AFC South Preview
HOUSTON'S HOPES TO CHASE DOWN INDIANAPOLIS IN AFC SOUTH HURT BY FOSTER'S INJURY
The Houston Texans entered their 2015 training camp with dreams of chasing down the Indianapolis Colts at the top of the AFC South. But, those took a quick hit when star running back Arian Foster suffered an injury that will likely cost him the first two months of the season. Now, the Texans enter Saturday night's Preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers knowing that a relatively unproven quarterback will have to rise to the occasion.
As we write this...it's still not clear whether Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett will get the start and be declared the #1 quarterback. It's even more uncertain whether either of those signal callers has what it takes to take the team to January! Let's run last year's numbers to get a better sense of the AFC South as we continue our series of NFL divisional previews...
2014 AFC SOUTH DIVISION STANDINGS
Indianapolis: 11-5 (-5 turnovers, #16 rated schedule)
Houston: 9-7 (+12 turnovers, #32 rated schedule)
Jacksonville: 3-13 (-6 turnovers, #17 rated schedule)
Tennessee: 2-14 (-10 turnovers, #19 rated schedule)
Notebook: The first strike against Houston is that they faced a very weak schedule last season. How can they be a playoff team this year if they weren't last year against that soft slate? Indianapolis was legit because they played a league average schedule. And, the Colts have clear room for improvement because Andrew Luck is still relatively young and climbing the learning curve. The Colts have a real shot at 12-13 wins in 2015 if they can fix the turnover category. Ugly stuff down at the bottom...though Tennessee is hopeful that rookie quarterback Marcos Mariota can get some wins on the board against a schedule softened by that last place finish (Titans will face other last place teams).
Indianapolis: 5.9 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Houston: 5.2 on offense, 5.2 on defense
Tennessee: 5.3 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Jacksonville: 4.7 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Notebook: And, now we see that Houston could only manage "dead even" in yardage differential despite playing that easy schedule. Maybe the new quarterback can push the up to 5.5 yards-per-play. Maybe not. And, maybe more turnovers come with the change. Houston did have the best defensive the division...and that counts for something. Good sign for Tennessee that they managed something near break-even despite tanking down the stretch for draft position.
2014 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
Indianapolis: 41% on offense, 33% on defense
Houston: 39% on offense, 34% on defense
Tennessee: 30% on offense, 41% on defense
Jacksonville: 32% on offense, 43% on defense
Notebook: Great stuff there on defense and overall differential for the first two teams. Andrew Luck is the real deal...and on pace to be the next Brady/Manning type producer. Can the new Houston quarterback top 40% on third downs? If not, how would they win this division barring an injury to Luck?
2015 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS
Indianapolis 10.5 or 11
Jacksonville 5.5 or 6
That 11 seems a little low for Indianapolis based on the numbers we ran today. They're the class of the division...and positioned to get even better in 2015 than they had been. Houston is a Wildcard contender that still badly needs an established quarterback. It's unlikely that both Jacksonville and Tennessee can make it to six wins. Neither is motivated to tank any more though.
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One more division to tackle this weekend when we look at the NFC East on Sunday. Note that today's look at the AFC South has already set the stage for Indianapolis's role in that matchup! Then, a couple of days of baseball will be followed by the final three divisional previews...
Sunday: NFC East preview to get you ready for Philadelphia hosting Indianapolis
Monday: MLB Series Preview...SF Giants at St. Louis Cardinals
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview...NY Mets at Baltimore Orioles
Wednesday-Thursday: AFC North Previewto get you ready for Cleveland hosting Buffalo
Friday: AFC West Preview to get you ready for Kansas City hosting Seattle
Saturday: NFC South Preview to get you ready for New Orleans hosting New England
Be sure you're printing out all of our divisional (and college football conference) previews so you can refer to them early in the new season! Here in the NOTEBOOK, it will be mostly football from this point forward. But we'll do our best to stay in touch with the exciting baseball pennant races that are still ongoing. Our job is to help you find winners all over the betting board. We've been doing that for years online and from the home offices of JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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