Chris Johnson is a beast, enough said.  But, he doesn’t have much help around him in Tennessee.  Young is serviceable, and yes he does win games, but his lack of maturity is sure to be a hindrance to this team.  Especially since Young is working with such a young receiving corps, highlighted by second year player Kenny Britt and their year player Lavelle Hawkins.  Defensively, I am not sure where 2010 first round pick Derrick Morgan lies on the depth chart, but hopefully he can contribute something to this team because their pass rush is nearly nonexistent.  The rest of their defense, linebackers and secondary, and pretty good but also pretty young so inexperience and inconsistent play may play a major role in their success.  Simply because Jeff Fisher is the head coach, I expect the Titans to end with a respectable 8-8 record.  They have the talent of a 6-10 team, but Fisher somehow gets it done every season.  But, 8-8 isn’t good enough to make the playoffs so come mid-January Vince will be back at the strip clubs starting more fights.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)

(Notable games: Week 2 – September 19th at San Diego, Week 4 – October 3rd vs. Indianapolis, Week 8 – October 31st at Dallas, Week 10 – November 14th vs. Houston, Week 15 – December 19th at Indianapolis, Week 17 – January 2nd at Houston)

I’m not really sure how the Jaguars managed to compile a 7-9 record last season, but I don’t expect them to muster up the play to do it again.  I think that 2010 may be the last go-around for coach Jack Del Rio and starting quarterback David Garrard.  The 2011 draft class is rich with quarterback talent, so pending a surprisingly successful season, the Jags should have a shot at grabbing one of them.  There has already been some controversy this off season surrounding Maurice Jones-Drew and some mysterious knee surgery.  He seems to be healthy, but he is the lone offensive weapon down in Jacksonville.  I’m not on the Mike Sims-Walker bandwagon and Mike Thomas doesn’t strike me as a number two wide receiver.  Their offensive line is talented, but young on the edges which could lead to Garrard hitting the turf more than he would please.  The selection of Tyson Alualu with the tenth overall pick in the draft was a big time head-scratcher.  I’m not doubting the guy’s talent, but he was projected as a second round pick.  At least trade down and grab some more value.  Anyway, with the addition of Alualu and Aaron Kampman up front, their line is improved over last year’s unit, but their linebacking corps and their secondary are big question marks.  I expect the Jaguars to struggle all season, which will lead to just about every one of their games being blacked out, which will lead to major organizational changes next off season.

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