A division to keep your eye on this year is going to be the AFC South. Sure, this division has been relevant before. Just a few years ago, Indianapolis won a Super Bowl with the help of Peyton Manning and Tennessee has had it’s good years as well. But this year, the entire division has a bit of talent that should make for an interesting push towards the playoffs. If the preseason is any indication of things to come, it should be a neck-and-neck race between at least three teams from the division.
For years now, people have expected the Houston Texans to be a team that can contend for a Super Bowl. With Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson being staples of the team for the last five-years, they’ve always been able to air the ball out. But with the emergence of Arian Foster as one of the best backs in the league, and J.J. Watt on defense, the Texans now have a well-rounded team that is looking to win its division and go deep in the playoffs. The Texans have probably won of the best overall teams in football, if everyone can stay healthy. During the preseason, they have gone 2-1, opening up with wins against Miami and Minnesota. However a week three loss to New Orleans has Texans fans realizing that no matter how much talent their team has, the Texans have got to step it up this year. Even though their window of opportunity is wide open right now, if they fail to succeed this year, it may quickly begin to close.
Two years ago, Peyton Manning was injured for the season and the Indianapolis Colt’s were one of the worst teams in the NFL. That offseason, they decided to trade away Manning, one of the most prolific players in Colt history, and draft Andrew Luck to lead their team in the future. While Luck’s career is still young, he had a fantastic year during his rookie campaign, as he lead his team to a playoff birth. This year, Luck looks to further his success in a Colt’s jersey and has added some talent around him. Ahmad Bradshaw will line up behind Luck and take reps as the starting back, and Darrius Heyward-Bey find’s himself a new home, after playing receiver for Oakland since being drafted. Like the Texans, the Colts have also gone 2-1 in the preseason. However after losing to Buffalo in week 1, the Colt’s have looked fantastic the last two weeks in wins over New York and Cleveland. Indianapolis’s first real test of the season will come against San Francisco in week 3, so people can see how Luck and the Colt’s do against a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The Tennessee Titans are dangerously treading water when it comes to success or failure in the NFL. Just two years ago, Chris Johnson was leading the Titans and this team was considered one of the top in the league (especially with the weakness of the AFC South). However after getting a contract extension, Johnson had a mediocre season last year and seemed to have been doing more complaining than running. Furthermore, Jake Locker was a high draft pick for the Titans and is expected to lead this team, although some question if he has the skill-set to do so. The Titan’s have the firepower to play with the best of them. After all, Johnson still has speed that can change games with just one play. But if Tennessee doesn’t work on being a more determined team, their 1-2 preseason record will continue into the regular season and we could see a rebuilding year for Tennessee on the horizon.
The Jacksonville Jaguars get no love in the NFL, let alone even in their own division. However, with all due respect, it’s somewhat deserved considering the Jaguars boast both the worst attendance record in the league and one of the worst overall records last year as well. Jacksonville has talent with Maurice Jones Drew, who is a game-changing back. Unfortunately, that’s about where the talent stops. Some hope that Blaine Gabbert can be a legit QB threat, but he now has Chad Henne on his tail looking to get starting reps. In truth, neither may be good enough to win many games this year. And even another star, receiver Juston Blackmon, can’t stay out of trouble, so it’s not like the QB’s have many options to throw to. With a 0-3 preseason where they’ve hardly been able to put any points on the scoreboard, this could be a long year for the Jaguars. If it hasn’t been a rebuilding season the last few years, it’s certainly that time now.
The AFC South is a talented division with some great talent and players at the top. It should be an interesting year to see how the battle plays out between Indianapolis and Houston, and if the Texans can make any leeway into the top of the division. As for the Jag’s….. well, there’s always next year.