2009 AFC South Predictions
2009 AFC South preview from MadduxSports.com. After studying the NFL teams get signed up for our Free Pro Picks for the top handicappers on the internet.
2009 AFC South Division Preview
By Adam Barone
There could be a power shift in the AFC South this season, as Albert Haynesworth and Tony Dungy have both moved on. The Titans still look like the team to beat, but every one of the four teams has a shot. If the Texans can keep Matt Schaub healthy, they could make their first ever playoff appearance.
Tennessee Titans (10-6): Not only is Haynesworth gone to the Redskins, but defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is now head coach of the Lions. Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher is one of the best in the league though, and will have his defense prepared to repeat its ranking of seventh overall. Fisher’s defense is perennially among the NFL’s most physically dominant, despite not having many big stars.
Kerry Collins is unquestionably the starting quarterback for this season, and was given a few new weapons in the offseason. Free agent receiver Nate Washington was signed from the Steelers, and former Rutgers’ receiver Kenny Britt was taken in the draft to add depth to the receiving corps. Collins was also given a new two-year contract, which puts Vince Young very close to unemployment.
The offense will still revolve around running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Johnson topped 1,200 yards as a rookie a season ago, and White scored 15 touchdowns. White has slimmed down considerably, and is in a contract year, so he may be primed for a big season.
Houston Texans (9-7): The Texans have finished with 8-8 records the past two seasons, but starting quarterback Matt Schaub has played just 11 games in each of those seasons. Star receiver Andre Johnson led the league with 115 catches in 2008, and the Texans finished 3rd in the league in offense. Rookie running back Steve Slaton surprised just about everyone, topping 1,200 yards and scoring nine touchdowns in 2008.
What’s the point? The Texans have a ton of potential, but need to keep Schaub healthy and play defense. That defense was the 22nd best in the NFL last season, and had just 25 sacks, while allowing a 92.3 quarterback rating against them. They need to find a way to get more pressure on the opposing passer. Their first round pick, linebacker Brian Cushing out of USC, should be a quality player, but isn’t a pass rusher. Five of their eight draft picks were used on defense, so the unit should be improved overall, and the Texans could compete for a division title.
Indianapolis Colts (9-7): The Colts have almost an entirely new coaching staff heading into the 2009 season following Tony Dungy’s retirement. Jim Caldwell is the new head coach, but with Peyton Manning still around, it probably doesn’t matter who’s running the team. Receiver Anthony Gonzalez will step into Marvin Harrison’s role across from Reggie Wayne, and should have his best season by far. Running back Joseph Addai was a disappointment last season, and will split carries with first round pick Donald Brown this season. Brown and Addai are similar players, and should see relatively even time.
Defensive tackles Fili Moala and Terrance Taylor were drafted to help shore up the run after the Colts allowed 4.2 yards per rush last season. The hope is that they can gain more control of the game and not end up in as many shoot-outs. There’s probably no reason for Colts’ fans to worry just yet, but the division is getting more competitive. Manning’s window to win another Super Bowl may be closing.
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9): The Jags were a popular sleeper last season, but ended up being a huge disappointment, going 5-11. The preverbal house was cleaned, as running back Fred Taylor and receivers Reggie Williams, Jerry Porter, and Matt Jones were all shown the door. Maurice Jones-Drew will now be the featured back, and the supplemental role will probably go to bruiser Greg Jones. Former Rams’ star Torry Holt was signed to be the primary pass-catching target for quarterback David Garrard, who threw just 15 touchdowns to go with 13 interceptions last season. Tackle Tra Thomas was brought in to improve the offensive line, which gave up 42 sacks in 2008—good for eighth most in the league.
The defense allowed 5.7 yards per play last season and finished as the league’s 17th best unit, a terrible reflection on head coach Jack Del Rio, a former linebacker. They also had just 29 sacks, 20th best in the league. There’s still plenty of talent on this team, so Del Rio may be the former head coach if he doesn’t find a way to win a lot more than five games this season.