Many say that predicting the NFL season is like trying to win the
Idaho lottery: it’s pretty much a crapshoot.
In the past, I’ve experienced that for myself.
And it’s easy to see why: there are only sixteen games in a season, teams can get really hot or really cold really fast, players can go down with season-ending injuries, others come from out of nowhere to make a name for themselves, etc.
You can go on and on with any number of reasons why the NFL is so hard to predict.
But yet, we media members are going to go right ahead and predict it anyway.
Today is the last NFL Preview column.
I’ve looked at every division, looked at every team in every division, and I’ve given you my thoughts on why some teams have what it takes, and others don’t, and I’ve even given you an estimated order of finish in each division, one through four…
You might say that I saved the best for last, because today is a look at the home of the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Indianapolis Colts.
Today is a look at the AFC South.
: Gary Kubiak
: although they still haven’t done much to improve a very poor offensive line, and although they lost receiver Eric Moulds, they did improve their offense nonetheless.
They acquired receivers Keenan McCardell and Bethel Johnson, as well as running back Ahman Green.
The quarterback position is the one that’s underwent the biggest change.
Gone is longtime quarterback David Carr, and taking his place is former
Atlanta quarterback Matt Schaub.
Although it really doesn’t matter who your quarterback is when the offensive line can’t keep him from getting knocked to the ground.
: the theme for the Texans lately has been to improve the defense.
Last year, they drafted Demeco Ryans and Mario Williams.
This year, they used their first-round pick to select yet another defensive lineman in the young (and I really mean young) yet wise Amobi Okoye.
At least he won’t get comparisons to Sam Bowie, like his teammate Mario Williams is getting.
: sitting comfortably in 4th place there, Texans fans?
That’s good; maybe next year, when you have one of the top ten picks, the team won’t use it on another defensive lineman.
: 4th in AFC South, won’t make the playoffs
: Tony Dungy
: one offseason removed from finally winning the Super Bowl, the Colts made sure that their most important pieces on offense are back again this season.
Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Ben Utecht, Reggie Wayne, and the dominant offensive line are back.
Sure, they lost Dominic Rhodes and Brandon Stokely in the offseason, but they probably won’t matter a lot because of the great, young, unheard-of talent that they have now at those positions, including Ohio State’s Anthony Gonzalez.
This is still one of the top five offenses in the NFL, without question.
: although the majority of their key offensive players are back, their defense took some major hits this past offseason, losing linebacker Cato June to the Bucs, cornerback Jason David to the Saints, cornerback Nick Harper and linebacker Gilbert Gardner to the division rival Titans, and safety Mike Doss to the Vikings.
What’s worse is they really didn’t do much of anything to improve.
Perhaps they believe that they can make a few more young players from what they already have, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find diamonds like that in the rough.
: even with all of the defensive losses
Indianapolis suffered, they are still offensively one of the best teams in the NFL, and their defense should be decent enough.
In short, it’s still Indy’s division; everybody else is just along for the ride.
: AFC South Division Champions
: the quarterback controversy in
Jacksonville rages on between David Garrard and Byron Leftwich.
While it’s nice to have two good quarterbacks on your team, it’s not so nice if you don’t even know who the better quarterback is.
Although it is nice to see the two-headed running back monster known as Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew is back, along with Reggie Williams and Ernest Wilford.
Add to that the relatively-decent offensive line in front of them, and this is an offense that could surprise a lot of people this year.
: the defense suffered only two major losses this offseason: linebacker Deon Grant to the Seahawks and safety Donovin Darius to the Raiders.
The draft selection of
Florida’s Reggie Nelson should help offset the loss of Darius, while the hit the linebacker unit took with the loss of Grant shouldn’t be that big.
They still have quality linebackers to help fill the role, and the defensive line is solid enough.
: the Jaguars are not expected to win the division, although I think the race for the division title will be closer than people are going to give the Jags credit for.
They’ll stay in the hunt until Week 16, but in the end, will fall just like the Titans and the Texans.
But, if it’s any consolation, Jaguars fans, you get the wild card.
: 2nd in AFC South, Wild Card Berth
: Jeff Fisher
: last year, the Titans shocked a lot of people by nearly making the playoffs, pulling off an impossible comeback from an 0-5 start.
The one guy that
Tennessee should thank, and has thanked, for that performance is quarterback Vince Young.
The concern for the Titans now is two-fold: first, there is no Travis Henry at running back, leaving the Titans to rely solely on LenDale White, Chris Brown, rookie Chris Henry, or VY for the running game; second, VY is on the cover of this year’s installment of the popular EA Sports Madden video game series.
The stories of the Madden cover jinx are legendary.
The list of victims is long: Ray Lewis, Michael Vick, Daunte Culpepper, former Titan Eddie George, Marshall Faulk, Donovan McNabb, and Shaun Alexander.
Titans fans are both concerned and hoping that it doesn’t happen to Vince Young, especially since he’s still very young and still only in his second year in the NFL.
Plus, it’s not like the Titans did anything in the offseason to improve their passing attack, aside from drafting
State’s Paul Williams and acquiring Texans receiver Eric Moulds.
: while the offense wasn’t that improved from last season, the defense could arguably be better this season, despite the year-long absence of Adam “Pac-Man” Jones.
The Titans acquired two defensive players from their division rivals and Super Bowl Champions, the Indianapolis Colts, in linebacker Gilbert Gardner and cornerback Nick Harper.
They went and drafted
Texas safety Michael Griffin, one of the top-ranked defensive backs in college football last year.
It will also be interesting to see how well the defensive line works together after Albert Haynesworth spent a good chunk of last season suspended for stomping on
Dallas’ Andre Gurode with his cleats.
Many could argue that, aside from
Tennessee has the best defense in the division.
: in terms of talking about a playoff berth, it’s just like last year: so close, yet so far away.
I just can’t help but feel that the Madden cover jinx will continue its reign of terror by taking out Vince Young.
Why any professional football player ever agrees to do that anymore is beyond me.
: 3rd in AFC South, won’t make the playoffs
So, looking at everything overall, here’s how the AFC South shapes up:
This wraps up the NFL Preview column series.
Everybody enjoy the season, best of luck to your team, whichever team that may be, and may this season bring you much joy.