Mike Ivcic’s AFC South Division Preview & Predictions

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Welcome to the Ultimate Capper’s NFL Season Preview. Below is the schedule for the division-by-division breakdown for the upcoming season. Also, we’re enhancing our NFL coverage this year with Mike Ivcic’s regular column every Wednesday and a full game-by-game breakdown every Saturday, in addition to our regular features and free picks. The best place for information on the 2013 NFL season is right here at the Ultimate Capper!


AFC West – Tue, 8/13 NFC North – Wed, 8/14 NFC East – Thu, 8/15
AFC South – Fri, 8/16 NFC South – Tue, 8/20 AFC North – Wed, 8/21
NFC West – Thu, 8/22 AFC East – Fri, 8/23 Playoffs – Wed, 8/28

Houston Texans
Record Last Season: 12-4
Over/Under Win Total: 10.5
Odds to win AFC South: 2/5
Odds to win AFC Title: 13/2
Odds to win Super Bowl: 18/1
Outlook: At some point, Houston will actually have to deliver in the postseason in order to finally live up to the sky-high expectations that have been set for this group. They also may have to do it on the road, something they’ve been incapable of doing in the last two years. Beating the Bengals at home in the first round each of the last two postseasons is nice, but it’s also expected. Getting physically manhandled by the Ravens defense two years ago and getting torched by the Patriots offense last year – both on the road – doesn’t exactly scream “Super Bowl contender.” By now, you know the pieces that are in place – QB Matt Schaub, RB Arian Forster, WR Andre Johnson, DE J.J. Watt, LB Brian Cushing, and CB Jonathan Joseph all rank at least in the top 10 at their respective positions, and in the case of Foster and Watt they’re top two (Adrian Peterson and Demarcus Ware may have solid arguments, respectively). The role players, complimentary pieces, and suitable backups are also all in place, so this is the season Houston has to make the jump to at least the AFC championship game. The Patriots, Steelers, and Ravens have all lost key pieces and fallen off slightly, the Bengals, Colts, Dolphins, Chiefs, Browns, and Bills are all still building and are at least a year away or more, the Jets, Chargers, Raiders, Titans, and Jaguars are mired in misery and/or transition – aside from Denver, who else can claim to have a better shot at winning this conference than the Texans? They brought Ed Reed over from Baltimore for just this reason – leadership and that “winner’s mentality” – so it’s put up or shut up time for this franchise.
Prediction: 12-4, 1st place

Indianapolis Colts
Record Last Season: 11-5
Over/Under Win Total: 8.5
Odds to win AFC South: 12/5
Odds to win AFC Title: 15/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40/1
Outlook: If ever there was a perfect example of just how important a quarterback is in the current NFL, this is it. One season after going 2-14 without the services of Peyton Manning, the Colts draft Andrew Luck and promptly win 11 games and return to the postseason. That storyline is the one you know, but there are other reasons this franchise made such a quick turnaround aside from the guy under center. Indy has a nice arsenal of weapons on offense like Reggie Wayne and Darius Heyward-Bay at receiver, Donald Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw at running back, and Luck’s Stanford teammate Colby Fleener at tight end. The question is whether a somewhat revamped defense will be any better than 29th against the pass as they were last season. Longtime defensive captain Dwight Freeney is gone, leaving Robert Mathis as the default leader, and the addition of LaRon Landry at safety should at least help the secondary even if the pass rush suffers. The Colts still have 12 rookies competing for spots on defense, though, so it remains to be seen just exactly how that side of the ball will look for Indy. Still, the offense should be good enough – especially in a division that still houses two fairly weak teams – to get this team a second consecutive trip to the playoffs.
Prediction: 10-6, 2nd place


Jacksonville Jaguars
Record Last Season: 2-14
Over/Under Win Total: 5
Odds to win AFC South: 28/1
Odds to win AFC Title: 125/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 250/1
Outlook: There are two really disheartening facts that immediately emerge just in looking at the Jaguars roster. The first is that there are actually some nice players on this team who have proven themselves to be serviceable NFL starters at their respective positions. Obviously Maurice Jones-Drew gets most of the attention, but LB Paul Posluszny, TE Marcedes Lewis, and WR Mohamed Massaquoi have all had solid, respectable careers, and WR Justin Blackmon should be a stud, if he can ever get his act together off the field. The second disheartening fact is that there really is no hope for this group because the QB position is just that bad. As a Michigan fan, I like Chad Henne, but he’s just too immobile to be effective in this league, and Blaine Gabbert has proven in the last two years that he just can’t handle the rigors of playing QB at this level. This team probably shouldn’t be as bad as they are, or will be, because there’s definitely talent here, but between the lack of a true leader at QB coupled with such a dismal situation between the fans, ownership, and the city of Jacksonville, it’s almost as if the Jags season is over before it even starts. Maybe new head coach Gus Bradley will infuse life into this franchise, utilize the talent on the roster to its fullest, get a surprising year from either Henne or Gabbert, and manage to luck his way into a 6- or 7-win season… but I just don’t see it.
Prediction: 3-13, 4th place

Tennessee Titans
Record Last Season: 6-10
Over/Under Win Total: 6.5
Odds to win AFC South: 8/1
Odds to win AFC Title: 66/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 150/1
Outlook: I’m about to set up a gigantic contradiction here, because I actually think Tennessee will be a better team than they were last year but win fewer games. On the front side, they added RB Shonn Greene and officially handed the reins of the offense to Jake Locker, bringing in Ryan Fitzpatrick as a backup – the role for which he’s actually best suited. The defense has a very nice blend of some quite capable veterans like Bernard Pollard and Michael Griffin in secondary, Tim Shaw at linebacker, and Kameron Wimbley on the D-line to go with some first- and second-year players that should leave an immediate impact. There are issues here, though – there is still no definitive second receiver behind Kenny Britt, Locker hasn’t actually proven to be a top-tier NFL QB, they’re clearly the third-best team in their division, and they draw both the AFC and NFC West, where they’re guaranteed losses to Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle right off the top. Add to that two losses to Houston and a loss in Indianapolis, and suddenly the Titans have to win almost every toss-up game (home to San Diego, Indianapolis, and Kansas City; at Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Oakland) just to try to get to .500. Assuming they win even half of those games I just listed, that’s a minimum of nine losses, so the Titans brass would be better served focusing on Locker’s development and making a run for the playoffs next year than worrying about how many wins they get this year.
Prediction: 5-11, 3rd place


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