It seems that the trendy pick this offseason is to pick someone new in the AFC South rather than the Houston Texans to repeat as division champions. True, they ended the 2012 season in the most amazing downward spiral in recent memory, but they’ve actually improved since then. Yet, the Indianapolis Colts are the new media darlings and the favorites to pull the upset within the division this year.
No one expected the Colts to achieve what they did last season; and after losing Bruce Arians and making some real head-scratching moves in free agency, combined with a tougher schedule, I’m failing to see how some consider them the favorite in the division this year.
Before I go any further, I do believe that Andrew Luck is going to be the truth. He’s going to own this division the same way his predecessor did. It just isn’t happening until 2014 at the earliest, in my opinion.
Houston had three glaring problems last season and I feel like they have addressed all of them. First, they needed to get more explosive in the receiving game. Upgrading the near-useless (in the pass catching area) Kevin Walter with a playmaker like DeAndre Hopkins is like going from a rotary telephone to a Samsung Galaxy S4.
Next, the rushing game hit a wall late in the year with Arian Foster‘s overuse and in turn, Matt Schaub became ineffective. I’ve said it time and time again — if the system isn’t working, your system quarterback isn’t going to work. Having a healthy Ben Tate out of the doghouse of Gary Kubiak will mean the world for Foster this year. The decreased workload and an offense that will pass more will keep Foster fresh.
Lastly, the linebacker play had become high school football quality by the time the team was blown out again in Foxborough in the conference semifinals. Getting back Brian Cushing is almost like a huge free agent signing. It’s pretty tough to play out the season after losing an All-Pro defensive captain, and having Cushing back should change everything on that defense.
For the Colts, I don’t like the expression “falling back to earth” when talking about their 2013 season. I don’t think you can play a full season on high emotion and “win one for the gipper.” Could they pull an upset? Sure. Anything is possible in this league. But a tougher schedule and a healthy Texans team makes them still a year away.
Luck is going to be a top-three quarterback in the NFL, maybe even this year. But that’s the only reason I can see for anyone to be picking the Colts this season to win the AFC South. Their goal is likely another Wild Card appearance and to stay healthy in case the Texans falter.
At this point, the Texans suffering injuries and other setbacks is far more likely than the Colts beating out a healthy Texans team for the AFC South crown in 2013.