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Fearless Rick's NFL Preview - AFC South

Rick Gagliano | August 3, 2011

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

2010 record: 10-6

Predicted finish: 10-6

Head Coach: Jim Caldwell

Departed: LB Clint Session, OT Charlie Johnson, DT Daniel Muir, CB Kelvin Hayden.

Incoming: LB Ernie Sims, Aug. 2; ex-Falcons DE Jamaal Anderson, Aug. 1; ex-Texans QB Dan Orlovsky; Rookies: DT Drake Nevis (LSU), OT Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), CB Chris Rucker (Michigan State), OG Ben Ijalana (Villanova)

Strengths: Peyton Manning. The most accurate passer in the game and the best game-prepared player in the league.

Weaknesses: Weak against both the run and pass on offense, and no running game to speak of.

Key Games: Sun, Sept. 11 at Houston, Sun, Sept. 25 vs. Pittsburgh, Sun, Oct. 23 at New Orleans, Sun, Nov 6 vs. Atlanta, Sun, Dec 4 at New England, Sun, Dec 11 at Baltimore. The back-to-back road games the first two weeks of December may be critical for the Colts.

What if?: Peyton Manning is slowing down and prone to injury?

That seems to be the case, but, even though the injuries seem to be coming with more frequency, Manning is still - after 208 career starts - one of the best ever. Time is running out on the Colts and Manning, however, and the window to the Super Bowl seems to get smaller every year.

Fortunately for the Colts, the AFC South could be the worst division in the league this year, so they should make the playoffs in a breeze, though 10-6 may be a bit hopeful.

Houston Texans

2010 record: 6-10

Predicted finish: 8-8

Head Coach: Gary Kubiak

Departed: WR David Anderson, QB Dan Orlovsky, DT Amobi Okoye, DE Mark Anderson, S Bernard Pollard, FB Vonta Leach, OLB Zac Diles, P Matt Turk.

Incoming: CB Johnathan Joseph, S Danieal Manning, FB Lawrence Vickers, P Brad Maynard; Rookies: DE JJ Watt (Wisconsin), LB Brooks Reed (Arizona), CB Brandon Harris (Miami FL), CB Rashad Carmichael (Virginia Tech), S Shiloh Keo (Idaho), QB TJ Yates (North Carolina), OT Derek Newton (Arkansas State), LB Cheta Ozougwu (Rice).

Strengths: Matt Schaub. The Texans' QB has put together two solid seasons back-to-back and should be poised to make it three in a row. He'll need more help from the backfield and the defense if Houston is going to thrive.

Weaknesses: Running back - they didn't have one in 2010, but Arian Foster may relieve some of the pressure on Schaub.. The secondary was the most porous in the NFL last season, allowng 267.5 yard passing per game. The Texans drafted well enough to make it better, but they've still got a long way to go.

Key Games: Sun, Sept. 11 vs. Indianapolis; Sun Sept. 25 at New Orleans, Sun Oct 2 vs. Pittsburgh, Sun, Oct 16 at Baltimore. The Texans have to wait until week 11 for a bye, but the schedule gets a little easier. Sun, Dec. 4 vs. Atlanta and Thurs., Dec 22 at Indianapolis are key games down the stretch.

What if?: The revamped secondary of the Texans flourishes? Houston the worst teams in the league defending the passing game. A shutdown secondary could mean big things in the Lone Star State.

--- Story continues below ---

Looking for the best NFL Handicapper? Good luck. Most of them suck.

Tennessee Titans

2010 record: 6-10

Predicted finish: 6-10

Head Coach: Mike Munchak

Departed: DE Jason Babin, DT Tony Brown, P Adam Podlesh, QB Vince Young, LB Stephen Tulloch, TE Bo Scaife, LB David Thornton.

Incoming: QB Matt Hasselbeck, LB Paul Posluszny, S Jordan Babineaux, CB Frank Walker, TE Daniel Graham, LB Barrett Ruud, DT Shaun Smith; Rookies: DT Jurell Casey (USC), DT Karl Klug (Iowa), CB Tommie Campbell (California PA), QB Jake Locker (Washington), LB Akeem Ayers (UCLA).

Strengths: Jeff Fisher and Vince Young are no longer with the team. Fisher's run was a long one, but it was getting old, and Young just had too many issues which disrupted the locker room. Chris Johnson, one of the top running backs in the league is about as elusive as, say, Barry Sanders was. He's not just good. He's great.

Weaknesses: A new head coach and overhaul of Jeff Fisher's staff leaves plenty of room for error entering the 2011 season.

Key Games: At this point, all of them, but at Jacksonville on Sun, Sept 11, vs. Baltimore on Sun, Sept. 18 and at Pittsburgh, Sun, Oct. 9 are three of the first five before the bye week. If Tennessee is any better than 2-3 by then, they'll feel pretty good.

What if?: Matt Hasselbeck finds new life in Tennessee?

That's what is expected, though the receiving corps is pretty thin. Kenny Britt has all the makings of becoming a star wideout, but there isn't much after that. The Titans are rebuilding and don't be surprised if Jake Locker gets the starting job once the Titans have assured themselves they won't make the playoffs - about Week 10 or 11.

Jacksonville Jaguars

2010 record: 8-8

Predicted finish: 5-11

Head Coach: Jack Del Rio

Departed: LB Justin Durant, DE Derrick Harvey, CB Tyron Brackenridge, G Vince Manuwai, WR Mike Sims-Walker, S Sean Considine, P Adam Podlesh, QB Trent Edwards.

Incoming: LB Clint Session, C Jason Spitz, S Dawan Landry, LB Matt Roth, OG Tony Moll, P Durant Brooks, CB Drew Coleman, LB Paul Posluszny; Rookies: QB Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), OG Will Rackley (Lehigh), FS Chris Prosinski (Wyoming), WR Cecil Shorts (Mount Union), CB Rob Issac (Middle Tennessee State).

Strengths: They play in a pretty weak division.

Weaknesses: Defense. The Jags were the 27th-ranked defense in points allowed, at 26.2 per game and 28th in yards allowed (371.8). It didn't matter whether teams chose to run or pass against Jacksonville; they could be successful either way.

Key Games: All of them, but especially the first eight before the bye week in Week 9. In those first eight weeks, the Jags play at the Jets, at Pittsburgh and at Houston, and host New Orleans and Baltimore, plus games at Carolina and home against Cincinnati and Tennessee (opener). A 3-5 or 2-6 start leaves the door wide open for Blaine Gabbert to step into the quarterback spot.

What if?: Blaine Gabbert takes the starting quarterback job away from David Garrard?

Jaguar fans would probably be dancing in the streets. Even though last season was Garrard's best of the past three, with a QB rating of 90.8, with 20 TDs and 15 INTs, he's still not the guy to lead them to the playoffs. Gabbert set numerous records at Missouri, and he's probably a better passer right now than 33-year-old Garrard. For now, Garrard has the starting job, but it may not last past week eight. Additionally, Jack Del Rio might lose his head coaching job under that scenario.

Copyright 2011, 2012, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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