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Big surprise: everyone picked the Colts. A battle for second should entertain this year, with the Texans and Titans both boasting capabilities to put up a winning season. A second opportunity for Vince Young to prove his worth will make for an entertaining storyline, as will Chris Johnson’s encore performance and Matt Schaub’s push to cement his position among the league’s best quarterbacks.
1. Colts – Still the class of the division, year in and year out. Talent up and down the roster, with no legitimate challenger anywhere else in the division.
2. Texans – After years of mediocrity, could this finally be the year we see the Texans make the leap into playoff contenders? They’ve got the pieces to be a surprise team this season.
3. Titans – Tennessee is home to arguably the league’s best player, Chris Johnson, but is that enough to put the Titans into contention? I think not.
4. Jaguars – Jacksonville is home to arguably one of the league’s best rushers, Maurice Jones-Drew, but is that enough to put the Jags into contention? Have we heard this before? Again, I think not.
1. Colts – The Colts enter this season with the same “prove something” mentality as the Patriots, but twice as bad. They essentially ran the table in 2009’s regular season, choosing reason over glory by carefully sitting their starters in their last two winnable games against the Jets and Bills. Then Peyton Manning had to sit and watch while Drew Brees took over the current quarterback spotlight and publicly celebrated in the streets of New Orleans for months. These ambitions and a favorable schedule mean a 13-win season may be underestimating the Colts.
2. Texans – When will people stop considering the Texans a surprise to contend in the AFC? Matt Schaub has established himself among the top in the league, Andre Johnson has established himself as the league’s best receiver and Mario Williams has proven himself worthy of that first overall pick in 2006. Continued improvement from their linebackers, and hopefully some stability in the backfield, will make them a spoiler for contenders who run into Reliant stadium.
3. Titans – While Chris Johnson is the best all-together offensive player in the NFL, (the guy does everything) I’m not convinced by Vince Young yet to say they will have a consistent team. Young can be clutch, and presents a diverse set of weapons, but has lacked consistency and hasn’t proven himself as a leader yet. Also, they don’t play in an easy division, and face a number of tough teams this year. Look for them as an exciting team every week, in a number of close games, but failing to come away with very many wins.
4. Jaguars - The Jaguars seem to be going through a very slow re-building process over the past few years. The front office seems to have had trouble drawing talent to complement their all-pro running back. They do have the league’s best corps of offensive players with hyphenated names (Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Sims-Walker), but David Garrard hasn’t showed the ability to lead a Jags team anywhere in years.
1. Colts – The Colts are the Colts; enough said.
2. Titans – Something breathed new life into Tennessee to end last season, and they’re shaping up to carry it into 2010.
3. Texans – Aside from being in the same division with the Colts, Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub have a few tough games in the schedule.
4. Jaguars – Maurice Jones-Drew is pretty much Jacksonville’s only real bright point, and opponents know it.
1. Colts – They are the gold standard for regular season play, and I would suspect that Peyton Manning and co. are locked and loaded again for another deep run in the playoffs.
2. Texans – Will this finally be the year the Texans get in? If they can find some balance on offense, and a consistent defense, this could be it.
3. Titans – Jeff Fisher finally handed the reigns back over to Vince Young last season, and the QB proved he can win. How much can he and Chris Johnson do to keep Tennessee above .500?
4. Jaguars – The Jaguars are always a talented squad, but they happen to be buried in one of the toughest divisions in football. Oh well.