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South Division

In order of predicted finish (2008 record)

September 03, 2009|Sam Farmer

Indianapolis Colts (12-4)

Big questions: Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning is still around, but his coach isn't. Tony Dungy retired after last season, leaving the job to Jim Caldwell. That's one of the many coaching adjustments the Colts will have to make coming off their sixth-consecutive 12-win season.

Big moves: Indianapolis released longtime standout receiver Marvin Harrison, although his best days were far behind him. Running back Dominic Rhodes and punter Hunter Smith are gone too. The most interesting addition is running back Donald Brown, a first-round pick from Connecticut.

Bottom line: This time last season, Manning was coming off knee surgery, and his team got off to a very slow start. Now, the Colts have to adjust to a new defensive coordinator and special-teams coach, and juggled roles among the offensive coaches. Should be interesting to see whether the franchise can maintain its remarkable stability.

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Tennessee Titans (13-3)

Big questions: Will the Titans ever have a complete offense? Will Kerry Collins beef up his ho-hum passing numbers? The Titans passed for a 27th-ranked average of 176.2 yards per game. And what's up with backup Vince Young, the former Pro Bowler and third pick of the 2006 draft? He's looked alternately sterling and shaky this summer.

Big moves: Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, a fixture in a defense that had 44 sacks and 31 takeaways, signed a $100-million deal with the Redskins. Big loss. But the Titans helped themselves on the other side of the ball by drafting receiver Kenny Britt.

Bottom line: The window of opportunity is closing fast for the Titans, who have 13 players hitting free agency after this season. Tennessee's defense will lead the way under new coordinator Chuck Cecil and has 10 of 11 starters back, although the one missing is a biggie -- Haynesworth, who could clog the middle of the field.

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Houston Texans (8-8)

Big questions: The Texans are quietly clawing their way toward respectability, and have some underrated stars in receiver Andre Johnson and defensive end Mario Williams. But their defense was bad last season, prompting the firing of coordinator Richard Smith. When healthy, quarterback Matt Schaub makes good decisions, but he's missed five games in each of his first two seasons in Houston (and now has a sprained ankle), and usually capable backup Sage Rosenfels is gone.

Big moves: With Rosenfels traded to Minnesota, the Texans needed to stock up at quarterback. They got a couple of so-so former starters in Rex Grossman and Dan Orlovsky. On defense, they added end Antonio Smith from Arizona and former USC linebacker Brian Cushing.

Bottom line: The Texans, 12-4 at home over the last two seasons, open with three of four at Reliant Stadium, good news for a club that struggled on defense last season.

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Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)

Big questions: Now that they've given the boot to some longtime standouts, can the Jaguars reboot as a franchise? They need to, considering they can't sell tickets and they're coming off their worst season in five years. A big problem was getting the running game going after losing four of their offensive linemen for most of the season. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is a huge component to the success of the franchise.

Big moves: Jacksonville did a major housecleaning, getting rid of nearly a dozen starters, among them Fred Taylor, Paul Spicer, Matt Jones, Dennis Northcutt and Mike Peterson. The Jaguars plan to rebuild through the draft but did pick up tackle Tra Thomas and receiver Torry Holt.

Bottom line: The Jaguars lost seven more games than in the 2007 season. Their reconstruction process starts up front, and that could take a while, although talented rookie tackles Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe are promising. Could be a long season.

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