2009 Standings at Season’s End
The AFC South has long been dominated by the Indianapolis Colts, but the rest of the division is quickly making up ground. This division put up 38 wins in 2009, the most of any division by far, making the AFC South one of the NFL’s premier divisions. While the Colts may still be the cream of the crop down south, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see both wildcard’s come out of this division. However, with great strength, comes cannibalism as each team’s schedule gets markedly more difficult as each division opponent improves. Let’s find out what makes this division so powerful.
No team in the NFL saw greater disparity between their passing and rushing offenses than the Indianapolis Colts. Their number two ranked passing attack was supported by the league’s worst rushing figures, making this team extremely one-dimensional. But before you start sounding off about the need to have balance in the offense, let’s kindly remember that these one-dimensional Colts were a few big plays away from another Super Bowl Championship. And should a team that has Peyton Manning’s golden arm negate that advantage by running every other down? Hardly. The Colts return the majority of their offensive unit to the field in 2010, always highlighted by Manning and Reggie Wayne, but also showcasing some emerging young talent in Pierre Garcon. The Colts have some tough games on their schedule, including their usual midseason showdown with the Patriots. With the exception of Kansas City and Oakland, there isn’t a game on this schedule that I feel 100% about the Colts winning, so look for that to take some effect on the players as the season wears on.
Indianapolis Colts 2010 Prediction
Tough schedule aside, this is a team that rarely comes out flat, and even if you jump out to a big lead, you had better put the Colts in a body bag, because they always find a way to come back in the fourth quarter. With that being said, they will lose a few games this year, not because of a lack of preparation, but because you just can’t come out and play 100% every game. Their record of 12-4 will be good enough to win this division again though.
The Texans have seen improvement just about every year since their inception into the league. Take away the fact that they played in one of the toughest divisions in football last year, and they might have actually secured a playoff berth. Matt Schaub is turning into one of the top QB’s in the league and having a top ranked fantasy wide receiver to throw to doesn’t sound too bad either. If you think back to all the fumbles that Steve “The Sleeve” Slaton lost in 2009, you might actually consider throwing them a couple more wins this season, provided the ball stays off the turf in 2010. This team didn’t make any offseason moves offensively that will blow anyone away, but they have emerging talent at just about every position. Their schedule isn’t necessarily tougher than anyone else’s, but the way it is laid out might cause them some troubles. 5/6 of their games against division opponents occur after their bye week, meaning every game they play down the stretch will be meaningful – they don’t have the luxury of taking any weeks off starting in November.
Houston Texans 2010 Prediction
The Texans will need to improve on rushing the ball this season if they want to have any chance at success. Their potent passing game can get them big leads, but their inability to run the ball gives opponents too much time left on the clock and too many chances to stage a comeback. I know I said earlier that a balanced offense is meaningless if you are able to dominate one facet, but let’s remember that Matt Schaub is not Peyton Manning. The Texans will finish at 9-7, due to some faltering down the stretch, but might be able to secure a playoff berth with some tiebreakers.
2009 saw the emergence of Vince Young into his own. The league has always known that the young man out has had talent in droves, but his desire and work ethic were always a point of concern. After leading the Titans to a winning second half of the season, Young will be called upon to work his magic for 16 games as the opening day starter. I am still a little concerned about the lack of talent this team has at Wide Receiver, but it is yet to be seen if this lack of talent is evident because of Young’s inability to get them the ball, or because they just truly aren’t that good. Either way, Chris Johnson and Vince Young give the Titans the most dynamic backfield in the NFL. Much like the rest of their division, the Titans have a very tough schedule, but none of the teams they play boast particularly strong rush defenses, making the Titans backfield even that much more potent.
Tennessee Titans 2010 Prediction
Although teams that can air it out tend to put up bigger numbers offensively, the teams that have shown that they can grind out a rushing attack consistently win more ball games – that’s just science. This offensive rushing attack is as good as any, so I look for the Titans to post double digits in the win column this season. They will finish at 10-6 and possibly take a wildcard berth in the AFC.
Jacksonville was one of the nice surprises of the league last year. They actually had a legitimate shot at a playoff berth heading into the final month of the season, but nothing kills playoff chances quite like a four game losing streak. The Jaguars have potent offensive weapons in Mike Simms-Walker and Maurice Jones-Drew (must be something about hyphenating a last name), but despite all that talent, they severely lack leadership. Leadership could have saved them down the stretch last year, but nobody showed it. This team will put some flash and pizzaz out onto the field every week, but it is a huge gamble to bet on them. David Garrard has been in this league too long now to continue making excuses and until he stops, this team will continue to be mediocre in a division that preys on average teams.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2010 Prediction
The nice surprise of 7-9 from last season was just an anomaly. 2010 will see the Jaguars slip to the bottom of the division, giving them no chance at a playoff spot. Their final record of 5-11 should send the team looking for a new QB during the offseason – if not sooner.