The Houston Texans have won the AFC South the past two seasons, and should contend again for the division crown. But there are three other teams in the division, and each of them pose a separate threat to the Texans.
The Indianapolis Colts pose the biggest danger to the Texans’ reign of the South, having finished with an 11-5 record in 2012, just one game behind Houston. The Colts also finished with a 1-1 record against the Texans last season.
The Colts had a better home record (7-1) than the Texans (6-2), but they didn’t perform nearly as well on the road (the Colts went 4-4, compared to the Texans 6-2 record away from Reliant Stadium).
Andrew Luck had more passing yards (4,374) than Matt Schaub (4,008) and a better QBR rating with arguably worse receivers (Reggie Wayne is the only notable receiver on their roster). With the addition of Darrius Heyward-Bay, the Colts’ passing game could really take off in 2013.
The Colts have an 18-4 record against Houston in 12 years of competition, and though Peyton Manning is the main reason for that success, Luck didn’t almost win the Heisman Trophy for no reason.
The Tennessee Titans could also pose a threat against Houston, as they have Jake Locker on his second full season as a starter. Locker only played in 11 games last year, but still managed to put up average numbers (2,176 yards, 10 TD and 11 INT).
Chris Johnson looks like he’s on the rebound, snagging over 200 more yards in 2012 with just 16 more rushes than in 2011.
Tennessee’s defense was ranked just 27th in the NFL in 2012, but they should also rebound a little this year. The Titans won’t win the division, but they certainly could knock the Texans out of the race.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, they have a great running back in Maurice Jones-Drew and players with high ceilings in Justin Blackmon and Blaine Gabbert. But they’ve also had the some of the worst teams in the NFL since their inaugural season in 1995. They’ve made the playoffs just twice since 1999, and last season’s team was 21st in passing yards, 30th in rushing yards, 22nd in opponents’ passing yards and 30th in opponents’ rushing yards.
Every team in the NFL can come out and beat any other team, though, and if Jones-Drew and Gabbert can stay healthy, then the Jags have a puncher’s chance to knock the Texans flat in a game or two. But even then, they’ll be doing more to help the Colts win the district than themselves.
All things being said, the Texans’ schedule poses the biggest roadblock to any Super Bowl bandwagon. They face the NFC West this season, and end the season with three road games against division opponents sandwiched around a game against the Denver Broncos. Even if the Texans survive the beginning of the season and have a good record entering the second half of the year, December could prove disastrous.
The Texans still have a great team, though, and should be able to put up at least 12 wins in the regular season, winning the AFC South for the third year in a row.