Four Analysts, Four Questions – AFC South

| September 2, 2011

Four more teams, same four questions for these four analysts.
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Turning to the AFC South where there finally may be some shake-up at the top, which player is going to break out? Who looks good against the projected win totals? At which position is the division deepest? And, can any of them make a serious run?
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Which of our analysts do you agree with?
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Who’s Your Breakout Player for 2010?
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Khaled: With Jason Jones hobbled (as per) and Derrick Morgan working his way back from injury, there’s a need for a defensive end in Tennessee to step up and I think that guy could be William Hayes. He looks like one who can generate pressure and play the run – what more do you want in a defensive end?

Neil: Carrying on with the principle of giving you more for your money here’s one from each team. I think eventually people will work out that Arian Foster is getting a lot of help and center Chris Myers will get the credit his run blocking skills deserve. In Indianapolis, on the basis they’ll play Jerraud Powers at RCB in preference to my choice, Justin Tryon, I’ll have to go with Kavell Conner who will have the chance to bring his coverage up to the high standards of his run defense. If the Jaguars get enough snaps for Jeremy Mincey he’ll show everyone what a good all-around player he can be from DRE while the Titans will give William Hayes another 150 snaps now he’s a starter and that will help his profile – well a little anyway.

Ben: Kavell Conner is primed for a break-out but the talk of him potentially losing his starting weakside linebacker spot to Ernie Sims dampens that. Unless something drastic has changed with Sims, Conner should get a chance this year but the uncertainty could stunt his splash-making opportunity. So, with that in mind, I’ll go for Williams Hayes of the Titans. He’s looked a threat as a pass rusher for the last couple of seasons but has struggled for playing time. With Jason Babin now gone and the injury prone Jason Jones and Derrick Morgan in the rotation with him, Hayes should finally get the chance to break out.

Nathan: I believe Houston’s first round pick from last year Kareem Jackson will be much better in his sophomore season. It was mostly early on in the season that he was getting beat badly, as he only allowed 50 yards or more passing just once since Week 10. The addition of Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning should take some of the pressure off, which should help him continue to develop into a good starting cornerback.
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The over/under lines for season win totals in the division are Houston 8.5; Indianapolis 9.5; Jacksonville 6; Tennessee 6.5. On which team would you put your theoretical $100?
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Khaled: I think I could make some money in this division. The Jags should be better than six wins, but it’s the Texans who I think will get to 10 this season. Too much talent on offense, and enough playmakers on defense to win a division in transition as I put in this piece earlier.

Neil: After coming unstuck on the suddenly awful Titans last year I’m chancing my arm again and saying the Jaguars will do better than the six games scheduled. Why? – just gut feel, I have a soft spot for the Jaguars and like a number of moves they made on defense this offseason. That said if I wanted to make more certain money I’ll happily guarantee (or at least Khaled will) all bets for Houston to get more than 8.5 wins. Those aren’t real odds are they?

Ben: There’s a tricky group of picks here again but I’m going with the Colts over 9.5, simply because I think Peyton Manning will get himself on the field and when he gets himself on the field he just wins games in the regular season. If Manning misses substantial time I’m going to be losing a lot of theoretical money on this one but if he’s around all season long, or close to it, there’s no one player I feel my money is safer on.

Nathan: I might be the only person you meet other than Jaguars fans and Neil that is high on Jacksonville this year, but I feel I have good reason. They won eight last year; are bringing back almost everyone, and added Dawan Landry, Paul Posluzsny, and Matt Roth to bolster the defense. I’m not going to back that up and say they will make the playoffs, but I think they are at least good for seven wins and possibly a repeat of last year’s 8-8 record.
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What do you see as the positional strength of the division?
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Khaled: Outside of the Titans, and maybe this changes with Jared Cook developing, I have a lot of respect for the tight ends in this division. Owen Daniels, Dallas Clark and Marcedes Lewis can all be difference makers.

Neil: I went tight end last year and didn’t want to be boring but they’re still my choice. Marcedes Lewis, Owen Daniels and Dallas Clark speak for themselves but I also think the Titans trio of Daniel Graham, Craig Stevens and (to a lesser extent) Jared Cook are all better players than they showed last year.

Ben: The tight ends in this division are really good but I can’t see past the running backs again here. Joseph Addai is the relative weak point but even he is a more then capable running back. Outside of Addai, with Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Arian Foster you’ve got a spectacular group of running backs. Johnson may just be the most dangerous back in the league, Jones-Drew is arguably the NFL’s most complete back, and Foster exploded with an awesome season in 2010. With question marks over the run defenses for a few teams in this division I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of these put up some massive numbers in 2011.

Nathan: Here I’ll go with outside pass rushers. For years now the division has had Houston’s Mario Williams as well as the Dwight Freeney / Robert Mathis duo in Indianapolis. The Jaguars in the past two offseasons have added Aaron Kampman and Matt Roth, while the Titans have moved Jason Jones to defensive end to round out the group. Outside of right tackle Eric Winston in Houston, none of the teams boast outstanding offensive tackles, so these edge rushers could be especially big in divisional games.
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Who is going to make the playoffs and do they have a shot to win it all?
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Khaled: I’m saying this is the year the Colts reliance on Peyton Manning comes back to haunt them. On paper the Texans are too strong so I’m going out on a limb and saying they win the division – and are the only team who make the playoffs.

Neil: Houston. In Peyton Manning I normally trust but surely even he can’t put the Colts on his back and carry them into the play-offs this year……or can he? Well I didn’t fall for the Houston hype last year but now the offense looks too potent and the secondary has improved dramatically. I say they get to the playoffs as divisional winners and win a maximum of one game.

Ben: This is the Texans division to lose and I think they’re going to do just that, lose it. That defense still scares the living daylights out of me and as good as that offense is I simply don’t think they can play shoot out with their own defense all season long. Teams will be able to control the clock against the Texans and wear them down to pick them off late. This should be the year that the Colts reign of supremacy is conclusively ended but so long as Manning doesn’t miss too long, I think they’ll put it off for another year and take the division again in 2011.

Nathan: I know a lot of people want to see Houston here, but I just can’t go against Peyton Manning and the Colts. I know he might not play right away, so it will be closer than past years, and whoever wins the division will probably only have nine or ten wins. However it’s been the Colts in every year since 2002, and not enough has happened to lead me to believe it won’t be them again this year. My guess is that they will lose in the Wild Card round to whoever doesn’t win the AFC East or North.
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Follow the guys on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled, @PFF_Neil, @PFF_NateJahnke … and the main feed: @ProFootbalFocus
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  • PaulK

    Using your over/under lines posted above, I’ll go under with Houston, over with Pittsburgh and absolutely over with New England. It’s nice to have solid numbers.