Final AFC South Breakdown
1. Tennessee (Rob Bironas/Brett Kern)
2. Houston (Neil Rackers/Matt Turk)
3. Jacksonville (Josh Scobee/Adam Podlesh)
4. Indianapolis (Open Competition/ Pat McAfee)
Tennessee's kicking game has been solid ever since Rob Bironas took over the duties in 2005, as he has one of the biggest legs in the NFL and is deadly accurate. Punter Brett Kern is more than serviceable. The Texans signed Neil Rackers in the offseason to sure up what was a shaky kicking game a year ago with Kris Brown. Brown is still on the roster, but we expect Rackers to win the job. Veteran Matt Turk is still one of the league leaders in hang time and is very good at putting the ball inside the 20. Jacksonville's Josh Scobee has a big leg, but has historically struggled with consistency from outside of 40 yards. Punter Adam Podlesh has been a victim of a directional punting philosophy which has hurt his average. The Colts will have a three-way competition at kicker with veteran Adam Vinatieri, and youngsters Brett Swenson and Garrett Lindholm. Pat McAfee isn't asked to punt much, but he's a capable young player.
The Jaguars led the NFL in punt coverage a year ago and were in the top half in kickoff coverage. In the offseason they added Pro Bowl cover guy Kassim Osgood to make what has been a team strength even stronger. They also drafted speedy return man Scotty McGee to assist in the return game. Houston had solid coverage units a year ago thanks to their punter Matt Turk. Houston also has one of the top return units with Andre Davis and Jacoby Jones. The Colts coverage and return units were very mediocre a season ago, and they will have to replace their best kickoff return man in Chad Simpson as well as their top punt returner in T.J. Rushing. Tennessee ranks last due to their struggles a year ago in the return game, but hope the additions of Damian Williams and Alterraun Verner in the draft can alleviate their poor performance.
Special Teams Numerical Breakdown:
1(t). Jacksonville= 4
1(t). Houston= 4
3. Tennessee= 5
4. Indianapolis= 7
Total Numerical Breakdown:
1. Indianapolis= 23 (Offense- 9, Defense- 7, Special Teams- 7)
2. Houston= 27 (Offense- 13, Defense- 10, Special Teams- 4)
3. Jacksonville= 29 (Offense- 15, Defense- 10, Special Teams- 4)
4. Tennessee= 31 (Offense- 13, Defense- 13, Special Teams- 5)
We don't know if these rankings will reflect the final regular season standings in January, but it will be interesting to see how things play out. Despite having the weakest special teams units in the division, the Colts have the best offense and defense and should be on top yet again. The talented Houston Texans will go as far as their running game and secondary will take them, and Jacksonville could be a surprise team if David Garrard plays up to his ability and the defensive line improves as we believe it will. The Titans have had a tough offseason and they simply don't look talented enough on the defensive side of the ball to be a legitimate title contender. Still, quarterback Vince Young is in a "prove-it" type of season and he could account for a few wins by himself.
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