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AFC South

September 02, 2008|Sam Farmer

Seventh in an eight-part series as Times NFL writer Sam Farmer analyzes the league by division. Today, the AFC South:

Story lines

1. Will Peyton Manning be ready for Sunday's opener against Chicago? The Colts star underwent knee surgery in July to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee, and sat out the slate of exhibition games. The Colts don't seem too concerned; Coach Tony Dungy said he'd be shocked if Manning isn't ready to play against the Bears. What is a concern, though, is the loss of starting center Jeff Saturday, who's out with a knee injury.

2. Which Vince Young will we see in Tennessee this season? The quarterback named the NFL's offensive rookie of the year in his first season? Or the second-year struggler who finished last season with twice as many interceptions (18) as touchdowns (nine)? If the preseason is an indication, he's still got a long way to go.

3. After a promising showing last season, is Jacksonville a legitimate Super Bowl contender? The Jaguars have a pair of great running backs, a quarterback who knows how to protect the football, and a defense that should be among the league's top 10. This is the year they'll pass the Colts.

How they'll finish

1. Jacksonville: The Jaguars showed the NFL something last season with their playoff victory at Pittsburgh.

2. Indianapolis: Losing Pro Bowl center Saturday for at least the first six weeks is a huge body blow. He has started every game since late 2004.

3. Tennessee: An injury to All-Pro kicker Rob Bironas is no small consideration here. He was a difference-maker last season.

4. Houston: If the Texans can keep quarterback Matt Schaub healthy, they'll have a chance to climb out of the division cellar.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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