Day 5 of breaking down the divisions brings us to the AFC South. The AFC South is a good mixture of speed and power. Quarterbacks are king in this division but the running backs in this division all fit the same build. They are all dynamic, and can go the distance at any moment. The conference also features some of the best wide receivers in the game today. Ironically the defenses in this division are all built the same, which makes sense if the teams are all so similar.
The Houston Texans are finally establishing their own identity in the league. They have a marquee quarterback in Matt Shaub. Shaub has emerged as a top 10 quarterback in the league. Shaub will also have plenty of weapons to work with as the backfield is juiced up with Arian Foster holding down most of the carries. Shaubs weapons don’t stop there. He also has playmakers on the outside headed by (in my opinion the second best wide receiver in the league) Andre Johnson. The Texans also feature a solid tight end group headed by Owen Daniels. The offensive line of the Texans features some agile guys and they are built to run or throw.
Defensively the Texans have grown the most. A defensive line that features Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye is prolific in its ability to stop the run and get a pass rush. The linebacking core doesn’t take a backseat to many and is headed by Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans. The secondary may be the Texans only real concern. However with the pressure they get up front, the secondary should get better by default.
Key Players: Matt Shaub (QB), Arian Foster (RB), Andre Johnson (WR), Mario Williams (DE), Brian Cushing (LB), DeMeco Ryans (LB)
Projected Finish: First
The Indianapolis Colts need no introduction to the rest of the world. They are led by arguably (but not my argument) the best signal caller in NFL history Peyton Manning. Manning returns with hopes of returning to the big dance again or at least improving on his dismal playoff record. Manning will be surrounded by Joseph Addai who will get a lot of carries at the tailback position. Addai will be splitting some of those carries with a dynamic Donald Brown. The wide receivers are dynamic headed by Reggie Wayne but two newcomers are making a name for themselves rather quickly. Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie proved themselves last season with the absence of Anthony Gonzalez who should return to form this season. The Colts also feature a beast of a tight end in Dallas Clark and a monster offensive line headed by Jeff Saturday.
Defensively the Colts are as dynamic up front as any team in the league. They feature the best pair of defensive ends in the business in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The linebacking core of the Colts may not be a group of big names but they get the job done. Gary Brackett keeps that group in line and usually is amongst the league leaders in tackles. The secondary is almost always questionable for this group.
Key Players: Peyton Manning (WB), Joseph Addai (RB), Reggie Wayne (WR), Dwight Freeney (DE) Roberth Mathis (DE)
Projected Finish: Second
The Jacksonville Jaguars are the wildcard of the division. From game to game you really don’t know what you are going to get.
The Jags have a steady but not dynamic quarter back in David Garrard. Garrard is surrounded by marginal talent but they Jags do have a few pieces on offense that are intriguing. Maurice Jones Drew (MJD) is a top 4 running back in the league. MJD can do it all. He can take a handoff, a screen, a draw, or a pass route the distance at a moments notice. Although small in stature MJD is like a human bowling ball. He can roll around you or he can roll over you. However carrying the load has taken its toll on MJD and he is getting a lot more wear and tear than normal. The wide receiver core is headed by Mike Thomas. This kid has all the tools; he just needs someone to get him the ball on a consistent basis. If the offensive line can hold up Garrard can have a big season because one thing he doesn’t do is throw interceptions.
Defensively the Jaguars have faded a little throughout the years. A team once built to play the smash mouth defensive game has turned into more of a finesse defense. The defensive line is headed by Tyson Alualu. The linebackers are also a group of names that no one has ever heard of and the secondary gets burned a lot.
Key players: David Garrard (QB), Maurice Jones-Drew (RB), Mike Thomas (WR) Tyson Alualu (DT)
Projected Finish: Third
The Tennessee Titans are hoping to build on their disappointing 2010 season. The lead signal caller for the Titans will be Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck captured the starting position after the team decided to make a move and rid themselves of Vince Young. Hasselbeck will be handing off a lot to one of the most dynamic backs in the league Chris Johnson. This kid is electric. He can run faster than most and he just makes people miss. Coming off a 2000 yard rushing performance in 2009, and another 1300 yard performance in 2010, Johnson will definitely be one to watch. The wide receiving core of the titans is young but talented. Kenny Britt has a promising future with this team as he develops in his second year. The tight ends are also dynamic and feature some quality depth. The offensive line is built to run but the pass protection has gotten better with time.
Defensively the Titans are hoping that Joe Joseph from Miami can help pick up the running defense along with veteran linebackers Mike Rivera and David Thorton. The Titans have a solid secondary led by Cortland Finnegan. This unit makes plays and with an improved pass rush this year things should be a little easier.
Key Players: Matthew Hasselbeck (QB), Chris Johnson (RB), Kenny Britt (WR), David Thorton (LB), Cortland Finnegan (CB)
Projected Finish: Last