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Football picksJuly 17, 2008

NFL Previews 2008: AFC South

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:
 
1. INDIANAPOLIS
2. JACKSONVILLE
3. HOUSTON
4. TENNESSEE

INDIANAPOLIS
COACH: TONY DUNGY 7th yr (80-28)
LAST YEAR:  13-3
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS:  3-1
BIGGEST ADDITION: DOMINIC RHODES RB
BIGGEST LOSS: ROB MORRIS  LB

DIRECTION: GOING DOWN
OUTLOOK: The Colts have dealt with a lot of roster changes year to year, but this season they have for the most part stayed intact. This is a team that has dominated on the offensive side of the ball for years, with an improved defense the past couple of seasons making them one of the league’s elite teams. The biggest asset remains at QB where Peyton Manning provides the leadership and talent to keep this team in every game and on the list of Super Bowl contenders year in and year out. Manning has yet to miss time with an injury of any sort, and that remains a key to this team’s success. If Manning lines up behind center, the Colts will win a lot of games just from his ability to run the offense with great efficiency. If he goes down, the Colts could be in trouble. But since that has yet to happen, another good season is likely in store for Indianapolis. They must however contend with the second toughest schedule behind Pittsburgh. So, don’t look for 13 wins again in 2008.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:  11-5

JACKSONVILLE
COACH: JACK DEL RIO 6th yr (46-37)
LAST YEAR:  11-5
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS: 1-2
BIGGEST ADDITION: JERRY PORTER  WR
BIGGEST LOSS: MARCUS STROUD  DT

DIRECTION: GOING DOWN
OUTLOOK: The Jaguars know that the AFC South goes through Indianapolis, and until they can find a way to beat the Colts, they will be looking up at them again. The Jags have lost nine of their last 12 against the Colts, and all they have to do is see Peyton Manning calling signals, and a back seat seems to be their destiny. The Jags gave up four draft picks to address this issue, moving up to add Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves, two of the top pass rushers in the draft. How this translates in upsetting the balance of power in the AFC South remains to be seen. The Jags realized the had something in David Garrard and signed him to a six-year deal. Unfortunately for Jacksonville fans, the Jags drew the third toughest schedule this season based on opponents’ 2007 record. This is a very good team, but we still see them as being a notch below the Colts.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:  10-6

HOUSTON
COACH: GARY KUBIAK 3rd yr (14-18)
LAST YEAR:  8-8
GAMES DECIDE BY 3 OR LESS:  1-1
BIGGEST ADDITION: CHRIS BROWN RB
BIGGEST LOSS: DANNY CLARK  LB

DIRECTION: GOING NOWHERE
OUTLOOK: The Texans finally made it to .500, and their is a lot of optimism in Houston thanks to a bright young coach and stability at the QB position. Relative to the past, they are improved, but the reality remains that they still aren’t that good. They beat Jacksonville in week 17, a team that was resting starters for the playoffs. It was their only win within their division where they finished 1-5. To make further strides, they must do a better job here, and they just aren’t as good as the other teams in their division. Matt Schaub did a great job, but he did miss five games with injuries, and left four other games early. He has to do a better job of staying on the field for the Texans to have a chance to be a better team this season. The start of the season includes three of the first four on the road at Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Jacksonville, and they may get out of the gate slow. When all is said and done, we don’t expect much change from ’07 here.
 
PREDICTED FINISH:   8-8
 
TENNESSEE
COACH: JEFF FISHER 15th yr (120-104)
LAST YEAR:  10-6 
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS:  2-2
BIGGEST ADDITION: JEVON KEARSE
BIGGEST LOSS: ANTWON ODOM

DIRECTION: GOING DOWN
OUTLOOK: To win in the NFL you need an outstanding QB and a core of recievers to throw to. That still seems to be the problem in Tennessee as the more snaps Vince Young takes, the more defenses adjust to his legs. Young had a disappointing 2007 season, as he threw just nine TD passes all season. The Titans have yet to put recievers on the field to make things look much different. He also ran for a lot less yards than he did in 2006. The bottom line is the Titans scored 20 points or less in 12 of their 16 games. The losses of Antwon Odom and Travis LeBoy who shared time at left DE and combined for 14 sacks, is going to hurt them defensively as well. We see this team taking a step back from their playoff appearance last year, a game which they managed just 6 points, and battling Houston for the basement in the South. A tougher schedule this season all but ensures a losing record for Fisher and Co.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:  7-9