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2012 AFC South Preview

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

2011 Common Opponents: AFC North, NFC South
2012 Common Opponents: AFC East, NFC North
In 2011, the AFC South was a rather weak division facing tough common opponents, and it showed in the standings. The lack of Peyton Manning saw the Texans jump to the top and claim the division title despite losing QB Matt Schaub. This season, the division will face a similarly difficult schedule, meaning how many wins each team deserved last season should be a decent baseline estimate of their 2012 wins. The 2012 season could see all bottom three teams in the division looking to recent top-10 draft picks at quarterback for hope. As a result, the division should be one of the most volatle and unpredictable in the league. If any of the young QBs prove worthy, the division race will get interesting. But if not, the Texans should cruise to another division title.

Houston Texans
2011 Record: 10-6
2011 Rating: 1.7 (12th of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 9.6
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 9.3
The Texans inherited the top spot in the AFC South in 2011 due to the absence of Peyton Manning. Their breakthrough season resulted in a trip to the divisional playoffs, despite losing QB Matt Schaub with 6 games left in the regular season. The bad news for Houston is that despite an improved defense, our ratings show they really were not any better in 2011 than the prior two seasons, meaning their success was more the result of weak division opponents. The good news is that despite common perception being that rookie backup QB T.J. Yates filled in admirably, their rating was about 2 points higher at the time Schaub was lost, with the difference coming completely on passing plays. Going forward, that means the Texans ought to be considered as high as the 4th best team in the league with Schaub playing. Considering they were also without superstar WR Andre Johnson for 9 games, things are definitely looking up for the Texans in 2012. All said, they are likely to at least match their 2011 win total and should be considered favorites in the division.

Indianapolis Colts
2011 Record: 2-14
2011 Rating: -6.9 (31st of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 4.9
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 5.0
The Colts' 2011 season can only be described as a complete disaster. The defense and run game both were a bit worse than previous seasons, but most all of the difference did come from pass plays. The Colts were about 7 points worse per game on pass plays than 2010, which was about equally a testament to both how good Peyton Manning was and how bad their 2011 backups were. While we won't expect a whole lot from Indianapolis in 2012, there is reason for some hope. Despite only winning 2 games last season, they truly deserved about 5 wins from their level of play, which should itself increase with the addition of #1 overall draft pick QB Andrew Luck. While not necessarily the norm, it isn't unheard of for a highly regarded rookie QB to step in at the most important position and have immediate success, meaning the Colts could be in contention for a playoff spot as early as 2012 if Luck can live up to the draft scouts' praise.

Jacksonville Jaguars
2011 Record: 5-11
2011 Rating: -5.1 (30th of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 5.3
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 5.3
The Jaguars are on the verge of being in the worst situation possible for a franchise: having just used a high draft pick on a bad quarterback. Luckily for them, this position is not nearly as dangerous as prior to the new CBA, and they won't be on the hook for too much money if QB Blaine Gabbert doesn't improve. Things are looking grim for Gabbert. The Jaguars sported our single worst passing rating last season, but it's impossible to completely write off a rookie quarterback after just one season. Gabbert didn't have any support from receivers last year, and with the addition of WRs in free agent Laurent Robinson and #5 overall pick Justin Blackmon, a lack of improvement in 2012 would certainly leave the Jags looking elsewhere at quarterback. Some improvement, however, could make Jacksonville competitive in a weak division considering their #7 rated 2011 defense.

Tennessee Titans
2011 Record: 9-7
2011 Rating: -0.7 (17th of 32)
2011 Deserved Wins: 8.1
2012 Wins by 2011 Rating: 7.6
The Titans were a pretty average team with average results in 2011. The running game fell apart early, and they finished dead last in that category of our ratings. The easy argument is that RB Chris Johnson's preseason holdout was the problem, but our ratings show that the run game wasn't all it was cracked up to be in 2010 either. By starting QB Matt Hasselbeck again, Tennessee may be good enough to take advantage of a weak division and sneak into the playoffs. The more attractive option, however, may be to start 2011 #8 overall draft pick QB Jake Locker, who had success in limited action last season. Locker certainly presents the higher upside, and should see time if the Titans are not on pace for the playoffs, if not already inserted at the start of the season. With either quarterback, they should present the greatest threat to Houston for the division title, and at least be in the mix for a wild card spot.

AFC: East | North | South | West         NFC: East | North | South | West

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