The season is here, so naturally it is time to look ahead to the playoffs. No? This eight-part series takes a look at each division and discusses the outlook for every team in the NFL — in both the regular season and playoffs.
TEAM: Indianapolis Colts
RECORD: 15-1 | Win Division
REASON: The Indianapolis Colts have only gotten better since last season when they went to the Super Bowl so why not 15-1? Some will bring up that Bill Polian will rest players the last two games, but he may not be to. There will be division games at the end of the season, which could mean that no matter their record is they will have to play there starters, or at least most of them. There are two big additions that can really help the Colts this season. The first is safety Bob Sanders; if he stays healthy it will be a huge boost to the defense. On offense the Colts obviously have Manning, but he has outstanding targets in Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Pierre Garçon, and returning former first round pick Anthony Gonzalez. The team’s weakness is the offensive line, it will be the dominant area of concern for the team and fans throughout the season.
TEAM: Houston Texans
RECORD: 10-6 | Win the Wild Card (Texans get in because they win one more division game than the Jags).
REASON: The Houston Texans have continued to rise in the AFC South over the last few years but have been unable to get over the hump and make it into the playoffs. Last year, they had their first winning season in franchise history, but still missed the playoffs. The easy answer is to win more games in their own division, but it will not be easy to accomplish. They have to start by beating the Colts and even then they cannot get swept by anyone in the division and will need to sweep at least one division team themselves. The absence of Brian Cushing, one of their top defenders, and last year’s defensive rookie of the year, who is serving a four-game suspension, will make their job more difficult. One guy will help is running back Arian Foster who is expected to have a break out year. The second is their deep wide receiver corps, with a player like Jacoby Jones projected to have a productive year.
TEAM: Jacksonville Jaguars | No playoffs (just barely missing)
REASON: For the Jacksonville Jaguars to go 10-6 two things have to happen. Their defensive line will need to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This should take pressure off of the team’s weakness at safety. Maurice Jones-Drew is still a top-five running back, but the offensive line needs to do a better this season. For that to happen, quarterback David Garrard will need to be consistent with his short passes to tight end Marcedes Lewis, and wide receivers Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas. If the Jaguars accomplish this, they should be able to get 10 wins.
TEAM: Tennessee Titans
RECORD: 4-12 | No Playoffs
REASON: With the Tennessee Titans it could seem unbelievable that they will only have four wins with NFL rushing champion Chris Johnson on the team. There is no doubt that the Titans have a strong ground game. The issue is, the running game will only amount to so much if quarterback Vince Young does not show up to play on Sundays. While Young is the butt of many jokes, Titans fans do have something to look forward to as Tennessee’s passing targets have improved and Young has showed flashes of improved accuracy. He has yet to prove that he is capable of holding it together for a full season though. Beyond the questions surrounding Young, Tennessee’s biggest concern last season was their weakness on the defensive side of the ball. There is some hope that the Titans defensive line will be better this season with the acquisitions of Derrick Morgan and Jason Babin, along with the return of a healthy Jason Jones. Where Tennessee remains unproven is in the secondary. With so many changes and questions on the defensive side of the ball, look for the Titans to have a disappointing season.