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AFC DIVISIONAL PREVIEW

South

September 01, 2007|Sam Farmer

2007 predicted order of finish . . .

* 1. Indianapolis: Now we'll see whether the Super Bowl-winning Colts were a one-hit wonder, or if last season was merely their first step to building the first dynasty this side of New England. Peyton Manning lost a couple of weapons in receiver Brandon Stokely -- his close friend and roommate on the road -- and running back Dominic Rhodes, as well as his blind-side protector, Tarik Glenn. It will be largely up to rookie left tackle Tony Ugoh to buy Manning the time he needs to direct the offense. Another interesting rookie to watch is Anthony Gonzalez, a sizzling-fast receiver from Ohio State. On defense, the Colts lost Mike Doss, Nick Harper, Cato June and Montae Reagor. But with the way Indianapolis defenders played for much of last season, a fresh start there could be a good thing.

* 2. Jacksonville: The Jaguars have their share of problems, but running the ball isn't one of them. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for more than 2,000 yards rushing last season and consistently left defenders grasping at air. The biggest problem on offense last season was that the Jaguars couldn't decide on a quarterback -- Byron Leftwich and David Garrard both looked shaky -- and couldn't hold on to the passes they delivered. On Friday, the team parted ways with Leftwich. The addition of receivers Dennis Northcutt and rookie Mike Walker makes Jacksonville faster at that position.

* 3. Tennessee: The Titans' much-debated decision to draft Vince Young paid off in a big way, with the former University of Texas quarterback winning offensive rookie of the year honors despite completing only 51.5% of his passes. This season, the young offensive player who needs to prove himself is former USC running back LenDale White, who steps in to replace workhorse Travis Henry. Losing receiver Drew Bennett also hurts. On the other side of the ball, the Titans lost their best defensive back -- and got all the bad publicity they could handle -- because of the antics of "Pacman" Jones.

* 4. Houston: Atlanta's loss was Houston's gain: The acquisition of quarterback Matt Schaub could be huge for the Texans -- at least that's what Coach Gary Kubiak is hoping. Schaub showed some promise as a backup to Michael Vick and stands tall in the pocket. Helping take some of the heat off Schaub -- heat that's sure to come while he's playing behind a reshuffled offensive line -- is tailback Ahman Green, who is aiming for a seventh 1,000-yard season. The defensive front includes four first-round picks: Amobi Okoye, Mario Williams, Travis Johnson and Jason Babin. The question: Can that line produce?

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