You had better not step up to me with something like that. I don't care if you're a third string long snapper, Eric Dickerson or Roger Goodell.
If you claim to have predicted what happened the AFC South last season, I will brand you liar. Jus' saying.
If you were to come into my place of employment, favourite drinking hole, or family home and tell me that the all conquering Indianapolis Colts would finish 2-14, Blaine Gabbert would have the worst season of the rookie quarterbacks, Texans would win the division with someone called T.J Yates (whom, after much research, I have confirmed actually exists) and that the
Peyton Manning would be traded away...suffice to say I would have found the closest item at my disposal to use as a makeshift straight jacket.
For the last decade, the AFC South had become rather predictable.
We knew that the Colts were playoff bound and that everyone else in the division would take turns on who came second that year.
But to say the landscape of the division has changed in the past year would be a massive understatement and much like the health of Peyton's neck, the future is difficult to predict.
But, none-the-less we press forward with season predictions that will either reaffirm the genius within, or confirm the unpredictability of the NFL.
Fruitless Season Predictions: AFC South
Division Winners, Tennessee Titans, 10-6 record.
Last season the Titans finished 8-8 and barely missed out on the playoffs. All this with a new coach, system, starting quarterback as well as lockout affected Chris Johnson and an injury ravaged receiving corps.
Witness accounts have reported CJ2K as stronger, fitter, and more mentally focused than this time last year and I wouldn't be surprised to see him return to the form that made him only the sixth player ever to rush for 2000 yards.
The progression of Jake Locker is a tremendous sign, and the Titans have a genuine quarterback competition heading into training camp that will provide an adequate NFL starter and more importantly as the Texans showed us, a more than capable backup.
Unlike last season, whomever is quarterbacking for the Titans will actually have the ability to throw the ball due to the imminent return of the scarily talented Kenny Britt coming off an ACL (Editors Note: At time of publication it has been revealed Kenny Britt may still be injured and end up on the PUP list.)
as well as former 'BFF' of Robert Griffin III, former Baylor burner Kendall Wright.
This season, the Titans will return to playing power football but will have the ability to throw the ball when it counts and this will make them a very dangerous team in a weak AFC South division.
I see the Titans sweeping Indy and Jacksonville and splitting with the Texans, and look for them to run their offense through Chris Johnson similar to how Ray Rice is used in Baltimore.
Division runners-up, Houston Texans, 9-7 record.
The stars aligned for the Texans last year, but unfortunately so did a multitude of injuries that cost them their best chance at a Super Bowl since the franchise's inception in 2002.
The injuries to both starting and backup quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart didn't allow the Texans to take full advantage of the cards they were dealt, that being a Manning-less Colts, a perennially rebuilding Jaguars and a frustratingly erratic Titans team led by the underachieving Chris Johnson.
While the rest of the division didn't exactly make great leaps to catch up to the Texans, the race has gotten closer due to Houston's inability to retain key players.
The big name loss stemming from the off season was former number 1 overall pick Mario Williams going to Buffalo but what could greatly affect the Texans fortunes this season are the losses of key run game components such as fullback Lawrence Vickers, guard Mike Brisiel and Pro bowl caliber right tackle Eric Winston.
For a team that relies so heavily on Arian Foster to carry the load, having three key players out of the locker room could be very detrimental and until he shows me he can stay healthy I can't trust Matt Schaub to make up for a weaker running game for an entire season.
Overall I see a slight regression that will result in a less explosive Texans offense, and subsequently we will see the Texans lose more close games than they win.
Then, Jacksonville Jaguars, 6-10 record.
Last year was considered a disaster by all accounts.
Jack Del Dio was a lame duck coach at the start of the year and only outstanding quarterback play by rookie Blaine Gabbert could save his job.
Gabbert's struggles were scrutinized even further due to the achievements of other rookie quarterbacks Cam Newton and Andy Dalton (whom I will point out actually had receivers...which I have not yet confirmed Jacksonville actually had last season) and overall the offense in general was a painful thing to watch sans the always tremendous Maurice Jones-Drew.
Despite the fact that I see them recording only one more win than last year, I think there is reason to believe in a much more competitive Jacksonville team this season.
Firstly, Blaine Gabbert is a dink n' duck pocket passer who was in need of a training camp more so than the more physically gifted Cam Newton in his rookie season. Combine this with the overall devoid of talent at the receiver position and Gabbert had no hope.
This season however, Gabbert will have a full training camp to work on his timing with free agent acquisition Laurent Robinson and 1st round pick Justin Blackmon, which will greatly improve the Jags' chances of actually being able to move the chains on third down throwing situations.
However, Gabbert is by no means a finish product and won't be for some time and while I see the Jags hanging with teams for longer periods of time I think that turnovers toward the end of games will hurt them.
As a result, much like the Cleveland teams of recent years I think we will see a better team than the record indicates but still a high pick in the draft next season.
Finally, Indianapolis Colts, 3-13.
Myself as well as many other football fans I'm sure are tired of the Andrew Luck-Peyton Manning comparisons.
Comparing a rookie quarterback who has yet to prove anything at the elite level to a first ballot hall of famer, possibly the best pure passer in football history, and the NFL's greatest ever Saturday Night Live host seems somewhat premature.
However, one shared trait of both will be the record after their rookie seasons.
This is by no means an indictment on Andrew Luck as I believe he will have a fine rookie campaign and will no doubt be in my fantasy team (as well as Coby Fleener, and if anyone takes him I will find ways to enact my revenge).
The problem with the Colts this season lies on the defensive side of the ball.
New coach Chuck Pagano is switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 with a defense that had little to no talent outside of defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, both of whom arent suited to being hybrid pass rushers or 3-4 defensive ends.
While I do think that Luck and company will be able to put up respectable numbers on offense, I have a feeling that we could be looking at a historically bad defense with this years Colts.
Overall, I don't see this year as being a disastrous campaign for the Colts but rather a necessary rebuilding year which will result in high draft picks which will result in defensive playmakers for many years to come.
At the end of the day, I see Indianapolis picking first overall in the draft and then trading the pick to a team willing to mortgage their future on USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
AFC South Fantasy Studs n' Sleepers
1. Arian Foster, Texans:
Will still be the focal point of a Texans offense, a diminished offensive line could pave the way for more action in the receiving game.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars:
Until Blaine Gabbert proves he can carry the load through the air MJD will still be the key to offensive movement for the Jags and has shown no issue with 300+ carries a year.
3. Texans D:
A tremendous young pass rush combined with athletic linebackers and improving secondary should lead to interceptions and fumbles across the middle, and this team has shown they can take it to the house (see JJ Watt in playoffs).
1. Coby Fleener, Colts:
Coming into his rookie season, Andrew Luck already has a security blanket in tight end Fleener whom he spent five seasons with at Stanford so chemistry will be there from the start.
2. Jake Locker, Titans:
After strong showings toward the end of last season as well as an improved throwing motion, Locker could well be the Titans starting quarterback come the start of the season. As an added benefit, from his time at the University of Washington Locker has shown the ability to score with his legs as well.
3. Jared Cook, Titans:
The tight-end class in fantasy football is Gronk, Graham then everyone else. Cook has the highest upside of any remaining tight end and in a run based offense in Tennessee could well see him become a focal point in red zone situations.
What's coming up?
Next week I'll be looking at the NFC South.
Have any thoughts to share about the AFC South and my predictions? Make them known!
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