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SOUTH DIVISION

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September 02, 2002|BY NEWSDAY IN PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH BY DIVISION

TENNESSEE TITANS

Coach: Jeff Fisher, ninth season.

Last season's record: 7-9, tied for third in AFC Central.

Who's in: FB Greg Comella (Giants), S Lance Schulters (49ers) and C Jeff Smith (Jaguars).

Who's out: S Blaine Bishop, CB Michael Booker, DE Josh Evans, LB Greg Favors, DT Jason Fisk, CB DeRon Jenkins, G Bruce Matthews, LB Eddie Robinson, WR Chris Sanders.

Outlook: The Titans were favored by many to go to the Super Bowl last season, but flubbed the opportunity because of injuries and inconsistency. But if quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George hold up this season, there should be a turnaround. The Titans still have a solid roster, and don't forget about defensive end Jevon Kearse, one of the most feared pass rushers in the game.

Parting shot: When you play in a division with Houston and Jacksonville, you're already ahead of the game. Look for the Titans to edge Indianapolis for the divisional crown.

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Coach: Tony Dungy, first season with Colts.

Last season's record: 6-10, fourth in AFC East.

Who's in: DT James Cannida (Buccaneers), LB Greg Favors (Titans), CB Walt Harris (Bears), WR Qadry Ismail (Ravens), G Jim Pyne (Eagles), TE Jermaine Wiggins (Patriots).

Who's out: Coach Jim Mora, CB Jeff Burris, S Chad Cota, TE Ken Dilger, WR Trevor Insley, G Steve McKinney, WR Jerome Pathon, RB Dominic Rhodes (injured), DT Mike Wells, WR Terrence Wilkins.

Outlook: Dungy inherits one of the league's most prolific offenses, but the big challenge is adding a defense to match. It will take some time, because the Colts simply don't have the horses. Anything will be an improvement over last season, when the Colts were pushed around just about every week.

Parting shot: Colts should have a nice bounce-back season with Dungy, whose defensive scheme will help make up for a lack of talent.

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Coach: Tom Coughlin, eighth season.

Last season's record: 6-10, tied for fifth in AFC Central.

Who's in: DE Stalin Colinet (Vikings), WR Patrick Johnson (Ravens), TE Pete Mitchell (Lions), DT Tim Morabito (Panthers), G Chris Naeole (Saints).

Who's out: CB Aaron Beasley, T Tony Boselli, LB Kevin Hardy, K Mike Hollis, WR Keenan McCardell, LB Hardy Nickerson, DT Seth Payne, C Jeff Smith, DT Gary Walker, DE Renaldo Wynn.

Outlook: Coughlin didn't handle his salary cap situation several seasons ago, and it became so unwieldy that he had to go through a wholesale roster purge in the off-season. That means there isn't much left, other than quarterback Mark Brunell and running back Fred Taylor. In fact, Coughlin said he had more pure talent in 1995, when the Jaguars were a first-season expansion team.

Parting shot: Coughlin got a contract extension in the off-season, but a 3-13 record might mean curtains.

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HOUSTON TEXANS

Coach: Dom Capers, formerly a head coach for the Carolina Panthers.

Outlook: Considering the Texans are a first-year expansion team, they have a decent amount of talent that features former Jet cornerbacks Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman, kick returner Jermaine Lewis, receiver Corey Bradford and linebacker Jamie Sharper. Quarterback David Carr, the first overall pick out of Fresno State, seems to have a bright future ahead. That said, this will be a difficult season for the Texans, who already have significant injury problems along the offensive line. The long-term prospects appear bright, but there will be the usual growing pains that every expansion franchise experiences.

Parting shot: One thing you can say for the Texans--at least they're not the Lions.

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