State of the AFC South: Week 1

With the start of the 2013 NFL season just two days away and the start of Colts football a mere five, I figured it would be apropos to look at the happenings around the AFC South. Looking at a retrospect of each team’s 2012 season, off-season acquisitions/departures, and looking into the future for each team will give us better perspective of where these teams have come from and where they are going.

 

Dec 9 2012, Indianapolis, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) and wide receiver Reggie Wayne (87) look over to the bench during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeated Tennessee 27-23. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

 

Indianapolis Colts

2012 Record: 11-5 (Lost in AFC Wild Card Round to Baltimore)

Key Additions: Ahmad Bradshaw, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Gosder Cherilus, LaRon Landry, Greg Toler

Key Departues: Dwight Freeney, Jerraud Powers, Austin Collie, and Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians. 

Notable 2013 Draftees: Bjoern Werner, Hugh Thorton, Montari Hughes

With the 1st year of the Luck-Pagano-Grigson regime in the books, the Colts had a great season to work off of. They went out in free agency and plugged the holes that were ever so apparent during the 2012 season. Holes in the secondary and the offensive line were plugged as well as the outside linebacker, running back, and wide receiver position. In the draft, they drafted Bjoern Werner out of Florida State to help bolster the Indianapolis pass rush that has been lacking since the move to a 3-4 defense. New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will run, you guessed it, the offense and have former Stanford Cardinal Andrew Luck, Griff Whalen, and Coby Fleener to help run his offense.

Best case scenario: Andrew Luck enters the MVP conversation with a season that are Brady and Peyton esque. The offensive line holds together and gives Andrew Luck all the tme in the world to work his magic. The defense is as advertised and becomes a Top 10 defense in the league with a smothering secondary and stellar run stopping guaranteeing a divisional championship and a threat to be a dark horse Super Bowl contender.

Worst case scenario: The offensive line falls apart and Andrew Luck is running for his life akin to Tony Romo the last several years in Dallas. Luck forces bad interceptions and costs Indianapolis several key games. The defense can’t stop anything as the free agency acquistions don’t pan out. Luck’s skills may get Colts into a wild card spot, but would need a lot of help doing so in the tail-end of the season.

Prediction: 13-3

 

Jan 5, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (23) runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter of the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Reliant Stadium. The Texans defeated the Bengals 19-13. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

 

Houston Texans

2012 Record: 12-4 (Lost to New England in AFC Divisional Round)

Key Additions: Ed Reed, Shane Lechler

Key Departues: Kevin Walter

Notable 2013 Draftees: Deandre Hopkins, D.J Swearinger, and Brennan Williams

With back to back division titles and a strong defense to boot, the Texans look to take the next step and make it to the Super Bowl. This wasn’t a team with a lot of holes to be filled thus they made a quite splash in the free agency by signing Ed Reed. They all the talent in the world in Andre Johnson, J.J Watt and Arian Foster but their biggest concern is in the quarterback position. Matt Schaub has been very good quarterback throughout the regular season but during the tail end of the 2012 season, he stagnated and help cost the Texans a first round bye in the playoffs. There is debate whether he can’t win the big one or his skills have just peaked and cannot get any better. The Texans divisional and Super Bowl aspirations rest on the shoulders of Schaub and possibly the injured foot of star running back Arian Foster.

Best case scenario: Matt Schaub goes above and beyond and becomes an “elite” quarterback by disposing of quality teams like the Ravens, Broncos, Patriots and sweeps the Colts to win the division emphatically and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Ed Reed also plays like he did in 2008 and his age is no longer a detriment to his playing ability like it was last year.

Worst case scenario: Matt Schaub regresses and Texans fans clamor for T.J Yates. The defense falls apart as does Ed Reed thanks to his age and their window shuts fast as the Colts take over AFC South domination. If all this happens AND Arian Foster goes down with a foot injury, the Texans will go back to the middle of the pack of the AFC.

Prediction: 9-7

 

Dec 30, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) during warm up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

 

Tennessee Titans

2012 Record: 6-10

Key Additions: Andy Levitre, Delanie Walker, Shonne Greene

Key Departures: Jared Cook, Will Witherspoon, Matt Hasselbeck

Notable 2013 Draftees: Chance Warmack, Justin Hunter

The Tennessee Titans are a curious bunch. They have the offensive firepower to make some noise in the AFC but they are lacking in the most important area of a football team, quarterback. Jake Locker, who will be entering his 3rd year in the NFL, has not lived up to the expectations that a 1st round QB draftee should. His erratic play, inaccuracy, and turnover prone behavior have made the Titans into a mediocre team. Former 2,000 yard rusher Chris Johnson too has not been himself since his record breaking season and looks to capitalize on a strong offensive line and carry the team on his back. With the Titans losing Matt Hasselbeck to the Colts, they signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as a backup quarterback. In what should be a make or break year for Locker, he doesn’t have the veteran leadership of Hasselbeck behind but instead a hungry Fitzpatrick that would take advantage of the opportunity to start.

Best case scenario: Chris Johnson returns to form and has another 2,000 yard season all the while Jake Locker has a breakout year both throwing and running the football. The defense plays well enough to keep them in games all the while Gregg Williams makes the most of his lack of defense’s talents. The Titans squeak into the playoffs as a wild card seed.

Worst case scenario: The already weak defense falls into the cellar of the NFL. Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick both struggle at the quarterback position while Chris Johnson has a stellar year that goes unnoticed due to the Titans having a terrible record.

Prediction: 4-12

 

Oct 7, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (32) reacts after their game against the Chicago Bears at EverBank Field. The Bears won 41-3. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports


Jacksonville Jaguars

2012 Record: 2-14

Key Additions: Marcus Trufant, Jordan Shipley

Key Departures: Rashean Mathis, Aaron Ross, Laurent Robinson

Notable 2013 Draftees: Luke Joeckel, Jonathan Cyprien, Denard Robinson

Disaster struck the 2012 Jaguars when Maurice Jones-Drew went down with injury. With Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, he lost his security blanket and would get blown out by teams week after week until he went down with injury and Chad Henne came into the fold, breathing life into a weak Jaguars team. The Jaguar defense also didn’t help much as it played thoroughly mediocre the entire season. They didn’t add much in free agency even though they had no money tied to other players. With Blaine Gabbert playing for his job and a rehabilitating Maurice Jones-Drew coming back, things look bleak for the Jaguars.

Best case scenario: Maurice Jones-Drew returns to form and leads the league in rushing yet again all the while Chad Henne salvages the season with some wins while the Jaguars prepare to draft their franchise quarterback in the 2014 draft.

Worst case scenario: Blaine Gabbert regresses even further and Chad Henne is unable to assist the Jaguars in obtaining any wins as Maurice Jones-Drew tries to carry a weak roster of players but fails and Jacksonville secures the #1 overall pick.

Prediction: 2-14
2013 AFC South Standings

Indianapolis: 13-3

Houston: 9-7

Tennessee:  4-12

Jacksonville: 2-14

 

The Colts and Texans would be making the playoffs while the Titans and Jaguars would do away with their 2011 quarterback draft busts and focus on taking someone in the 2014 draft to lead them in the right direction. This would render the 1st round of the 2011 draft class of quarterbacks be busts aside from Cam Newton and Christian Ponder (pending). If the Texans were to miss out on the playoffs, they may look into replacing Matt Schaub if they see his talents have started to regress. Pending a drop off, the Colts would rest comfortably and proceed to build on the draft for years to come. However, if there is a drop off, there have to be considerations to fill holes that were thought once filled but were just square pegs into round hole fixes.

 

All in all, the football season is fast approaching and it seriously could not get here fast enough for all 32 NFL teams as well as the football fans around the world.

 

GO COLTS!!!

Frank McMahen is a Staff Writer at Naptown’s Finest. Follow Frank and Naptown’s Finest on Twitter.

Topics: Houston-texans, Indianapolis-colts, Jacksonville-jaguars, Tennessee-titans

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