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2012 NFL Predictions: Breaking Down The AFC South

Over the next week and a half, I’ll be taking a look at each of the NFL’s individual divisions and offering my thoughts and predictions for how they will fare in the 2012-13 campaign. Today’s edition will feature a look at the South division of the American Football Conference, featuring the defending champion Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans.

The schedule for the 2012 NFL predictions pieces is as follows:

AFC East (Sept. 1)

AFC South

AFC North

AFC West

NFC East

NFC South

NFC North

NFC West

Award Winners

AFC Playoffs

NFC Playoffs

Superbowl 47

Without further ado, my predictions for the AFC South…..

1) Houston Texans — (11-5) — If not for the bevy of injuries at the quarterback position last season, we may very well be talking about the Texans as this year’s defending Super Bowl champions. Young T.J. Yates performed quite admirably when called upon last year but ultimately wasn’t ready to lead the Texans past Jon Harbaugh‘s stout Baltimore defense in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. With starter Matt Schaub returning to action and Andre Johnson finally healthy to begin the year, the Texans should be right back in the thick of things in the AFC playoff picture. Despite losing explosive pass rushers DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams to trade and free agency, Houston’s front-seven should be equally as suffocating as it was one year ago. Youngsters like rookie Whitney Mercilus, J.J. Watt and Connor Barwin are expected to see expanded roles in Wade Phillips‘ defense.

2) Tennessee Titans — (7-9) — The Titans have now officially handed the keys to the franchise off to second-year quarterback Jake Locker. After a season of tutelage under veteran signal caller Matt Hasselbeck, Locker seems to be ready to take over the Tennessee offense. He’ll be faced with baptism by fire in week one as his Titans are set to open up the 2012 campaign against Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots at LP Field in Nashville.

3) Jacksonville Jaguars — (7-9) — Though most Jacksonville fans may not know it, judging by their attendance record over the past few seasons, the Jaguars do possess one of the AFC’s most loaded offensive lineups. The recent return of explosive tailback Maurice Jones-Drew should help the Jags return to the top of the NFL in the rushing department. Tight end Marcedes Lewis may, in fact, be the most underrated player at his position in the entire league. At the receiver position, rookie phenom Justin Blackmon has looked tremendous in the preseason and should become a major weapon on the outside for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

4) Indianapolis Colts — (3-13) — The Colts made wholesale changes this winter, replacing longtime general manager Bill Polian, head coach Jim Caldwell and, of course, quarterback Peyton Manning. Fortunately for the faithful fans of the blue and white, the team was lucky enough to select the heir to Manning’s throne, Stanford product Andrew Luck, with the first overall selection in this year’s draft. The future is most certainly bright in Indy, but the Colts won’t reach the end of the tunnel for at least another couple of seasons.

Thanks For Reading!

Twitter: @_BWoodward