The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: The Cacophony NFL Preview Part I

7 08 2007

by eldanimal

With the NFL season now less than a month away we thought we would give you a sneak preview of the upcoming season division by division. First we start with the AFC South, division of the reigning Super Bowl Champs, Peyton Manning and the Colts.

Indianapolis

The last bottles of champagne have been emptied, your girlfriend is tired of watching Peyton Manning tag kids with a football from his SNL performance, and some how Tony Dungy wrote a best-selling book no one has actually read. Has it really been six months since the Colts won the Super Bowl? As the Colts hit up August two-a-days one thing is for certain: the honeymoon is over.

Key off-season losses will challenge the Colt’s attempt to repeat including Tackle Tarik Glenn (retirement), Corey Simon (waived), Anthony McFarland (injury), Dominic Rhodes (free agency), Cato June (free agency) and perennial fantasy sleeper Brandon Stokley (free agency). While the few talented additions to the team, Anthony Gonzalez (WR) and Daymeion Hughes (CB), came via the draft. The team will seek to push forward despite the losses and inexperience at key positions.

If you are going to doubt the Colts though, look to last off-season when experts questioned the impact of the departure of franchise back Edgerrin James would have on the team. The Colts went on to win the Super Bowl while relying heavily on rookie running back Joseph Addai.

The Colts will again be strong on offense with Manning, Harrison, Wayne and Addai all onboard. The offensive line will reshuffle and may struggle with the loss of cornerstone tackle Tarik Glenn. Manning, Harrison and Wayne are always top fantasy performers but look for Addai to really step it up this season with the departure of Rhodes. Gonzalez could be a sleeper as the third wide out.

The Colts big weakness is a familiar one: run defense. The losses of Simon, McFarland and June should affect the Colts ability to stop the run. Unless rookies Quinn Pitcock or Keyunta Dawson can step up to fill McFarland’s shoes, Peyton Manning may again return to the familiar position of having to put up big numbers to win on Sundays.

Predicted finish: 1st Place AFC South

 

Tennessee

vince young

After everyone wondering what kind of quarterback Vince Young would be despite failing to break 10 on the Wonderlic last year, he went out and made us all look stupid. Young’s performance last year en route to the Rookie of the Year award and .500 record, was the kind of performance that gets GMs fired, namely the Houston Texans GM. Young showed us that he was going to dominate the league just the same way he dominated USC in the Rose Bowl.

Unfortunately for Young, he may well have to do it all on his own again this year. The Titans lost the only three guys anyone knew besides Young in the off-season in Drew Bennett (free agent), Travis Henry (free agent) and the Pacman (suspended). The Titans were able to keep back Chris Brown while adding Michael Griffin (S) and Chris Henry (RB) to the team. A backfield of Henry and Brown could help ease pressure off Young but the additions of wideouts Eric Moulds (free agent), Paul Williams (draft), and Chris Davis (draft) does little to bolster the passing attack.

The strength of the Titans is Young’s ability to some how win games. While he may not put up the gaudy stats of a Manning, Bulger or McNabb, he will win. Young is the undisputed fantasy star of this team with his ability to make things happen with his arm or legs. Look for Young to find a go-to receiver out of the group of Bobby Wade, David Givens, Moulds or Williams. However, don’t be surprised if the best value is in tight end Ben Troupe, a solid redzone target. With Brown and Henry in the backfield, their fantasy value is low.

The Titans weakness is their defense ranked 31st in points per game, 30th against the rush and 27th against the pass in 2006. The loss of the Pacman surely cannot help. Like Manning, the Titans success may be dependent on Young’s ability to light up the scoreboard heading into his second year.

Predicted Finish: 2nd Place AFC South

 

Jacksonville

leftwich

In stark contrast to the Colts and Titans, in 2006 the Jaguars were plagued by an inconsistent offense and shaky quarterback play while their defense was among the league’s best. Heading into this season it’s clear that this is Byron Leftwich’s last chance to prove himself. If he falters, David Garrard will be there again to take over.

Off-season losses include Donovan Darius (released), Deon Grant (free agent) and Kyle Brady. While the Jaguars added Reggie Nelson (S), Justin Durant (LB) and Mike Walker (WR) via the draft. Walker could compete for a starting receiver spot against Reggie Williams and Ernest Wilford. If the Jaguars can solidify their quarterback position, the team could be formidable with a veteran defense and young talent on offense including Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Jones and Marcedes Lewis.

Jacksonville’s strength is on the defensive side of the ball with Marcus Stroud and John Henderson dominating the middle. The team ranked in the top five in yards per game, rush yards, and points allowed. Last season’s emergence of rookie Jones-Drew combined with veteran Fred Taylor could make for a high powered running game to compliment the stout defense. Fantasy wise Jones-Drew and Taylor should have good value, as they proved in 2006 that they could both be productive while sharing the workload. The defense will also be a strong play. Sleepers could include Leftwich, Jones and Ernest Wilford.

Ultimately though, Jacksonville must have solid quarterback play to have success in this tough division. As of now neither Leftwich nor Garrard have proven they can handle the position. If either one can have some success, this is a team that could win it all.

Predicted Finish: 3rd Place AFC South

 

Houston

houston texans

After suffering the humiliation of passing on Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Matt Leinart for an unproductive defensive end, the Texans made dramatic changes in the off-season. Gone is David Carr, the original franchise quarterback, replaced by highly touted Ron Mexico back up Matt Schaub. Yet, even after all these years this still looks like an expansion team.

Besides Carr the Texans ditched Eric Moulds (free agent) , Domanick Williams (free agent), and Wali Rainer (free agent). In addition to Schaub, the Texans veterans Ahman Green (RB), Keenan McCardell (WR) and Shawn Barber (LB) while drafting youngster Amobi Okoye (DT) in the first round. The addition of Schaub will hopefully allow playmaker Andre Johnson more opportunities, assuming Schaub can stay upright behind the Texas porous o-line. The Texans are banking that logjam of backs including Green, Ron Dayne, Samkon Gado and Wali Lundy will produce at least one consistent runner but it appears more likely to result in a running back by committee.

The Texans strength could be in the emergence of their young defense. Okoye joins 2006 Defensive Rookie of the Year DeMeco Ryans and last year’s top pick Mario Williams, and cornerback Dunta Robinson to form a solid young core along with veterans Shawn Barber, N.D. Kalu and Jason Babin. However, playing tough defense in a division that includes the Colts and Titans will be a challenge.

Fantasy wise Andre Johnson should have a big year with a better quarterback tossing the pill. Schaub could be a solid option if the defense struggles and he is asked to throw 40+ times a game. It’s too early to predict any fantasy value for this backfield, Green is likely to begin the season as the starter and did rush for 1,000 yards last season. However, the depth of backs here is concerning. Owen Daniels could be a decent fill-in tight end.

The Texans weakness is along their offensive line which allowed 43 sacks last season and failed to open up holes for the running game. Head Coach Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme could help transform the line and running game into productive units. If the Texans can get their offensive line and running attack

Predicted Finish: 4th Place AFC South

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