AFC South Defensive and Special Teams Ranking

To help figure out who the AFC South champions will be, we're going to examine each position group and rank them top to bottom. We will add up our results and come up with the final ranking of who's best, position by position.

Although there's no foolproof way to decide in August or even September who will win each division, talent normally plays out. Since injuries are impossible to predict and some positions mean more than others, our rankings will be weighted.

AFC South Defensive Ends- (13 points)

1. Indianapolis Colts- 6 points

2. Houston Texans- 4 points

3. Tennessee Titans- 2 points

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- 1 point

The duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will take first precedent over just about any pair in football, and if the team gets any sort of production from Jerry Hughes, Indianapolis will be as strong as ever off the edge. The Texans come in second, as rookie J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith should be solid in their new 3-4. We give Tennessee a slight edge over Jacksonville, as the Titans were able to rush the passer very well in 2010. Jacksonville could overtake Tennessee or Houston if Aaron Kampman can come back 100 percent and Matt Roth or Austen Lane steps up.

AFC South Defensive Tackles- (10 points)

1. Jacksonville Jaguars- 4 points

2. Tennessee Titans- 2.5 points

3. Houston Texans- 2 points

4. Indianapolis Colts- 1.5 points

The Jaguars ascending pair of tackles in Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu are amongst the league's best young tandems. The other three teams are clearly a step below, and either can finish second, third or fourth. We like the young group of Titans tackles that include Sen'Derrick Marks, Jovan Haye, Shaun Smith and Jurrell Casey. Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell could be solid noses for Houston, and Fili Moala, Antonio Johnson and Drake Nevis could be solid players for Indianapolis.

AFC South Linebackers- (9 points)

1. Houston Texans- 4 points

2. Jacksonville Jaguars- 2.5 points

3. Tennessee Titans- 1.5 points

4. Indianapolis Colts- 1 point

Since the Texans are the only AFC South team currently running a full-time 3-4 defense, there's more to love on the second level of Houston's defense. Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans should be excellent on the inside, and they have a plethora of talent on the outside in Mario Williams, Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. Jacksonville revamped their corps as they added Clint Session and Paul Posluszny to the already solid Daryl Smith. The Titans have a solid veteran unit that includes Barrett Ruud and Will Witherspoon, and although the Colts don't really value the linebacker position, Gary Brackett is a captain on that defense and Pat Angerer and Phillip Wheeler could be solid players.

AFC South Secondaries- (11 points)

1. Indianapolis Colts- 5 points

2. Tennessee Titans- 3 points

3. Houston Texans- 2 points

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- 1 point

The Colts top our rankings as they boast a Pro Bowler in Antoine Bethea at safety along with standouts Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey at the cornerback positions. Tennessee comes in second with veterans Cortland Finnegan, Michael Griffin and Chris Hope. Houston's secondary was awful last year but the additions of Jonathan Joseph and Danieal Manning could make them the top in the division. Jacksonville comes in last as there are still major questions opposite Rashean Mathis and with one of the safety positions.

AFC South Special Teams (14 points)

1. Jacksonville Jaguars- 6 points

2. Tennessee Titans- 4 points

3. Indianapolis Colts- 3 points

4. Houston Texans- 1 point

The Jaguars have one of the best coverage units in football with Montell Owens and Kassim Osgood, along with a crunch time kicker in Josh Scobee and that's why they take home the top spot. Tennessee boasts a Pro Bowl return man in Marc Mariani along with a big-footed kicker in Rob Bironas. The Colts have future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri kicking, and a solid punter in Pat McAfee. The Texans bring up the rear despite having a solid return man in Jacoby Jones, along with kicker Neil Rackers.

Defensive and Special Teams Totals:

Indianapolis Colts- 16.5 points

Jacksonville Jaguars- 14.5 points

Houston Texans- 13 points

Tennessee Titans- 13 points

None of the four teams in the AFC South figure to have elite defenses, but Indianapolis is the most well-rounded unit as they can get to the passer and force turnovers. Jacksonville has elite special teams, but despite what they say special teams are not ? of the game. If Houston can adjust to their new 3-4 defense, they may have the most defensive talent across the division, but there will likely be some growing pains. The Titans are in a state of transition as they are trying to figure out which young guys can play and which veterans have fuel left in the tank.

Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and the host of "The Sports Crunch" on the Aquarius 7 Broadcasting Network (national), and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie

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