Team by Team: AFC South and AFC West

Kent Nishimura

Your: AFC South and AFC West breakdown

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: Having covered and admired the game of Brian Cushing since his days at Bergen Catholic H.S. in Northern New Jersey, I felt the Texans would lose a lot of defensive efficiency and swagger when Cushing went down for the season with a torn ACL. I WAS WRONG! The Texans have been the best team in the AFC thus far. The defense has continued to play lights out lead by defensive end J.J. Watt, who is having a tremendous season. Matt Schaub has solid numbers on the year and has the Texans at 8-1 (Tied for the best record in the league). Last season the Texans were poised to make a push in the postseason but lost Schaub late in the year and struggled to get consistent efficiency from then rookie QB T.J Yates. Arian Foster has been a beast in the run game for the Texans. Foster is 3rd in the league rushing and 1st in touchdowns rushing. Having a solid run game and a great defense takes a lot of pressure off Schaub, and will be a great recipe for success come playoff time.

Indianapolis Colts: Other than die hard Colts fans, it would have been extremely difficult to find anyone betting on the Colts to be a playoff team this season. After losing Peyton Manning last season to neck surgery, the Colts had their worst season since drafting Manning back in 1998. Gone is Peyton to Denver, where he is having an MVP year. And in steps Andrew Luck. Talk about having to live up to an icon in Peyton Manning and the high expectations of being the #1 overall pick. Andrew Luck has lived up to the hype and more. He has the Colts in a position that no one thought they would be in. The Colts won 2 games last season. They currently sit at 6-3 with plenty of winnable games ahead. Head Coach Chuck Pagano’s battle with cancer has inspired this team. Down the stretch the Colts face 4 teams with losing records. If they can take advantage of those teams and reach 10 wins, I believe the Colts will make the postseason, but be a first round out. The Colts are certainly not a Superbowl contender, this year, but they have made significant improvement in just 1 year. Impressive!!

Jacksonville Jaguars: This will be quick because there is nothing to talk about with this team. The only person worth referring to when it comes to the Jaguars is Maurice Jones-Drew. I actually feel terrible for MJD. He held out for a new contract that ultimately was not given to him, now he is hurt and I hope he sits out the rest of the way. The Jaguars are in complete turmoil as a franchise. They drafted Blaine Gabbert to be their franchise quarterback… Not working out!! Gabbert has not played well and does not look like he is going to be the future quarterback for this organization. This past year the team drafted WR Justin Blackmon, whom they believed to be the best wide out in the draft… Has not worked out thus far either!! The only thing the Jags have, or HAD, going for them was MJD. Now who knows if MJD will be back with this team next year? I for sure hope he doesn’t have to suffer another season with this mess of a team. Maybe they can bring in Tim Tebow next season since the Jets don't use him. He might actually rejuvenate that franchise.

Tennessee Titans: This season was supposed to be a coming out party for 2nd quarterback Jake Locker, but injuries have kept him sidelined. Back-up Matt Hasselback has played admirably in Lockers absence but this team will go as locker does. This team will not make the postseason this year. They need to sure up issues on the offensive line. Chris Johnson is dangerous a weapon as there is in the league. He can break a run for a touchdown at any point during the game, but has not had the blocking to do so. The Titans need to get Locker back on the field. He is talented and makes this team better. If the Titans can play well down the stretch and win 4 of their final 6 games, look for them to be in the playoff hunt next season.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: Was there a bigger story this offseason then Peyton Manning? The answer is No. And the beneficiaries of Manning’s move have been the Denver Broncos, who currently sit at 6-3 with Peyton at the helm. Peyton Manning has answered all the questions that surrounded him prior to the season. His arm looks strong, he’s completing passes in tight windows, and his numbers are vintage Peyton numbers. The Broncos benefit greatly by playing in the worst division in all of football. However, with Peyton Manning at quarterback, this team is a legit contender and a tough out in the postseason. If Denver ‘s defense can play at a level close to what we saw last year when Tim Tebow made his run, look for the Broncos to make it deep in the playoffs this year.

Kansas City Chiefs: Another team in complete disarray. This team needs to trade for, draft, steal a quarterback that they can build around. The Matt Cassel experiment has not worked out. Cassel was supposed to save this franchise, instead, what we learned was that his success in the Patriots offense was an aberration. The Chiefs need a quarterback in the worst way. They will continue to be a laughing stock until they get themselves a legit quarterback. Nothing really left to say. No success now, and the future looks foggy.

Oakland Raiders: Since Rich Gannon, Tim Brown and Jerry Rice led this team to a Superbowl, they have had very little, mostly No, success. Last season quarterback Carlson Palmer was brought in to solidify the quarterback position and turn this team around. That has not happened!! Running back Darren McFadden has shown that he can be a top running back in this league but he has failed to show that he can stay healthy. Nothing seems to ever go right for this team no matter what moves they make. Palmer is definitely in the latter stage of his career and I don't suspect he will be around much longer. Hopefully for the Raiders, Tyrell Pryor can develop into a play-making, dynamic, quarterback that he has the potential to be. All bets are off though when it comes to the Raiders… G-D rest the soul of the great AL Davis but he really set this team up for failure with a lot of the decisions he made (drafting Darius Heyward-Bey in the first round). I don’t believe they will make a turnaround anytime soon.

San Diego Chargers: When I think of Phillip Rivers, I can’t help but think of an accident waiting to happen. Phillip Rivers is as talented as any quarterback in the league but doesn’t have the composure that elite quarterbacks show. We have seen Rivers make tremendous plays with his arm only to follow them with horrible decisions that result in turnovers. I understand that without risk there is no reward but too often Rivers does so much harm to his team playing reckless. The Chargers need to move in another direction in my opinion. This organization needs to part ways with Rivers and Head Coach Norv turner. There have been good years with Rivers and he is certainly talented enough to carry a team, but not this team. Rivers should look for a change of scenery and a new city where he can start over. The Chargers look like a team in decline and they will not make the postseason this year.

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