Head Coach: Mike Mularkey
2011 SEASON: The 2011 season was a complete disaster for the Jaguars, as they finished 5-11. In midseason, they fired head coach Jack del Rio, and ownership changed, as Shad Khan took over for Wayne Weaver as the head of the team. Blaine Gabbert's rookie season was a disaster as well, as the receivers were awful, finishing third in the division.
OFFSEASON MOVES: In the offseason, the Jaguars made a lot of moves to improve the needs of the team. First off, they signed Laurent Robinson to improve the receivers, and signed Aaron Ross to help the secondary depth-wise. In the NFL Draft, the team drafted 3 starters in the first 3 rounds, getting wide receiver Justin Blackmon in the first, defensive end Andre Branch in the second, and perhaps the most questionable pick, Bryan Anger in the third round.
|The Jaguars got Aaron Ross in the offseason to|
improve the secondary.
WEAKNESS: The weakness on this team is at the offensive line, specifically, tackle. Assuming that Eben Britton becomes a guard, Eugene Monroe is the only certain thing on that offensive line. Cameron Bradfield is going to be starting at right tackle, and he's started just 2 games before. Backing the guys up isn't much better, with Daniel Baldridge, William Robinson and Guy Whimper. If someone goes down at tackle, then the Jaguars are doomed.
|To improve the receivers, the Jaguars went out and|
drafted Justin Blackmon in the first round.
LOCK GAME: The Jaguars are not known to be a good team on the road. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the lock game is the game against Green Bay at Green Bay. First off, unless the defensive line gets to the quarterback, Aaron Rodgers is going to have a field day. Secondly, the Jaguars are, like I mentioned, not a good road team. And finally, the receivers on Green Bay are amazing. Chalk this one up as a Green Bay win.
|Can Blaine Gabbert erase his awful rookie campaign?|
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Much like last season, where 31 guys ended up on injured reserve, the Jaguars have that same injury problem this season. Mike Mularkey proves that he is not an NFL-ready coach with this season. Blackmon and Branch become big time busts, failing to produce, and MJD holds out for the entire season. In his place, Rashad Jennings disappoints, failing to rush for over 500 yards. Finally, Blaine Gabbert fails and the team is forced to do QB shopping next offseason.
MOST IDEAL SCENARIO: Here's the reality in the NFL- there's always one team that surprises us. This very year, it could be the Jaguars. Blaine Gabbert has looked impressive in the preseason so far, the receivers have shined, the defense has played well and the pieces seem to be coming together. With a somewhat easy schedule (especially in the second half), the Jaguars post up double digit wins, stun the world and win the division. FINAL RECORD: 10-6
2. HOUSTON TEXANS
Head Coach: Gary Kubiak
2011 SEASON: In 2011, the Houston Texans won their first divisional title in franchise history, and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Even with guys like Schaub and Johnson hurt, other guys stepped up in their place and led the Texans to a relatively easy playoff appearance. The Texans won the wild card round but lost to the Ravens in the divisional round.
OFFSEASON MOVES: In the offseason, besides losing Mario Williams in free agency and trading away DeMeco Ryans for a fourth round pick, the Texans made no acquisitions, being pretty content with their current lineup. In the NFL Draft, the Texans selected Whitney Mercilius to improve the defensive line, and DeVier Posey to have better receivers.
|The Texans lost defensive end Mario Williams|
in free agency.
WEAKNESS: The major weakness for the Texans is at wide receiver. Obviously, I'm not counting Andre Johnson in this, but who is backing him up? Who are the #2 and #3 wide receivers? Posey was drafted way too high. Holliday? Iglesias? Walter? Outside of Andre Johnson, the Texans are incredibly and unbelievably thin at wide receiver. I'm surprised they didn't go out and get someone in free agency to improve that core.
GAME TO WATCH: If there was a game to watch for Houston, it has to be the week 7 clash against Baltimore at home. The game is then followed by a bye week, and the game prior to the Ravens game is a game against the Packers. Not only is this game a chance for sweet revenge from the AFC Divisional Round last season, but it's also a possible turning point in the season. If the Texans lose this game, they could be entering the bye week on a downward spiral, which could negatively impact their season.
|Arian Foster is looking to build off of his breakout|
BEST CASE SCENARIO: The Houston Texans play lights out for the entire season, even improving on their campaign last season. DeVier Posey emerges as the #2 receiver and looks really good, and everybody stays healthy. Schaub plays amazing, Foster and Tate are a thunder and lightning duo, and the defense is not impacted by the losses of DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams. Combined with all of this, the Texans win the Super Bowl.
|If guys like Andre Johnson can stay healthy, then the|
Houston Texans can win the division.
MOST IDEAL SCENARIO: Most likely, barring any surprises, the Texans will win the division. However, there are surprises year in and year out, so we shall see. I think that because they made little moves in the offseason, that their record will primarily stay the same. In a way, the losses of Ryans and Williams will hurt them, but Wade Phillips is a great defensive coordinator. I do think that Ben Tate will bounce back to reality and will have a sophomore slump, however, the primary 3 guys on the offense should be fine. They should make the playoffs. FINAL RECORD: 10-6
Head Coach: Mike Munchack
2011 SEASON: The 2011 season for Tennessee ended as they were the only team that season to miss the playoffs with a winning record, finishing at 9-7. Chris Johnson had a disappointing season, while Jake Locker rode the bench and Matt Hasselbeck led the team to some good wins. It was Munchack's debut season as head coach of the team.
OFFSEASON MOVES: Tennessee made no major news with free agency, with the exception of losing starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan to St. Louis and signing defensive tackle Legar Douzable. In the NFL Draft, the team acquired wide receiver Kendall Wright out of Baylor and linebacker Zach Brown out of North Carolina. They also named Jake Locker the starting QB of the team.
|Can Chris Johnson come back from his|
awful and disappointing 2011 season?
WEAKNESS: Tennessee's weakness is at safety, and it's really going to show this year. Now that Finnegan is gone, the Titans will have to attempt more zone defenses, and that will show the glaring need at safety. At free safety, you've got Griffin, who is solid. But at strong safety, you're looking at Afalava starting. And the depth at the position isn't too pretty either. If teams want to throw the ball deep down the field against Tennessee, they should have some success.
GAME TO WATCH: For Tennessee, the game to watch is that week 4 matchup against Houston at Houston. The first four games for Tennessee are as tough as any in the league, as they go up against New England and Detroit at home, and go to San Diego and Houston on the road. Not exactly how you want Jake Locker to start his NFL career. If the Titans start off badly, then this game against Houston could end their season before it begins.
|Kendall Wright was drafted by Tennessee to improve|
the somewhat thin WR core.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Locker turns out to be the franchise QB of the team, and Chris Johnson regains his form from 2010. Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright form a great 1-2 punch at wide receiver, and the defense outperforms expectations. With all of this, the Titans win the division for the first time since the 2008 season.
|Matt Hasselbeck will be riding the bench for Tennessee|
MOST IDEAL SCENARIO: The beginning of that schedule is absolutely brutal. It does get easier in the middle half, but there's a very realistic chance (and I think it will happen) that the Titans start the season at 0-4. They made no moves in the offseason to suggest that they were a winning team, and I don't feel that they have the pieces to be a team above .500. FINAL RECORD: 6-10
Head Coach: Chuck Pagano
2011 SEASON: In the eyes of Indianapolis fans, the 2011 season was one to forget. Peyton Manning was out for the year with a shoulder injury, and the rotating carousel of Orlovsky, Collins and Painter led the Colts to a record of 2-14. Head coach Jim Caldwell was fired at the end of the season, and the team entered the offseason in a major rebuilding mode.
OFFSEASON MOVES: In the offseason, the Colts lost a lot of talent. Peyton Manning, Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullett were cut, and Pierre Garcon left the team in free agency. They re-signed Reggie Wayne, but did most of their damage in the draft, getting quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Coby Fleener and other contributors such as Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton and Lavon Brazill. The team also made a trade, giving away a few picks to Miami for cornerback Vontae Davis.
|Longtime Colt Peyton Manning was released,|
as he is now in Denver.
WEAKNESS: Indianapolis has many weaknesses, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, but the major weakness has to be at nose tackle. The Colts under Pagano are going to play the 3-4 defense, and they are especially thin at nose tackle. Drake Nevis might be the guy that gets the go come opening day, but still... that's really thin.
GAME TO WATCH: For the Colts, the game to watch is that week 3 showdown against the Jaguars. Most likely, the Colts will be 1-1 at the time, and this game is the last game before the bye week. If the Colts want to make the playoffs, then this game is essentially a must-win (with the Packers following this game, they have to beat Jacksonville).
|Stanford QB Andrew Luck is the new man under|
center in Indianapolis.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Andrew Luck becomes the franchise quarterback that everybody has been hoping for. He easily fills Manning's void, behind great performances by running back Donald Brown, receivers Wayne, Hilton and Collie and tight ends Fleener and Allen. The defense finishes middle of the pack behind Pagano's defensive background, and the Colts shock us all, making the playoffs.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Andrew Luck becomes a Ryan Leaf type player, and he is awful in his rookie campaign. The youth on the team is actually its downfall, as inexperience leads the team to collapse down the stretch in many games. Because of the transition to the 3-4 and the lack of good players on that defense, the defense is the worst in the league. The team finishes with the worst record in the NFL, yet again.
|Dwight Freeney is one of the few constants on that|
defense this season.