AFC South NFL Preview
In preparation for the upcoming 2013 NFL season, Just A Guy has decided to put together a team-by-team analysis with a run down of every division along with the staff’s picks for how they think the division will play out. Here, we highlight the AFC South, which includes the Colts, Titans, Jaguars and Texans.
The reigning AFC South champions look to have gotten stronger. The Texans finally addressed the years long need of a reliable receiving threat opposite stud Andre Johnson. They drafted Clemson standout Deandre Hopkins at the end of the first round. Early reports are that he looks great, and is securing the number 2 spot next to Johnson. It will relieve Johnson of constant double teams, and allow Hopkins to produce himself, while giving Matt Schaub a new threat. With the man himself Arian Foster back there, and a healthy Ben Tate, the Texans keep intact arguably the best RB duo in the whole league. Look for their offense to make strides this year and be more balanced as opposed to the pounding game management style.
On the defensive side, the Texans have what may be the best defensive player in all of football in JJ Watt. The defensive end is last year’s sack champion, and always a threat to swat passes down. Behind him, you have Brian Cushing in the middle of it all. In the secondary, they did lose safety Glover Quinn. But they added future hall of famer Ed Reed, fresh off a Super Bowl victory. He may be past his prime, but if he remains relatively healthy, his leadership is unheralded. It will bring a whole new dimension to the lockeroom and unit. And the fact remains, he is still a playmaker, even though he doesn’t make as many as he once did. I like the addition. In a division with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who look to be among the league’s worst yet again, the decent at best Tennessee Titans; the only competition seems to be from the rising Indianapolis Colts. They are captained by phenom Andrew Luck. Even with their offseason acquisitions, I see Indy falling back down to Earth a little bit after losing guru Bruce Arians. I believe the Texans take the division for three consecutive years.
There isn’t much to say about the Jaguars, they’re going to be bad this year. The team drafted Luke Joeckel to build the offensive line around, but the QB situation of Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert doesn’t provide much hope. It’ll be difficult to not improve on the 30th best rushing attack in the league and the backfield combo of Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings should combine for more than the three touchdowns they had last season. The air attack will suffer from the four game absence of Justin Blackmon as he serves a league mandated suspension. Cecil Shorts won’t be able to carry this offense by himself. The Jaguars are a long way from being competitive this year.
The 2013 Titans are an interesting team to watch. Not much talk about them around the league, but they could be a decent team this year. They addressed their needs in their off season at the O-line- hoping that will open some holes for Chris Johnson and some much need protection for Jake Locker. Locker is in his third year in the NFL and now is the time for him to start proving his worth or he could be riding the pine halfway through the season. A healthy Kenny Britt would help his cause, but that’s not something that can be counted on. Defense was a problem in 2012 as the Titans finished dead last in points allowed. Its not helping out the offense when your giving up tons of points per game. The only big move was the Bernard Pollard signing (from the Ravens), which helps a brutal secondary. Other than that, the front office didn’t do a whole lot to help one of the worst defenses in 2012. Yes the offense was improved, but not enough was done defensively to say playoff team. An improvement from 6-10 to 8-8 would be a win for this rebuilding team.
The Colts were a surprisingly good team in 2012 with a 11-5 record and a playoff berth. With the majority of the core players returning, no one is sleeping on them this year. The fate of this team rests on their young and nearly nameless defense, as well as the ability and mindset of second year quarterback, Andrew Luck. Luck threw for over 4,000 yards last year as a rookie leading his team to the wildcard round of the playoffs. The only issue in Luck’s game seemed to be an average TD-to-INT ratio at 23/18. The offense returns mostly intact with the main addition of the offseason being Giants leading rusher last year, Ahmad Bradshaw , who will assuredly improve the running game that relied heavily on Vick Ballard. They lost Donnie Avery but replaced him with former Raider, Darrius Heyward-Bey. This year could provide for an offensive explosion with receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, and tightends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener catching passes and the aforementioned additions. If Luck can stay away from turnovers and that seems highly plausible with a year of experience under his belt, they will be a high scoring machine.
Defensively they are young with only a few bigger names including: defensive ends Robert Mathis, Cory Redding and their leading tackler last year, Jerrell Freeman at linebacker. For the first time in 12 years Dwight Freeney will not be on the field for the Colts, this is more of a loss in the leadership department than anything. His sack totals have declined for the last four straight years and he wasn’t able to play the full season last year. They were one of the worst defensive teams last year in terms of yards per game, giving up an average of over 374 yards and ranking 26th overall. To most people’s surprise they drafted a linebacker instead of a corner, Bjoern Werner, in the first round. He’ll be a solid player, but they need some serious help in the secondary. If the defense can grow and develop to improve an average unit, the Colts will have a tremendous team.
|Texans (9-7)||Texans (11-5)||Colts (12-4)||Texans (12-4)|
|Titans (6-10)||Colts (10-6)||Texans (10-6)||Colts (8-8)|
|Colts (6-10)||Titans (7-9)||Titans (6-10)||Titans (4-12)|
|Jaguars (3-13)||Jaguars (3-13)||Jaguars (1-15)||Jaguars (2-14)|