Thursday, September 10, 2009

2009 NFL Preview--AFC South

Here's the next installment to get in before the start of the season in ninety minutes. That sounds good to me.

Indianapolis Colts (10-6): How much longer can Manning do it? After this year, it's up in the air, but he and this team are still among the best in the league. Harrison was aging, so his exit is no big loss, and their younger receivers benefit dramatically from Manning's skill. The defense, seemingly questionable every year, has shown little change, though Bob Sanders, the single most overrated plater in the game today, is--surprise surprise--hurt again. They should put up big points, but Dungy was integral to the chemistry of this team and Manning has already called the new coaching staff into question, so this year could just as easily represent a changing of the guard.

Houston Texans (9-7): This is the year Houston finally breaks through. Gary Kubiak had better hope so at least, or he might be back with Shanahan wherever he is next year. Matt Schaub has received big press this season, but I don't really see it. Steve Slaton, however, should be fantastic and Andre Johnson is the best target in the league, so that combination should help Schaub look pretty good. For the offense to really succeed, however, their defense has to finally live up to its reputation. Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans are both great, but the rest of this group, littered with prospects, has to play like it. This is especially true for DT Amobi Okoye, who has backslid since a spectacular first few games. If he and the secondary can live up to their hype, this team is playoff bound.

Tennessee Titans (8-8): Well-coached by the mousatchioed Jeff Fisher, the Titans will long be a team in contention. This division is so tough, however, that another trip to the post-season doesn't look likely. The loss of Albert Haynesworth is big, but the defense is still very strong and full of potential stars. They have a very good, and less drunk, running game, but the passing situation is terrible. Kerry Quitter had a banner year in '08, but without anybody to throw to, I don't see them being the ridiculous force they were last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10): I really like the Jaguars, and especially Jack Del Rio, but they're a far cry removed from the darkhorse division contender of a few years ago. I guess their big mistake, somehow, was getting rid of Byron Leftwich. This is David Garrard's last chance, or he's looking like a career backup. The defense has gotten old and has always underperformed. Though their receivers have improved with Torry Holt, their only true offensive weapon is Maurice Jones-Drew. He's a ton of fun to watch, but I'm not convinced he can handle a full workload. Like Julius Jones with Marion Barber a few years in Dallas, the loss of Fred Taylor will diminish Jones-Drew's reputation. Both look a lot better with the other than they do apart. Del Rio may be in trouble after this year but, if all goes wrong in Denver and Josh McDaniels gets fired, I wouldn't mind seeing him come in to coach the Broncos.