Last time we checked out one of the tougher divisions in the AFC Conference, the North. This time around, we check out the AFC South. In this division, we see two teams in rebuilding mode, one team trying to rise up to glory, and another team trying to stay healthy and on top. I will let you figure out which team is which.
Now, to the questions!
9. Indianapolis Colts (2011 Record: 2-14)
Question: Will Andrew Luck be able to succeed Peyton Manning's in Indianapolis?
In 1973, the Baltimore Colts drafted highly QB Bert Jones out of LSU with the 2nd overall pick. At the same time, the Colts traded away Johnny Unitas, their franchise QB to the Chargers. Fast forward to 2012, where the Indianapolis Colts drafted highly touted QB Andrew Luck out of Stanford while cutting ties with their franchise QB, Peyton Manning. Luck had a successful collegiate career, including a very impressive senior year, completing 288 of 404 pass attempts ( 71.3%) for 3,517 yards, 37 TDs, 10 INT and a QB rating of 169.7. But Luck is coming into a role where he has some big shoes to fill. Manning's career numbers with the Colts are of legendary status: Starting all 208 games during his 13-year career with the team, completing 4,682 of 7,210 attempts for 54,828 yards, 399 TDs and a career QB rating of 94.9. Not to mention from 2002-2010, Peyton has led his team to the playoffs and has won 4 NFL MVPs. Though Luck has looked impressive in the preseason, wowing analysts and fans with his throwing power and accuracy, it remains to be seen if he can have the same success in the regular season. If he succeeds, Peyton will be a faded memory at Lucas Oil Stadium. If he fails, many would wonder if letting Peyton walk was a wise decision.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (2011 Record: 4-12)
Question: How will RB Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout affect him for the 2012 season?
Sometimes NFL players will holdout for an extension or restructuring to their contract when they still have time remaining on their current deal? Well apparently Mr. Jones-Drew thinks he is different from everybody else. In 2011, he put up a career high rushing yards with 1,606 yards (leading the NFL). It was also his 3rd consecutive year of rushing for over 1,000 yards (he rushed for 1,391 yards in 2009 and 1,324 yards in 2010 as well). Now coming into the 2012 season, MJD has decided to holdout, skipping OTAs, training camp, and practically all of preseason in hopes of getting a new contract. However if MJD paid attention to what happened to Chris Johnson when he held out, he would see the error of his ways. Johnson held out in 2011 until the Titans gave him his big-time contract. His response: rushing for career lows and getting to the point there were rumors that the Titans would release him. Whatever happens to MJD, his holding out is likely dooming himself to a poor season, ultimately screwing over his chances of success in future contract negotiations.
11. Tennessee Titans (2011 Record: 9-7)
Question: Will Chris Johnson have a bounce back from a lackluster 2011?
If you were playing fantasy football last year and if you had Chris Johnson on your team, you probably were ready to punch the screen. Prior to the 2011 season, Chris Johnson, otherwise known as CJ2K, was perhaps one of the more electrifying backs in the NFL. In his 2008 rookie year, he rushed for 1,228 on 251 carries for 9 TDs. In his 2009 sophmore season, he rushed for 2,006 yards on 358 carries for 14 touchdowns and averaged 125.4 rushing yards per game and about 5.6 yards per carry. Then in 2010, his numbers dropped down but he still impressed many, rushing for 1,364 yards on 316 carries for 11 TDs. Going into 2011, Chris Johnson felt he was worth more money and held out all of preseason for a new contract. Only when the 2011 regular season was about to begin when CJ2K got his contract, a 4-year extension $53.5 million with $30 million garuantee. But it turns out that holding out ruined him. CJ2K rushed for career lows in rushing yards (1,047) and touchdowns (4). He only broke the century mark 4 times that season, barely rushing over 65 yards the other 12 games didn't reach the endzone until Week 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now in 2012, the Titans QB situation has been settled (Jack Locker is the starter) and they brought in a well-renowned run-blocking offensive lineman (Steve Hutchinson) to help create holes. Now all that remains is whether or not CJ2K will bounce back after a horrific 2011 season.
12. Houston Texans (2011 Record: 10-6)
Question: Can the Texans repeat as AFC South Division champions?
Since 2002, their inaugural year, until 2010, the Houston Texans could not produce a winning season. The closest they came was back in 2009 when they finished 8-8. However, things were different during 2011. The Texans were able to leapfrog over a Peyton-less Indianapolis, and put together a 10-6 record, clinching the AFC South. They were able to do so during a time when their All-Pro defensive end Mario Williams, and QB Matt Schaub (and backup QB Matt Leinhart) suffered season-ending injuries. their All-Pro WR Andre Johnson also missed a chunk of games due to a lingering hamstring injury. Going into the 2012 offseason, many predict that the Texans will repeat as AFC South champions. On the positive side, they still have the same offensive nucleus of Schaub, Foster, Johnson, and Owen Daniels, as well as hard-hitting Brian Cushing on the defense. But on the other side of the coin, the Texans let Mario Williams go to free agency, cut starting OT Eric Winston, and traded away All-Pro MLB DeMeco Ryans to Philadelphia. So with the the Jaguars and Colts rebuilding and the Titans still a few pieces away, the AFC South looks ripe for the picking for the Texans. Will they rise to the top or fumble their chance in 2012? Only they know the answer
That's it for the South. Tune into next time as we go out west to a division plagued the injury bug and mediocrity during the 2011 season. This is Ryan Fox, signing out.
-Ryan L. Fox
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