Indianapolis and the Three Dwarfs: Since the AFC South was formed, all four member teams have had their turn as the top banana, but there has been one consistent theme. When Tennessee was dominant in the early 2000’s, the Colts were the chief competitor usually finishing a game behind or ahead of the Titans.
When Jacksonville was tough with their stable of tough running backs, it was Indianapolis that was 14-2 when the Jags were 12-4.
When Houston began to shine a few years ago, once again, their competition was the Colts.
Now, the Colts have no competition in the South. Houston lacks a quarterback that can get them to the playoffs, and J. J. Watt cannot make 30 sacks to level the playing field. Jacksonville has more rebuilding to do before they can even challenge for an 8-8 record. Tennessee has been down for six years, and the Titans have as many holes in their roster as a piece of Swiss cheese. The Colts could go 6-0 in divisional play, while the other three teams all finish 2-4.
Houston surprised the football world by rebounding from 2-14 to go 9-7 and almost make the playoffs. The Texans’ schedule goes from one of the easiest with all the last place teams to one of the more difficult with two extra second place teams (Kansas City and Cincinnati instead of Oakland and Cleveland). The Texans lose their star receiver in Andre Johnson, and Brian Hoyer passing to Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington as options to DeAndre Hopkins does not have the look of a playoff contender.
Andrew Luck compares with Peyton Manning in that he has taken over this team and led them to divisional dominance. He also compares a little to Andy Dalton in that the Colts keep coming up short in the playoffs. However, as we stated about Dalton, it is not his fault when the Colts’ defense gives up 45 points to the Patriots. This year, Indianapolis’s offense is set to take a step up to the very top of the AFC. The Colts add Andre Johnson to a roster already stocked with offensive stars. An improved defense should give Indy a strong chance at competing for the best overall record in the AFC and a good shot at playing in February.
Jacksonville has been number 31 or 32 in the league for multiple seasons. At one time, the Jaguars were the leading team to relocate to Los Angeles. At one time, they were more than 21-point underdogs in a game. Jacksonville might have been picked to contend for an 8-8 record this year had bad luck not hit this team in the Spring. Top draft choice Dante Fowler was lost for the season with an ACL injury. Fowler could have been the Jags’ Watt and improve the defense by a touchdown per game. Now, they have little pass rush, and enemy quarterbacks will be a lot more comfortable on Sunday.
Tennessee puts all their eggs in the Marcus Mariota basket. Eventually, we believe Mariota will prove to be the right choice for the Titans, but as a rookie with a vulnerable offensive line, we expect backup Zach Mettenberger to be the starter by midseason and possibly Clay Whitehurst by December. The Titans defense made a couple of key additions by signing Brian Orakpo and adding legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau as assistant head coach. LeBeau might wish he had retired with the liabilities in the line and in the secondary.
|Texans Starting Lineup|
|DE||J. J. Watt|
|N5||A. J. Bouye|
|Head Coach||Bill O’Brien|
|Off. Coordinator||George Godsey|
|Def. Coordinator||Romeo Crennel|
|Coaching + Intangibles||C|
|Colts Starting Lineup|
|WR||T. Y. Hilton|
|Head Coach||Chuck Pagano|
|Off. Coordinator||Pep Hamilton|
|Def. Coordinator||Greg Manusky|
|Coaching + Intangibles||B-|
|Jaguars Starting Lineup|
|HB||T. J. Yeldon|
|Head Coach||Gus Bradley|
|Off. Coordinator||Greg Olson|
|Def. Coordinator||Bob Babich|
|Coaching + Intangibles||C-|
|Titans Starting Lineup|
|Head Coach||Ken Whisenhunt|
|Off. Coordinator||Jason Michael|
|Def. Coordinator||Ray Horton|
|Coaching + Intangibles||C|