Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NFL 2009 Preview - AFC South

Houston Texans

Last Year: 8-8

The Texans Matt Schaub has emerged as an above average quarterback who has trouble staying healthy. In the past, Sage Rosenfels has been a good backup; now, the team will rely on one of two other backups with starting experience - Dan Orlovsky and Rex Grossman. Schaub has no real excuse for getting hurt because the Texans O-line, once the joke of the league, has been good the past couple years. He'll want to stay healthy because he has one of the best receivers in the game, Andre Johnson. Another player who benefits from Andre's presence is Kevin Walter, the second WR. Owen Daniels has established himself as an elite tight end.

The Kubiak zone blocking scheme continues allow subpar backs to put up big numbers. This happened last year to Steve Slaton, who isn't a particularly great talent, but can certainly cut and run in this offense. He's an injury risk and fumble risk but if he avoids these problems he'll get the numbers again.

The defense has been one of the 5 worst units for the past 4 years now. In the front-7 they have some big names who make occasional big plays, but as a unit they play ineffectively. The team drafted Brian Cushing and added Antonio Smith - both should make an impact. Dunta Robinson and Eugene Wilson are solid in the secondary, but the other 2 DB positions are gaping holes.

There's just not much change here. If Schaub stays healthy all season, they might be a win better than last year. But if he doesn't, they might be even worse with Sage gone. I'll project they stay on the .500 plateau.

2009 Projected Record: 8-8

Indianapolis Colts

Last Year: 12-4

Peyton Manning has fallen off each season since his record breaking year, but he's still one of the very best quarterbacks in the league. Reggie Wayne has really been the #1 receiver for the past 2 years, so he'll be able to handle Marvin Harrison's departure with ease. Anthony Gonzalez is expected to step up and become the #2 receiver, and based on his play the past 2 seasons, he has the tools to succeed. TE Dallas Clark creates mismatches in the middle of the field and should continue to produce at a high level. Pierre Garcon is expected to be the 3rd WR. I don't know much about him, but 3rd receiver for the Colts is a big position.

On the ground, the Colts drafted Donald Brown out of Connecticut to help out Joseph Addai. Addai struggled last year with injury and is still a guy with a lot of potential. I'm not sold on Donald, and I expect Addai to hold on to his starting job all season.

In the two years since they won the Super Bowl with a much maligned defense, the Colts D has actually been really good. The only real change is the loss of Dungy's presence, and the possibility of a healthy Bob Sanders.

This team isn't a "dynasty" with only one super bowl win, but they're a ..."noble family" for sure. Expect another year comfortably in the playoffs.

2009 Projected Record: 12-4, AFC South Champs

Jacksonville Jaguars

Last Year: 5-11

Most of David Garrard's struggles last year can be blamed on injuries along the O-line and ineptitude at WR. However, I believed at the time, and still do, that Garrard's incredibly efficient 2007 was a fluke. He's an average QB at best. Torry Holt was added to give Garrard a legit. receiving option. Holt has lost a step but will definitely provide that. None of the other WR options are particularly appealing - Troy Williamson, Mike Sims-Walker. I thought Marcedes Lewis could have a breakout year if he worked on his hands, but now the team has signed WR-turned-TE Ernest Wilford, who may become the team's pass-catching TE.

On the ground there's only one guy here - Maurice Jones-Drew. I really can't speculate whether he can handle the load of being a full-time back. It's a big risk to take.

On defense, the Jaguars need second-year Derrick Harvey to step up and replace Paul Spicer. Rashean Mathis should be healthy this year, but the rest of the secondary is terrible now that Sensabaugh has left.

2009 Projected Record: 8-8

Tennessee Titans

Last Year: 13-3

The only way a 35 year old Kerry Collins with crap receiving options can succeed with scrubs as his receiving options is a terrific O-line, so kudos to them. If they can stay healthy again, they should dominate again. A couple of the aforementioned scrubs have left, so the starting receivers are Justin Gage and free agent acquisition Nate Washington. Washington was a good deep threat for the Steelers, but both are WR2 at best in most offenses. Alge Crumpler is on the decline and isn't much of a pass-catching TE anymore.

The big story of the backfield last year was the emergence of Chris Johnson. The kid has amazing speed, and though he has some facets of his game he needs to work on, that just means he has even more potential. LenDale White handle his reduction from 300-carry back to 200-carry back well, and the two provide a great 1-2 punch.

Albert Haynesworth's loss is huge. Players like Antwan Odom have put up big numbers alongside him, only to struggle in other defenses. They'll get better in a couple other spots though - Stephen Tulloch will develop in his second year, and Kyle Vanden Bosch shouldn't have to battle a nagging injury like he did last year. The secondary is essentially the same.

The loss of Haynesworth will hurt, but even without him this team is built for success for at least another season.

2009 Projected Record: 10-6

Current Division Future Odds:

(Disclaimer: I don't bet futures or suggest you tie up money for that long)

921 Indianapolis Colts +125
922 Tennessee Titans +285
923 Jacksonville Jaguars +405
924 Houston Texans +325

100 Turnips on the Colts.

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