SPOT: Around the Spot Predictions: AFC South
Posted 05 September 2013 - 06:08 PM
When the division started, the Indianapolis Colts lead by Peyton Manning terrorized the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars as if to say "Well, aren't you a cute little football team?" every time they dared to challenge.
But, two years ago there was a changing of the guard as the Texans finally came into their own as a franchise and dethroned the Colts for their first playoff berth. Yes, that was mainly because Manning went down with a neck injury, but it was still a banner accomplishment to have another team step up.
As we enter 2013, the Colts and Texans figure to clash once again as there are new faces on both sides to make the rivalry interesting. Plus, the Jaguars and Titans have interesting blends of talent that could either by as ugly as Jacksonville's helmets or be the surprise team of 2013.
Our Around the Spot panel sat down and tried to predict who will walk away with the AFC South title in 2013.
Kenneth Gomez- Tennessee Titans Journalist
Alright, here we go with a semi-biased Titans fan's opinion:
1. Houston Texans (10-6)- this team is really good with a lot of potential. They've been scratching on the door of the Big Game for a couple of years now, but I don't expect them to get in any time soon.
2. Tennessee Titans (9-7)- two years ago, the Titans finished 9-7 with a much worse team. Now with an elite running game and awesome offensive line, the team will be able to put together at least eight wins. Jake Locker has looked so much better in the preseason than in 2012 and will go in 2013 playing like an average-at-worst QB. The defense is the only concern for this team.
3. Indianapolis Colts (8-8)- with questionable running game and pass rushing, the Colts may not be ready to leap further into the playoffs in 2013. The team has a lot of talent and made some good upgrades this offseason... But maybe not enough. I expect Luck to have a sophomore slump before a monstrous 2014 season.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)- the bottom of the barrel. The Jaguars are going to be better in 2013. MJD is back, and Gabbert has looked average... when healthy. The team should be able to put together more wins than usual, but they aren't anywhere close to the playoffs yet.
Jake Arthur- Colts Journalist
1. Indianapolis Colts (12-4) - I may get the homer label on this one, but I don't care. It is truly what I believe will happen. I have the Colts' losses being San Francisco, Denver, Houston (in Houston) and Kansas City. The rest of the schedule is very do-able. In fact, the Colts have the 3rd easiest schedule in 2013. Many people ignore the fact that the Colts made upgrades to their weaknesses from 2012. The free agent signings they made weren't sexy picks and they overpaid for them, but they were all pieces to the puzzle that the coaching staff and front office wanted. The Colts will claim the AFC South from the Houston Texans via tie-breaker.
2. Houston Texans (12-4) - The Houston Texans will be another team toward the top of a weak AFC this year. They return players like Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing and Jonathan Joseph, and added DeAndre Hopkins and Ed Reed. However, they lost underrated players like James Casey, Connor Barwin and Glover Quin. They should not lose much steam, but I don't see them taking much of a step forward, either.
3. Tennessee Titans (9-7) - The Tennessee Titans will be able to make vast improvements from 2012. After adding Andy Levitre, Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke to their offensive line they should have a great running attack. Adding Justin Hunter into a wide receiver corps already featuring Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt and Nate Washington bodes well for their ability on offense also. However, how much does their defense improve? We will have to see, but the Titans find themselves at a disadvantage by having to play four of their sixteen games against Indianapolis and Houston.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) - Last (and yes, least) are the Jacksonville Jaguars. I do like what new head coach Gus Bradley is trying to do here, but I don't see them climbing out of the cellar of the AFC right now. The return of Maurice Jones-Drew is a huge boost, coupled with the addition of Luke Joeckel. However, the return of quarterback Blaine Gabbert is not a huge boost. He has been in the league long enough now, to where if he was going to be a franchise quarterback he would have proved it by now. I also do not think the defense has made enough improvements to be a consistent ball club yet. Their arrow will likely be pointing up by years' end, but that won't necessarily mean wins.
Sami Mamou- PFS Management
Things are changing in the AFC South, I have a feeling it's going to be a wild and wacky season.
Andrew Luck is nothing short of spectacular. It truly angers me that the Colts were fortunate enough to go from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck. Reggie Wayne is the model of consistency, despite his ever increasing age. Darrius Heyward-Bey can be a big play threat when he's on his game, he just has to get more consistent and focus on catching the football before he tries to move up field. T.Y. Hilton is one of the more exciting young wide receivers in todays NFL and I expect him to continue to improve on his rookie year numbers. The Colts are also set at TE with Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. I'm not a huge Fleener fan, but I do love Allen. He reminds me of a younger, faster Jason Witten. The offensive line is vastly improved from two years ago, but it's still not great. They should be able to get the job done. The biggest addition for this Colts team this off-season is Ahmad Bradshaw. This is the first time the Colts have had a legitimate RB since Joseph Addai's sophomore season. Bradshaw can be a three down player; he runs tough between the tackles, he can catch out of the backfield, and he's an absolute monster in pass protection.
The Defense made some nice moves this off-season as well. Adding an imposing SS force in LaRon Landry to team up with the always consistent Antoine Bethea. They also brought in the aggressive Greg Toler to play opposite Vonta Davis. Toler isn't great and he takes a lot of chances, which will lead to him getting beat a few times a game, but also leads to several positive plays for the defense. Davis is the model of inconsistency, but when he's on, there aren't many CB's better than him. I also loved the addition of Bjoern Werner opposite Robert Mathis. Despite Dwight Freeny's legacy, he just wasn't very good in the 3-4 last year. Jerrell Freeman and Pat Angerer form a solid, if unspectacular, blue collar ILB duo. They'll get the job done but won't make many flashy plays. The same can be said for the defensive line, Aubrayo Frankling and Cory Redding are big bodies that just take up space. Ricky Jean Francois is the best player on this defensive line, but he's not going to be making headlines. The Colts also benefit from a fairly easy schedule this year, and should somewhat easily take the AFC title in 2013.
"Sam, are you freakin insane? Titans over the Texans? Give me some of what you're on."
I've been hearing a lot of that when it comes to how I think my Titans are going to do this year. All I can say is sit back and watch. The Titans have what should be a top-5 offensive line with a combo from left to right of:
Roos - Levitre - Turner/Schwenke - Warmack - Stewart.
I've seen enough out of that unit to know Chris Johnson is going to be able to be CJ2k and just run wild. Chris has shown in the pre-season that he is not as tentative and "happy-footed" as he had been the last two years. He finally trusts the offensive line and just hits the hole, something I was begging the Almighty to make him do last year. Add to the backfield a true "Smash" to CJ's "Dash" in Shonn Greene to help keep CJ fresh, and the Titans can play ball control football. On top of the spectacular run game, I expect HUGE improvements in the passing game. The Titans field easily the best WR core they've had since moving to Tennessee, they will no longer be 100% predictable based on which TE is in the game with Delanie Walker serving as an above adequate pass catcher and extremely high grading run blocker. It all comes down to Jake Locker. The first pre-season game gave me doubts, fear crept in to the back of my mind.. I couldn't stop thinking about it. But, against the Bengals and Falcons I saw what I expected out of him. He did well to keep plays alive with his legs, and for the most part was very accurate with the football. And most importantly he made good decisions. He's not going to throw for 4,000 yards and 30 TD's.. But if he can just limit his mistakes, we won't need that to win football games.
Defensively I expect great improvement from last season. And it all starts with Gregg Williams. The Titans have talent on defense, it just wasn't being used properly. Derrick Morgan came on late last season, and he hasn't shown any signs of it being a fluke this pre-season. Jurrell Casey can be flat out dominant, and Sammie Lee Hill brings a big body into the fold to help stop the run. Behind those two DT's we have Karl Klug and Mike Martin, two somewhat smaller, quicker DT's that provide excellent depth on the interior. I am not a big fan of Ropati Pitoitua as the last starter on the defensive line, but with him rotating with rookie Lavar Edwards and pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley it shouldn't hinder the pass rush too much. This linebacking core has the potential to be very special as well, and the best the Titans have had since Keith Bulluck played opposite David Thornton. Zach Brown is fast, and he can make plays. Akeem Ayers started to come on at the end of last year as well, and looks to have great promise as a pass rusher and edge setter this year. If he can get, and stay, healthy, Colin McCarthy will take his starting spot back from Fokou. McCarthy is a serious playmaker when he's in the game.. He might not make bone crushing hits, and misses an occasional tackle, but he's excellent in pass coverage and he has a nose for the football. In my eyes, perhaps the most important (notice I didn't say best) addition for this Titans team is Bernard Pollard. Sure, he couldn't cover me in pass coverage if his life depended on it, but he brings a serious attitude and physical presence. Something the Titans haven't seen in the secondary in a long time. He will help in the run game, and he will give this defense some swag. His being in Tennessee also finally allows the Titans to put Michael Griffin where he belongs, deep center-field watching the QB and WR's and making plays. McCourty is a solid CB, he's not going to get beat and he's going to limit #1's. Coty Sensebaugh is a pretty darn good Nickel CB as well, and the battle between Verner and Campbell should be fine either way it ends. Campbell brings a bigger, physical edge to the #2 slot, but Verner is a smart player with a nose for the ball.
I'm just not a believer. Arian Foster's per play effectiveness has dipped each of the last 3 years, and he seems to be getting nicked up all the time. The offensive line is not as dominant as it once was. I've never thought Matt Schaub was a great QB, he's just a game manager. Owen Daniels is a good, solid tight end. Andre Johnson is fantastic, and despite his very good numbers last year, anybody who watched him could tell that father time is starting to creep up on him. The best player on this Texans offense this year could very well end up being DeAndre Hopkins, and that's not as good a thing as you might think. Personally, I think last year was their last chance at a Superbowl run. They won't get another real chance until Andre Johnson has his gold jacket, unless they get some 'Luck' and draft a guy like Andrew in the next 3 years.
Defensively, this team is still very solid. To expect JJ Watt to be able to replicate last year is silly though. Opposing teams have now had a full off-season to completely game-plan their offense around what he can do. Antonio Smith is a very solid workmanlike bookend to JJ and will do what he's always done, once he returns from his suspension. Earl Mitchell looked pretty good last year in his time on the field, but this will be his first year as the full-time starter, so it will take some time to see what he's truly got. Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed will form a solid 1-2 punch at OLB for the Texans, but how will they hold up as full time players for the first time? At ILB, Brian Cushing can be an absolute monster.. When he's playing. If he stays healthy, he will bring a serious thump to the inside of this Texans defense, but his ILB running mate will be unspectacular no matter if it's Joe Mays, Darryl Sharpton or Tim Dobbins. In the secondary, everybody is yelling about Ed Reed. All I see when I look at him now is his name. He's still a good player, but just that. His play no longer holds up to his name, but that happens when you hit your mid-30's in the NFL. His SS is Manning, who's a fast, fairly physical presence, but can be caught out of position from time to time. Kareem Jackson was finally a non-liability last year, but Jonathan Joseph was not spectacular. Now that Joseph is healthy, if he can return to his 2011 form and Jackson can continue to not get burned, this will be a very solid CB duo.
Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, those hideous helmets. Need I say more? Okay, all jokes aside, Gabbert didn't look half bad in the pre-season.. But MJD is getting older and he has A LOT of miles on his tires. The Jaguars did well to improve the offensive line this year, which will help Gabbert, who actually graded out positively when given more then 2.7 seconds to throw, and Maurice Jones-Drew. What doesn't help? Not having your best passing weapon for the first four weeks of the season. Blackmon needs to get his head on straight and keep it that way. He's not super fast, but the guy makes plays. Cecil Shorts can be a very good #2 wide receiver in this league, he fits the mold of Victor Cruz to a 'T'. Besides those two, however, the Jaguars really don't have another receiver worth mentioning. And, on top of that, Mercedes Lewis just baffles me. People like him baffle me. You have all this ability, and you show it in a contract year, and then just disappear. Shame.
Defensively the Jaguars somehow seem to always hold their own despite not having the best of players. This year, I'm not so sure they will be able to do that. The only group that looks like it'll be able to hold their own is the Safeties, with Johnathan Cyprien and Dwight Lowery holding down the deep field. Alan Ball is a journeyman who is on his third team in three years, and rookie Dwayne Gratz might develop in to a quality player, but I don't see him as a #1 CB in this league. Russell Allen somehow always seems to generate tackles, but he's not good against the run and he's even worse in coverage. Geno Hayes is a solid linebacker, but he's not a playmaker either. I don't like Paul Posluszny either.. Like Allen, he gets a ton of tackles but he's just plain bad.. He graded out as the 47th of 53 qualifying ILB's last year. And no to the DLine.. I've watched a lot of Jason Babin the last 3 years. He gets a good amount of sacks. But that's all he does. On plays where he doesn't get a sack, he might as well be sitting on the bench because he's just not a factor. Tyson Alualu has moved from DT to be the starting LDE, but he's an unspectacular player who's never had more than 3.5 sacks in a season. On the interior you have Titans castaway Sen'Derrick Marks, who is just plain AWFUL at everything, and Roy Miller who could actually end up being the third best player on this defense behind Cyprien and Lowery. Overall, this is a bad defense teams are going to enjoy playing against.
Chris Schad- Vikings Journalist
1. Colts 13-3 - Count me in on the Andrew Luck bandwagon. In fact, the Colts are the NFL's version of the San Antonio Spurs. In the 1996-97 season, David Robinson was lost for the season due to injury. The result was the Spurs winning the NBA draft-rig...I mean lottery and getting Tim Duncan to ensure another decade of winning. Luck is in the same position after replacing Peyton Manning in Indy. He has the toys to play with, and Chuck Pagano should have them improve with a full season dedicated to the team. This team is a threat in the AFC.
2. Texans 10-6 - The Texans will go as Arian Foster can carry them. While that has been the mantra for the team's success the past couple of seasons, it rings especially true in 2013. Foster missed a majority of camp with back, leg and calf ailments but appears ready to go for Week 1. Unlike the past couple of seasons, the Texans will have legitimate contenders to their throne and will need to split with the Colts to make a push to the playoffs.
3. Titans 8-8 - The Titans will be better than we think, but they're not a playoff team. That's because their aerial attack is slowly dissolving with Kendall Wright suffering a knee injury in the preseason and Kenny Britt having his surgically-repaired knee acting like a ticking time bomb. They also have an inaccurate quarterback in Jake Locker, which has forced the team to go to a run-heavy approach. I think the result will be a renaissance by Chris Johnson, but it won't be enough to get the Titans to where they want to go.
4. Jaguars 2-14 - Blaine is a real American! Jacksonville Jaguars going to...um...about that. The Jaguars have holes everywhere. Like other teams, it starts with the quarterback, but it could start in the backfield as well. Maurice Jones-Drew looks healthy now, but he's coming off a dreaded Lisfranc injury that has sapped other stars like Darren McFadden and Santonio Holmes of time long after their recovery. If MJD goes down (and he likely will), the Jaguars will be in trouble.
Chad Jensen- Broncos Journalist
Indianapolis Colts 12-4
Everyone thought that Andrew Luck was a maniacal freak in 2012, but it'll be nothing compared to the knowledge he's gonna drop in 2013. I'm thinking that he approaches Aaron Rodgers type numbers. His play, along with a vastly improved roster, will lead the Colts back to being the top dogs in the AFC South.
Houston Texans 11-5
The Texans might have J.J. Watt, Arian Foster, and Andre Johnson, but they don't have a true difference maker at Quarterback. Simply put, I don't believe Matt Schaub has what it takes to lead this team to the next level. And they'll have their hands full trying to keep Luck and the Colts at bay. They won't succeed in winning the division, but they'll make the playoffs.
Tennessee Titans 7-9
I haven't seen any true improvement from Jake Locker in his 2 year stint as the QB in Tennessee. And as mentioned above, without elite QB play, it's impossible for a team to truly contend for big things in the NFL. The Titan's O-line is vastly improved, and they still have CJ2K, but until Locker turns the corner, they're a sub 500 team.
Jacksonville Jaguars 4-12
Blain Gabbert is the Quarterback. Enough said. MJD is not enough to overcome all of the holes in this roster. They have some good, young talent in guys like Monroe, Joeckel, Blackmon, and Shorts. But without a QB.....do the Jag's Brass honestly believe that Gabbert/Henne are superior QBs to one Timothy Richard Tebow? Ponder that, people.
Seth Keysor- Chiefs Journalist
Houston Texans 11-5
J.J. Watt, if he gets any better this next year, will win them half a dozen games all by himself. Actually, if he gets any better this next year he will probably just go ahead and eat someone right there on the field. The Texans have been "good" for awhile and I don't see that changing this year.
Indianapolis Colts 8-8
I'm not buying the hype. I mean, I buy the Andrew Luck hype, for sure. But people are underestimating just how fluky some of those wins were for the Colts last year. One disclaimer is Bradshaw. If he can stay healthy, he can provide enough balance that their offense could be very, very potent. Except this is like betting on Lucy to not pull the ball out from under Charlie Brown. Bradshaw will get hurt. It's just in his nature.
Tennessee Titans 8-8
I have no idea why, but I can't give up on the idea that Jake Locker might make a legitimate NFL quarterback. And don't sleep on Chris Johnson having a massive year with blockers that actually, like, block and stuff.
Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13
If it weren't for the existence of the Oakland Raiders, this would be the worst roster in the NFL. Of course, the Raiders have something like 8 billion dollars coming free under the cap next season. The Jags? They have Blaine Gabbert. Poor MJD.
Other than the fact that Titans fans are absolute homers (unlike the rest of the staff, who are so realistic and stuff), it's tough to take much out other than "no one has any idea what's going to happen in this division." We can be certain of only one thing... teams will play football
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Posted 05 September 2013 - 11:39 PM
I would agree if they didn't win 9 in 2011 with Hasselbeck, no Kenny Britt, no run game, and hardly any defense. If that team could win 9 games, this team definitely can. Every position is better than the team fielded in 2011 and 2012.
I'm sorry but this Titans team is a 7, prossibly 8 win team.
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Posted 05 September 2013 - 11:49 PM
Every starter on the offensive line got injured. Jake Locker was injured. Kenny Britt was battling injuries. There goes the whole offense. Our defensive captain was injured, the middle linebacker. We ran more conservative schemes than we are this year. This team is completely different and better.
Yeah but they didnt win many games last year though?
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Posted 05 September 2013 - 11:53 PM
Posted 06 September 2013 - 01:10 AM
I just dont think Locker is good at all. Also when a guy who couldn't crack the starting ILB spots for the Colts last year and is not brought back is the new starting MLB I don't think the defense is very good either.
You have no reason to think he is, yet. But he's going to be solid this year, at worst. By all accounts he's had a very good camp and his pre season was quite impressive. This is his first year as "The Guy" completely. Last year he split reps with Hasslebeck before winning the battle.
Fokou is the starter only in name. Colin is healthy now and will take over that role very soon.
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Posted 06 September 2013 - 01:55 AM
I think the Titans need a new Head Coach before they start winning again.
While possible, I don't necessarily agree. The players have bought in to what Munchak is selling this year. And for the first time as a HC, Bud Adams has given him free reign. This will be the year he solidifies himself as the long term or earns a pink slip.
Edited by Sami Mamou, 06 September 2013 - 03:18 AM.
Posted 31 October 2013 - 04:40 AM
So far, Sami is the closest to being right. But he gave the Jags a little too much credit and the Texans way too much. The jury is out on the Titans, as 10-6 is still realistic.
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Posted 31 October 2013 - 08:17 AM
Injuries ravaged that defense of the Texans.
I guess I did give the Jags too much credit. They havent used MJD like I thought they would, which makes no sense when your QB's are trash.
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