OVERVIEW: AFC South
In the AFC South look for the Jacksonville Jaguars to nip at the heels of the Colts for most of the season but in the end the Colts with an improved defense must be given the nod to win the division. Colt HC Tony Dungy had to do something with his defense given the fact that they were ranked 28th overall in the NFL last season and allowed a whopping 237 yards per game thru the air which ranked them 26th in pass defense, Dungy came through in a big way by drafting five defensive players within his first six selections and three of those picks were used on defensive backs.
The Colts top draft pick this year was used on CB Marlin Jackson out of Michigan, with their second pick they drafted CB Kelvin Hayden out of Illinois, Jackson should be an instant starter while Hayden will in all likelihood be used in nickel packages, with their fifth selection the Colts took S Matt Giordano out of California for depth and help on special teams.
When you had the best passing attack in the NFL in 2004 and overall averaged 404.4 yards per game on offense its no small wonder that the Colts didnt tinker much on this side of the ball, however, the Colts were indeed fortunate to finish the 2004 campaign with a straight up record of 13-5 overall when considering just how bad their defense was in allowing an average of 366.1 total yards per game which of course is the reason why Colt contests exceeded the posted total in 12 of 18 outings last year.
Jacksonville was the opposite of Indianapolis with regard to not allowing a lot of points but then they didnt score a lot of points either, as a matter of fact 12 of the Jags 16 outings in 2004 dipped UNDER the posted total and according to the ole history book the Jags have now failed to score 30 points or more in their past 50 straight contests, with QB Byron Leftwich back under center and a year of experience under his belt I would look for the Jags to score more points this season, however, keep in mind that HC Jack Del Rio is and always will be a defense first coach that likes to play conservative on offense.
Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Houston have the distinction of being in a three way tie for having the 13th toughest schedule in the NFL for the 2005 season based on their opponents 2004 final win/loss records, this does not bode well for Jacksonville and Houston who are trying to unseat the Colts for the top spot.
Houston has improved their seasonal win/loss total each of the past three years since their 2002 NFL debut and it would not surprise me to see this Texan team win 8 or 9 games in 2005 and possibly take the second spot in the divisional standings when its all said and done. What looks to hold these young Texans back in 2005 is the fact that they are in the same division as the Colts and Jags.
Texan QB David Carr has proven he can take a lickin and keep on tickin when considering that he was sacked 49 times last season, this same offensive line was responsible for most of the injuries that Texan RBs absorbed in 2004 and this weakness will probably prove to be Houstons downfall once again in 2005 as they have not taken steps to correct this fault.
If these young Texans can stay healthy this season and improve their offensive line play they will indeed surprise some folks, however, look for these Texans to tire coming down the stretch as they will take their bye early in the season during the third week of the schedule and must play three of their final five games on the road and in this same span will play much improved Arizona and Jacksonville teams at home.
The Titans finished last years campaign with a 5-11 straight up and ATS record which was by far the worst finish under HC Jeff Fisher during his tenure. The good news for the Titans is that they had a pretty good draft which should give them a much needed shot of youth on their roster, the bad news is that they are still in salary cap hell for this upcoming season which is the reason why they were so quiet in the free agent wars.
With the being said, Titan HC Jeff Fisher is still one of the very best coaches in the league and always seems to get the most out of his troops. Although I see Tennessee once again finishing up in the cellar I believe there will be many opportunities to win some wagers this season with these Titans, however, these opportunities will probably not present themselves until after the first four weeks of the new season.
Tennessee opens their season against four playoff teams from 2004 when they take on the likes of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, St Louis, and Indianapolis in their first four outings, all four games will in all likelihood be marked in the loss column which will create Value when they play their next five games against non playoff teams prior to taking their bye during week 10 of the 2005 season.