Thursday, August 23, 2007

2007 Sports As Life NFL Preview - AFC South

On a day when I wouldn't be surprised to see snow here in Regina, it seems like a good time to cover the sunny climes of the AFC South - although I doubt anyone ever accused Indianapolis of being a winter vacation spot, but they do play in a dome so it all evens out.

Houston Texans

Next time you see a Texans fan, and they're probably hard to find, ask them how they feel about picking Mario Williams first overall in the draft last year. Not only did people in Houston have to watch Reggie Bush run wild, Vince Young win the Rookie of the Year, but another Texan - DeMeco Ryans - won the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Now it's nice to have a ROY on your team but when it's not the #1 pick and you passed on two dynamic players, it's still gotta sting a little. At age 30 Ahman Green will be the Texans starting running back. Now Green is an above-average back but his best days are behind him. Backing him up will be Ron Dayne and Wali Lundy - two guys I wouldn't be prepared to go to war with. Gone are the days of QB David Carr laying flat on his back in Houston. The Texans brought in Atlanta's back-up Matt Schaub to be their new starting quarterback - a move I guaranteed the Falcons regret right now. However, unless the Texans also replaced their entire offensive line Schaub might not fare much better than Carr. Andre Johnson will give Schaub a viable go to receiver. But other than Johnson the Texans don't have a lot of strength at receiver - it's not a good situation when you're going to miss Eric Moulds at wide out. I would grade the Texans' defence as "Ok" - they might be on the field a lot though. Ryans and Williams should improve in their second seasons which will help out the D. Houston has a below-average schedule in terms of difficulty, unfortunately they're also a below-average team, so even those easy games aren't so easy to them.

2007 Prediction: 4-12. The have a quarterback who's never been a starter before, a 30 year old running back, one quality wide receiver and an offensive line that specializes in turnstile blocking.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are the reigning Super Bowl champs but even without the usual Super Bowl hangover there are more than a few questions about them getting back to where they were last year. In the off season the Colts lost their starting left tackle, one of their starting running backs, one of their starting linebackers, one of their starting cornerbacks and both starting defensive tackles. That's an awful lot of holes to fill and people to replace. But the Colts still have a wealth of talent, especially on offence. Joseph Addai had pretty much taken the #1 running back spot from Dominic Rhodes by the end of last season, so there will be no drop off there. Addai has the potential to be one of the top backs in the league this year. At quarterback the Colts still have Peyton Manning - so probably enough said. Although because of Tarik Glenn retiring, the question of who is going to protect Manning's blindside is still unanswered. I probably don't have to say much about the Colts' wide receivers either, as Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are both back. But the Colts want to run the ball more this year, so the receivers might see the ball less than in the past. Defence is going to be a huge question mark for Indy this season. The Colts were absolutely awful last year in the regular season against the run but they managed to suck it up on their run to the Super Bowl. With Cato June gone and Anthony McFarland out for the year, there might be huge holes up the middle of Indy's defence this year. Even though the Colts won the Super Bowl their schedule is not overly difficult, probably because they get to play Houston and Tennessee twice each.

2007 Prediction: 11-5. For a team that didn't have much defence at the best of times last year, losing personnel is not going to help them. This is one game down from last season and could be more if their D lets them down.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville is a mediocre team - I don't think there's any way around that. They have a good defence (their front 7 are great) and they have an ok offence - lots of potential but they've never been able to put everything together. In the backfield the Jaguars have Fred Taylor who is a tremendous talent but gets injured in a stiff breeze and Maurice Jones-Drew, who has been described as a human bowling ball, a human cannonball and a human tank - almost the exact opposite of Taylor. Quarterback Byron Leftwich has some talent and great size but he's got a very strange throwing motion and pocket presence worse than Drew Bledsoe - not a good thing, trust me. The Jags might have one of the better groups of young receivers in the league (aside from Dennis Northcutt), but they're just so inconsistent that we might never know. Jacksonville has a very, very strong D-line led by, possibly the most terrifying person in the world, John Henderson. He and Marcus Stroud are two of the best defensive tackles in the game, making it almost impossible to run up the middle on the Jaguars. Jacksonville has a schedule full of teams that they can run on, especially in their own division, which plays to their strength. Their passing game is probably the one thing holding them back from being a playoff team.

2007 Prediction: 8-8. How can you tell I didn't have much to say about Jacksonville?

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have real potential to be this year's big bust. There is so much hype and expectation surrounding this team, after Vince Young led them to an 8-8 record last year, that they seem primed to go up in smoke. However, last year Young had a serviceable receiver in Drew Bennett and an above average running back in Travis Henry. This year he has none of those things. The running back competition this year is between NFL journeymen in the making - Chris Brown, Chris Henry and LenDale White. Vince Young is a dynamic quarterback and is at his best when he's making plays with his feet. But despite his unorthodox throwing motion Young can get the ball down field as well. It's just too bad that he doesn't have anyone to throw to. I don't think it's a good sign when the Titans want their primary receivers to be their two tight ends, Bo Scaife and Ben Troupe. On defence the Titans lost Adam "Pacman" Jones, who is on a one year wrestling hiatus (suspension) - he scored 4 defensive and special teams touchdowns for the Titans last year. Their defence does have some solid players in Keith Bulluck and Kyle Vanden Bosch - but those two probably aren't enough to win the Titans any games. Tennessee is in the same boat has Houston - not an overly difficult schedule but not an overly good team.

2007 Prediction: 3-13. This year defences will figure out how to contain and stop Vince Young. He has little, if no, supporting cast so opposing teams can key solely on him.

And there you go - the AFC South returns to the way it should be: Houston and Tennessee being terrible, Jacksonville being just ok, and Indy being by far and away the class of the division.

AFC South


Tomorrow - the AFC East, the last divisional breakdown - hooray!

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