Thursday, August 27, 2009

big american nfl preview '09: AFC South

Alright, political discussions are important. But so is the way I distract myself from the need for political discussion. Football is coming back soon, and I'm here to handicap the upcoming NFL season for you division-by-division just so a record of how little I actually know exists. They're talking about the NFC North on ESPN as I type this, and I hate the idea of letting them color my opinion, so I'll go complete opposite today: The AFC South.

I expect a seriously competitive division, possibly even the closest one week-in-and-week-out in football. We've got two teams coming off of playoff appearances and strong seasons, a team that I like a lot as a football team, and another one that's almost universally been touted as a team that will have arrived by the time it's all said and done. But something is going to have to give somewhere.

4. Jacksonville - I wanted to like Jacksonville more than this. On paper, they have a serviceable quarterback who can maneuver himself and Torry Holt, who gives them the kind of receiver I don't remember them having on top of being a smart player that will come back to the ball when Garrard gets to scrambling. Add to that one of the best running backs in the game in Jones-Drew, and I could maybe even talk myself into calling the Jaguars a playoff team. But the window seems to have shut on what was once an intimidating defense, even with Del Rio's mind behind them. And that offense is good, but not the kind of good that puts you in a position to win shootout-style games. Jacksonville could surprise, but I don't see it.

3. Tennessee - They had a helluva season last season. And Jeff Fisher is a great coach. But I still think that last season was a flash-in-the-pan sort of season that's going to only serve to unfairly raise expectations. No Albert Haynesworth means that the defense lacks not only their biggest difference-maker but also their biggest distraction when opposing teams map out the offense. I don't think Collins-to-nobody makes for an especially dangerous passing threat, meaning that other teams can put the world in the box to stop the run.

2. Houston - A lot of people have been declaring this to be the year that The Texans break through and see the playoffs. And they're certainly going to do a lot of things very well. Matt Schaub-to-Andre Johnson should be one of the biggest connections in the game this year, they'll have a reliable if not surprisingly good rushing game, and they have a beast of a defensive line headlined by Mario Williams. They could even win this division. Could. But I don't think they will quite yet.

1. Indianapolis - They don't have the offense they used to. The receivers aren't as sexy (football sexy, not sexy sexy) and running game doesn't appear as dominant. They have a guy whose name might as well be "Not Tony Dungy" as their coach. What they do have is a defense that was very quietly among the best last season. What they do have is Peyton Manning. They won't be the Colts like we're used to seeing the Colts, but they're still contenders until they prove they aren't.

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