NFL Preview – A Quick Look At The AFC South
In this, part two of our NFL Preview, the focus will be on the AFC South. Are the Jags ready to knock of Peyton and the gang or will Houston come out and shock everybody by replacing both teams as the King of the AFC North Hill? Will Peyton’s knee be ready by opening night? Does David Gerrard have anyone to throw the ball to? Is Vince Young ready to become an NFL quarterback? Will his front office ever give him any weapons to find out?
These are just some of the questions facing members of the AFC South, which is probably the class of the AFC this season. I’ll lead things off in a familiar place when talking about this division:
When it comes to the Indianpolis Colts, the two things on the minds of fans and coaches alike is “injury” and “recovery.” Can their team recover from their various injuries to: Jeff Saturday, Dwight Freeney, Bob Sanders, Marvin Harrison, and some guy called “Manning?” If these players are healthy and, more importantly, capable of playing at 100%, there’s no reason the Colts can’t continue their reign as one of the three best teams in the AFC, if not all of football.
Of course, injury recovery is never a given in a league as violent as the NFL.
While last season was disappointing for the then defending Super Bowl champs, there were a lot of bright spots as well. First, the emergence of Reggie Wayne as a top-flight receiver. It was widely speculated this would be the case but once Harrison went down, Wayne proved he belonged by finishing the season with 104 receptions and 10 touchdown catches; however, Wayne wasn’t the only offensive player to shine for the Colts. Dallas Clark contributed mightily to Colts successes, establishing himself as one of the top tight ends in the NFL.
Because of how the offense continued to produce after the injuries, the idea is, once the injured players got back into the rotation, the Colts should be as good as their Super Bowl-winning team, provided Manning fully recovers from his surgery. The health of Jeff Saturday (out at least six weeks) is an important story to keep an eye on as well because of how important he is the offensive line and Manning’s comfort level.
With a healthy team, the Colts look like a lock for 12-4, maybe even 13-3. However, if Manning is still being nagged by his knee and the offensive line can’t recover from Saturday’s potential absence, it could be a long season. As it stands, I betting on the Colts bouncing back, finishing 12-4 and winning the AFC South.
Pop quiz: What do you call a team comprised of a great running game capable of putting almost 2000 yards and 14 touchdowns on the board, a quarterback who only threw three interceptions last season (against 18 touchdowns), a stout defense that just got better thanks to the end of a rookie hold-out, a coaching staff that wants to throw the ball down field more and a suspect group of receivers, two of which might not see the field this year because of legal trouble?
The Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jags have the making of a total team until, that is, you look at their wide receiver situation. It’s a combination of the summer adventures of Matt “Foot Locker Card” Jones, Joey Porter’s injury and Dennis Northcutt, who is caught up in some stupidity that could affect his availability.
I suppose this means Marcedes Lewis, Troy Williamson, Fred Taylor and MoJo Drew will comprise the bulk of the Jacksonville passing attack, provided they actually let Gerrard throw the ball. If the Jags can somehow calm the stormy seas with their passing game and Porter’s health issues don’t linger, they could very well challenge the Colts for division championship.
Until that happens, the Jaguars will finish 10-6, making the playoffs but still remaining one step behind the Colts, Bolts and the Patriots. If the receivers come around, change this to 12-4 and Indy’s to 11-5.
Hottest Jaguars Cheerleader
Say hello to 38 year-old Jennifer. And no, that’s not a typo either. She is listed on the Jags site as being 38, meaning it’s not all 19 and 20-year olds making up these squads.
Apparently, age is only a number. Who knew?
The Houston Texans have been trying to shake their “new franchise” tag and they finally have enough offensive power to do so; although, questions remain about their defense, which was one of the league’s worst last season. Are the Texans shaping up to be an exciting team to watch on offense, only to let their fans down by giving up as many points as they score or will they deliver on both sides of the ball?
By this time next season, the offense, if it continues to play like last year (and can remain healthy), will be well known because of players like Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels. While they lack a consistent running game, the receiving tandem is as productive as any team in the league. If Ahman Green or perhaps Steve Slaton can provide some stability with the running game, the Texans will be one dynamic team on offense.
The defensive side of the ball, despite featuring Mario Williams, gives up entirely too many points. Unfortunately, their draft wasn’t as pick-laden as other teams, so they didn’t get to address all of their needs. There is some young defensive talent on the field, led by Williams, but the Texans need to keep building, especially in the secondary, who was torched for 25 total touchdowns last season.
Until the Texans introduce some balance to their franchise, average seasons will be the norm. Offenses are pretty to look at but the true measure of a team is stopping your opponent after you’ve scored. With that in mind, I’m sticking with last year’s 8-8 record.
Hottest Texans Cheerleader
The Texans Cheerleaders offer a lot of choices for this selection, including twins. That’s right, twin sister cheerleaders. However, after further review, I think Erica is the correct choice.
Of course, I could be wrong. What do you think?
Is this the season Vince Young and the rest of the Tennessee Titans offense actually compliments their great defense — ranked in the top five last season — or did the front office do enough to give Young the opportunity to succeed? A quick glance at the roster shows the answer to be no. Besides the singing of Alge Crumpler, the Titans did not do near enough to find Young some weapons.
Their running game is suspect because I’m not sold on LenDale White and apparently, neither is the Titans coaching staff. On the receiving end of things, if the Justin twins can’t get the necessary receptions to move the ball, due to either Vince Young’s throwing ability or the fact they are simply average receivers in a league full of receiving studs, this is going to be another long season on the offensive end.
However, as long as the Titans have the crushing defense, led by the man-eating Albert Haynesworth, they will be close in just about every game they play, which should allow Young’s ridiculous athleticism to win one or two. Who knows, perhaps the Titans will find an offense that lets them score with impunity.
Of course, if someone did tell me that was happening in Nashville, I’d tell them to turn Madden off and watch the real Titans, a team that personifies the word “unbalanced.”
If you can’t score points in the NFL, winning enough games will always be an issue. Until the Titans give Vince Young some legitimate weapons — hell, they should’ve signed Chris Henry — this team is going to hover around the .500 mark. With their startling lack of offensive firepower, I’m putting the Titans down for 7-9. Maybe this will get them a good enough draft pick to address their offensive woes.
Of course, they’d probably just draft the best defensive player available.
Hottest Titans Cheerleader
This is kind of difficult; not because the Titans cheerleaders resemble their offense, they don’t. It’s just that their web presentation isn’t as flattering as some other teams. With that, allow me to introduce Heather P from Columbia, Tennessee.
To get a better idea about Heather, be sure to check out her (and the other cheerleaders’) swimsuit video, which is buried behind some streaming/pop-up nonsense underneath the main image of whatever cheerleader you selected.
Next up, the AFC North.