This is my first time trying to write one of these up... and quite simply I have a new found respect for all the professionals out there. This isn't easy! So read, leave comments if you are so inclined. I don't mind constructive criticism. And if anyone has a preference of what division they want next, let me know.
AFC South Season Projections
Projected Record: 4-12
Another year, another O-line made of Swiss cheese. Why the Texans refuse to address this position early in the draft is beyond me. Getting Matt Schuab is a deal I'm not sold on. He might be a bit faster than Carr, so maybe he can avoid the hits for a couple of extra seconds...but I just don't see him exploding onto the scene as a perennial Pro-Bowl QB like most Texan fans I talk to. I have them down winning 4 games, but I could have easily made it 2-14. The Texans just have a tough schedule this year. And I won't be surprised if they win only 1, if any, games against other AFC South Teams. Best chance is when they have the Jags at home the final game of the season. I think the Jags will be out of the playoff hunt, given the Texans a chance to win one late and end the season on a positive note.
Projected Record: 12-4
The Colt's season this year depends not on the arm of Super Bowl MVP Payton Manning, but on their run defense. Which are we going to see this year? The defense that ranked last in Rushing Yards Allowed in the regular season, allowing nearly 175 YPG, or the shut-em-down defense that carried the Colts through the postseason allowing half as many yards? The Colts did not address much on the defensive side of the ball in this years draft, and lost both starting CBs. The Colts can still put up amazing numbers on offense, though, and First Round pick WR Anthony Gonzalez should contribute immediately. Colts should still win the division hands down, but this season may mark the start the return to the pack if the defense can't perform at their post season level for the first 16 games.
Projected Record: 7-9
I'm not sure what to make of the Jags. On paper, they look like a team that could dominate the AFC (5th overall Offense, 2nd overall defense). Watching them play last year though, particularly in the second half of the season, I was never really impressed. RB Marcus Jones-Drew surprised most people last year, and figures to continue to do well this year. The QB situation is still tentative. Leftwich should be the starter opening day, but I wonder how much of a leash he will have if things start off badly. It is entirely possible for them to be 0-3 entering their bye week. The Titans have always given the Jags a good game, the Falcons should be alright if Vick hasn't been suspended, and the Broncos look like they could slug it out with anyone. Their kick return and punt return units needed an upgrade. Their longest return last year was for 30 yards, shortest in the AFC. (see Edit)Unless 1st rounder S Reggie Nelson replaces Jones-Drew on return duties and provides a spark, Special teams could suffer. Draft as a whole was solid, but nothing amazing.
EDIT: I mispoke. The Jaguars did have a longest Kick-off return of 93 yards. Their Longest punt return was 29 yards according the ESPN.com. (source for all my numerical stats). Thanks the Jaguar for point out my error.
Still think the Jags need to work on Special Teams. :)
Projected Record: (9-7)
I am assuming that the Titans ink a deal with WR Keyshawn Johnson, otherwise their record will be 7-9 at best. And Indy gets an extra win. But, assuming the deal gets done, the Titans have a small shot at picking up the wild card berth. After being one win away last year and appearing to mail it in against the Patriots, Coach Fisher should have plenty of ammunition to keep the team motivated. Vince Young should continue to improve in his decision making, and his commitment to look for the pass before the scramble is a good sign. I strongly question the new GMs draft day decisions, though. S/CB Michael Griffin Will be a good special teams player and might help soften the loss of Adam ‘Pacman' Jones, and the combination of Griffin and Nick Harper from Indy will help reduce the role of Reynaldo Hill, who seemed to get burned for a least one big play in every game he was in. But taking a WR, either in the first round or in the second round over RB Chris Henry would make it so that the Titans season does not depend so much on the acquisition of Keyshawn Johnson. Releasing Travis Henry after his breakout year was a mistake. Re-signing him would have made it more likely the Titans could have addressed other needs in the Draft. The Titans have had success getting WRs late in the draft, even picking up successful un-drafted players like now former Titan Drew Bennet. The saving grace for the Titans this year is that they have a moderately easy schedule, although I'm sure they wish their bye week was later in the year. If the receiving corps can step it up and make themselves targets for Vince Young, the Titans should be able to improve on last years run at the finish.