There is no doubt about it. Playing in the AFC South is playing knowing that your best may not be good enough. When you play along side the Colts, Titans, Jaguars and Texans you know your journey to the playoffs won’t be with a confident strut. It will be more like a few cautious steps as you always look over your shoulder, seeing how close your competitor is behind you.
The Titans managed to snatch the lead out of the Colts’ hands for the first time since 2003. With the fall of Vince Young and the rise of Kerry Collins, the Titans went on to win 11 games straight. However, a key component of those wins will not be returning to Tennessee in the 2009 season. Albert Haynesworth will be playing happily with his engorged contract in Washington. It is difficult to see Tennessee winning the division again but that does not mean they will not be an ever-present thorn in the side of the Jaguars’ playoff chances. Defeating the Titans is something the Jaguars have always struggled to do.
Even though the Colts relinquished their hold on the AFC South, they were still a force to fear and respect. They started off their season on a bad foot (or should I say a bad knee?) but managed to recover in typical Colts fashion. When things started to look bad, Peyton Manning got his hands on the ball and you knew there was too much time left on the clock to count them out. The Colts started off 3-4 but ended the season with an 12-4 record. Even though they are under a new head coach, Tony Dungy’s presence will still be felt. As we saw with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that is sometimes all you need in order to get into the playoffs. The Jaguars still have to get their Colts monkey off their back in order to have any strong presence in the post-season.
The Texans are the wild card. They probably won’t make it to the playoffs but they will surely get in the way of anyone who tries. They are a young franchise but they are gaining ground with every season that passes. They certainly have the number of every AFC South team. The Texans splitting the wins with their AFC South brethren is not a hard idea to swallow. The Jaguars are the last AFC South opponent they face and you would be smart to bet on the fact that they will play that game for all its worth.
The Jaguars themselves are a huge “if”. It will be remarkable if they make it as far as the playoffs this season. It would be much more likely to see them stronger in the 2010 season when they have another draft under their belts and they are able to fill more of their holes. However, that seems to be just the type of element the Jaguars thrive on. The Jaguars are the team to surprise you when you’re least expecting it, a story told throughout their short history.