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Old 08-28-2008, 04:11 AM   #4
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Cool A Closer Look: AFC South

Indianapolis Colts: 12-4
They swear up and down that Peyton Manning will be ready to open season after undergoing minor knee surgery July 14, so we'll take them at their word; Dominic Rhodes is living proof that you can go home again; he'll spell RB Addai and prognosis for WR Harrison's return (from knee injury) seems as good as one has right to expect at age 35; O-line that comes off "disappointing" 23 sacks-allowed season rounds out offensive picture, and with a little better luck on the injury front - particularly up front - defense will be pretty strong again as well. But are they the Atlanta Braves of the NFL - with only a single world championship inoculating them from having the leprous "choke" label affixed to them?

Jacksonville Jaguars: 10-6
Have decided to stick with David Garrard at QB even though Garrard has yet to demonstrate that he can do more than not lose games; have RB tandem to die for in speedy Maurice Jones-Drew and bruising Fred Taylor, but latter is well into 30-something territory and has bumps and bruises to show for it; signed FA Jerry Porter, who might be the greatest WR in NFL history never to have a 1,000-yard season. Defense, along with running game, has carried team of late, but must overcome loss of DE Marcus Stroud (traded to Buf). These guys bring to mind those Bum Phillips Houston Oilers teams of the late '70s/early '80s, who come to think of it never could break Pittsburgh's hegemony in the old AFC Central; Jags of course have Colts to surmount, and don't see it happening this year either unless something is very wrong with P-Man; solid playoff prospects, though.

Houston Texans: 9-7
Have been one of league's prominent "sucker" teams in recent years, although they did manage breakthrough of sorts last season, finally reaching .500, albeit finishing last in division and with 1-5 division mark whose lone victory occurred in a game where the opponents rested most of their starters. Matt Schaub proved well worth the price at QB; they kept their WR contingent intact (re-signing Andre' Davis), and OL comes off best season in franchise history by far; RBs have age/injury issues. Did DE Mario Williams ever squelch "bust" chants in his second season, and LBs and secondary may be better than advertised. Gary Kubiak has adapted nicely to HC responsibilities and best seems yet to come, with '08 postseason voyage not out of the question; but until they prove they can beat the teams in their own super-tough division, their appeal is limited strictly to the underneath slots.

Tennessee Titans: 7-9
Hopefully if they ever make a bio flick about Vince Young they can come up with more flattering title than "6," the score he pulled on Wonderlic Test. Young's on-field smarts have often seemed lacking at times as well, and he threw only 9 TD passes all season in 2007. Still, he led Jeff Fisher's team to the playoffs, and RB LenDale White seems to be hitting his best stride, but Young would have open-and-shut case if he sued his receivers for non-support. Defense zoomed from dead-last ranking in 2006 to 5th in '07 despite the loss of CB Adam "Pacman" Jones (for good, as it turned out), and has ten projected starters returning, with only DE Antwan Odom having flown coop, to be supplanted by former ex-Titan Jevon Kearse. This team presents as kind of scaled-down version of division foe Jacksonville, with similar strengths and weaknesses - only not as gifted overall, and final 2008 AFC South standings figure to reflect that; others rank higher.

Last edited by Anthony; 08-29-2008 at 02:33 AM.
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