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NFL: Predicting 2013 AFC South Finishing Order

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Predicting 2013 AFC South Finishing Order

NFL
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to believe Training Camps are opening for all 32 NFL teams within the next week. It seems like we were just watching the Baltimore Ravens hoist the Lombardi Trophy with their Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers just yesterday.

Now, 32 teams enter training camp with one goal in mind and that’s for their chance to hoist the Lombardi at MetLife Stadium in February.

The AFC South has two teams primed and ready to be in the conversation of winning the Super Bowl this year, one team a few years away and one still in rebuild mode.

Last year, the Houston Texans won the division with a 12-4 record. Many thought they should have been a little better than that as hype for the Texans’ first trip to the Super Bowl was as high as ever. They had a bad midseason run which left fans with a bitter taste in their mouth after what could have been. They should be back this season for another run.

The biggest surprise of the division and the NFL last year was the Indianapolis Colts. They were coming off of a 2-14 season with a big time rebuild in place. The shocked everyone with many new starters and relying heavily on rookies to an 11-5 record and AFC Wildcard playoff berth.

Can the repeat this year and actually improve?

The battle for the division crown is going to come down to the final week as the AFC South will be very top heavy with the top teams battling for not just the division, but playoff seeding.

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4. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

NFL
Rob Foldy- USA Today Sports

Last Year's Record: 2-14

2013 Wins: at Oakland, Buffalo

2013 Losses: Kansas City, at Seattle, Indianapolis, at St. Louis, at Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, at Tennessee, Arizona, at Houston, at Cleveland, Houston, Tennessee, at Indianapolis

2013 Division Record: 0-6

It was a rough 2012 season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert struggled mightily, as did the entire team. After being tied for the worst record last year, I don’t expect them to be much better in 2013.

The Jags will once again struggle on both sides of the ball. They drafted offensive lineman Luke Joeckel with the second pick in April’s draft, but he doesn’t have much help besides Eugene Monroe on the line.

The running back position is solidified with Maurice Jones-Drew, but MJD has been injury prone as of late and he doesn’t have much help around him.

Gabbert will have to improve his play at quarterback big time, but I don’t see that happening. With a new GM and front office ownership, it’s probably time for the Jags to cut ties with their former first-round pick and I have a feeling it will come at the end of this year.

The biggest question mark with trying to rebuild is, how long do they go with Gabbert? The Jaguars have a tough schedule with four of their first six games being on the road. They likely will be 1-7 going into the bye week in Week 9.

With that bad of a record, maybe you just bench Gabbert after the bye, get rid of him and tank the season for another top-three draft pick in the 2014 draft. It won’t get much better after the bye anyways with three of the four after the week off being on the road.

Overall, it’s going to be a rough season for the Jaguars as they will once again be among the worst teams in the league. When Cecil Shorts is the second-best receiving weapon, you know it’s going to be a long year.

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3. Tennessee Titans (7-9)

NFL
Don McPeak- USA Today Sports

Last Year’s Record: 6-10

2013 Wins: San Diego, NY Jets, Kansas City, Jacksonville, at Oakland, Arizona, Jacksonville

2013 Losses: at Pittsburgh, at Houston, at Seattle, San Francisco, at St. Louis, Indianapolis, at Indianapolis, at Denver, Houston

2013 Division Record: 2-4

The Tennessee Titans will have an improved year from last year’s six-win season, but it will only be by a game or two. They will struggle against the division as both the Colts and Texans are just far too superior with great defenses that will give the Titans’ offense problems.

The Titans are better than last year as they addressed their offensive line issues. Tennessee brought in former Buffalo Bills guard Andy Levitre and drafted another guard in Chance Warmack out of Alabama with their 10th pick in April’s NFL Draft.

The Titans also signed WR Kevin Walter and drafted WR Justin Hunter to improve the receiving weapons for quarterback Jake Locker. The youngster now has Kenny Britt, Walter and Hunter for weapons which are all three very good options to have.

Tennessee also upgraded their safety spots with bringing in George Wilson and Bernard Pollard for those two starting spots.

Overall, it’s going to be an average season for the Titans. They now have weapons on offense, but are still very young. They face some daunting defenses in 2013 with Houston and Indy twice, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Denver and St. Louis.

Without having the ability to really light up the scoreboard and the front seven of their defense still struggling, I have a feeling they will lose to the teams with better defenses.

Overall, the future is bright for Tennessee. They just need more defensive help. They will likely start off 0-2, though, as they play on the road at Pittsburgh and Houston to start the season. From there, they have three very winnable games at home with San Diego, NYJ and Kansas City. Then it’s three more tough games with road games at Seattle and St. Louis sandwiched by a home game with the 49ers.

The Titans are still a year or two away.

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2. Indianapolis Colts (13-3)

NFL
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Last Year’s Record: 11-5

2013 Wins: Oakland, Miami, at Jacksonville, Seattle, at San Diego, Denver, St. Louis, at Tennessee, at Arizona, Tennessee, Houston, at Kansas City, Jacksonville

2013 Losses: at San Francisco, at Houston, at Cincinnati

2013 Division Record: 5-1

Last year was one of the most surprising season’s in NFL history for the Indianapolis Colts. After a 2-14 year in 2011 they replaced the entire front office including the GM, fired the whole coaching staff and cut all the players that made them one of the most feared teams the decade prior including Peyton Manning.

At the beginning of 2012, the Colts had a rookie quarterback, rookie tight ends, rookie receivers (outside of Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery), a new 3-4 defense with 4-3 players, a first time head coach and rookie GM. Everyone picked the Colts to finish in the bottom two or three in the league.

Even after their head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in their bye week early in the season, they still rallied back to an 11-win season and made the playoffs.

It turned out the rookies they drafted were extremely good and the weapons they put around them were fantastic.

This offseason, the Colts signed 11 new players who are all very good impact contributors, re-signed three guys and made a trade. They also had a very good draft getting guys for positional needs instead of the flashy names.

With needing offensive line, defensive line and secondary help, the Colts addressed all three issues. They’re now not just a back-end playoff team, but a Super Bowl contender.

I’d like to think the new guys for this team could account for two more wins at least and make Indy 13-3. They now have a very stout defense which should be the best at that side of the ball since the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984.

Then on offense, Luck will only be better with Wayne, both tight ends, T.Y. Hilton another year older and signing Darrius Heyward-Bey. Those are very good weapons for Luck as the Colts offense should be near the top of the NFL.

Also factor in Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw in the backfield with some big time help on the line and this offense is as good as it’s ever been.

This could be a very special season for Indianapolis. Like I said, if they’re 11-5 in year one of a rebuilding year, what are they going to do in year two with adding more talent, depth and the rookies becoming another year older?

The biggest game of the year will certainly be the home game with Denver. It’s a Sunday Night game with Manning returning to his former home. Most will pick Denver to win this game but I like Indy.

Manning struggles against defenses like the Colts. It’s his Achilles heel. With the emotion in Lucas Oil Stadium that night, I just like Indy.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see Indy in the Super Bowl this February either. Do you remember who was 13-3 in year two as a Colt? That’s right, Manning. The similarities of him and Luck should continue through this year.

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1. Houston Texans (14-2)

NFL
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Last Year’s Record: 12-4

2013 Wins: at San Diego, Tenessee, at Baltimore, Seattle, St. Louis, at Kansas City, Indianapolis, at Arizona, Oakland, Jacksonville, New England, at Jacksonville, Denver, at Tennessee

2013 Losses: at San Francisco, at Indianapolis

2013 Division Record: 5-1

This may be the last gasp for the Houston Texans at a Super Bowl. They’re aging and have many key players as free agents following the season.

After the past two years where they were supposed to make some noise in the regular and postseason, they had collapses.

Houston returns the big three on offense with Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Their biggest issues on that side of the ball is going to be receivers and the line.

The second option now is DeAndre Hopkins, who’s a rookie. He has all the ability in the world, but no one knows what he can do in the NFL yet. Then Devier Posey is the third option and really not much after that.

If Johnson can’t be healthy or gets locked down, Schaub really has no one to throw that. That’s where the importance of Foster and the running game is going to be with keeping the defense on their toes.

On the defensive side of the ball the Texans are among the league’s best. This will be one feared defensive unit in 2013 if they can stay healthy. The back eight is going to make it tough to throw the ball as in my mind it’s the best back eight in the league.

Then there’s J.J. Watt who’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s the best defender out there.

The Texans have a very formidable schedule to be the top seed in the AFC. Their defense can stop anyone and the offense can do just enough to get by with big playmaking ability.

The Seattle, Baltimore, New England and Denver games will all be tough, but the Texans are better. Baltimore’s defense won’t be as good as they take a step back. Their offense will have a tough time with this defense which equates to a Houston win.

New England will be down this year with the big hit their offense took. The Texans have the defense to get to Tom Brady and make it tough to throw to his inexperienced receivers. Mix in crowd noise and Houston should rout New England like the Pats did to them on Monday Night Football last year.

Then the Seattle and Denver games will be virtually the same. I don’t think either offenses could do much against this defense and if Houston can limit turnovers, the advantage is on their side.

It’s going to be a very good year for Houston.

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1st Team All-AFC South

NFL
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The All-AFC South Team is good enough to go against the best divisions in the league. It has an already elite quarterback in Andrew Luck, one of the best running back’s in Arian Foster and two very good veteran receivers in Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson.

The defense is among the best too with it being very Houston Texans heavy.

Offense:

QB- Andrew Luck- Indianapolis Colts RB- Arian Foster- Houston Texans WR- Reggie Wayne- Indianapolis Colts WR- Andre Johnson- Houston Texans TE- Owen Daniels- Houston Texans TE- Dwayne Allen- Indianapolis Colts LT- Duane Brown- Houston Texans LG- Andy Levitre- Tennessee Titans C- Samson Satele- Indianapolis Colts RG- Chance Warmack- Tennessee Titans RT- Luke Joeckel- Jacksonville Jaguars

Defense:

DE- Cory Redding- Indianapolis Colts DT- Josh Chapman- Indianapolis Colts DE- J.J. Watt- Houston Texans OLB- Robert Mathis- Indianapolis Colts ILB- Brian Cushing- Houston Texans ILB- Akeem Ayers- Tennessee Titans OLB- Whitney Mercilus- Houston Texans CB- Vontae Davis- Indianapolis Colts CB- Jonathan Joseph- Houston Texans FS- Ed Reed- Houston Texans SS- LaRon Landry- Indianapolis Colts