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RICK FREEDMAN IS OUR DEFENDING CHAMP, AND HE'S TALKING SMACK.
We continue our preview of the 2010 football season with a look at the AFC West and AFC South.
Lets work backwards. The Jags are a team in disarray. End of story.
The Texans are a victim of last year's success. With a tougher schedule and Peyton Manning in their division, we don't see them having the mettle to make the next tough step forward.
The Titans are simply the best coached team in the league. You can never count out a Jeff Fisher coached team. And Vince Young is solidly entrenched at QB. What does that mean? Check out the running stats of Chris Johnson last year when Collins was the QB versus when Young took over. Because Young is a running threat, the defensive ends cannot pinch down and stuff the run. They have to hold their lanes during the play action in case Young runs a boot leg. That opens up the interior of the line and allows Johnson to rumble into the secondary, which he did last year for 2000+ yards. The problem for the Titans is that they have a weak pass defense , and that is a disaster waiting to happen in a division that has Peyton Manning.
This is the Colts division to lose. Peyton Manning remains the best in the game and the Colts defense quietly finishes in the top 10 every year (last year they were 8th.) If the Ravens secondary breaks down and the Steelers can't overcome the loss of Big Bad Ben (emphasis on Bad until he shows us otherwise) the Colts should be heading back to the big game in Dallas.
AFC WEST: Chargers and the rest.
This is the Charger's division to lose, but not because they're so much better than the rest. As longtime and careful readers of this blog know, the Chargers are coached by the second worst coach in football: Norv Turner. (Vanilla Phillips of the Cowpokes being the worst)
In the draft the Chargers traded up to grab RB Ryan Matthews to replace LT who left for some green team in NY. With the running game on the shoulders of a rookie and a guy who couldn't see over the podium in any REGJB courtroom -Darren Sproles- the Chargers don't have much of a defense to help either. They finished 20th against the run in 2009 and the only additions in the pre-season have been a rookie LB and a new nose tackle. The reason the Chargers win this so-called division is that they have the best QB in the division (Rivers) and no other team is good enough to step up and take it away.
And here is the surprise of the division- the Raiders will finish second! Yes, those Oakland Raiders who have been in disarray for so long are finally poised to take a great leap. Their troubled QB is gone, replaced by a capable game manager- Jason Campbell.
Query- which team led the NFL is tackles for loss in 2009? The same team with arguably the best CB in the league and which starts LB Rolando McClain and D-lineman Lamarr Houston: The Oakland Raiders. Darren McFadden runs the rock, and there is a stable of able WRs to catch the pass. The Raiders win 8 games this year and have a shot at 10!
The Only reason the Denver Broncos are not in the cellar in this division is because the Chiefs are worse. But not by much. Second year head coach Josh McDaniels will quickly learn that a team needs a first round draft pick to make a contribution in year one. Tim Terrific will not do that in any meaningful way, and neither will their other 1st Rd pick- WR Thomas. The Broncos lost a top WR (Brandon Marshall, to the Fins) a LB (Andra Davis) and a D-lineman ( Kenny Peterson) and are trying to replace them with rookies (one with a broken foot- WR Demaryius Thomas). Good luck.
Another reason the Broncos won't be great: two words- Kyle Orton. Good luck with that as well.
The Broncos added Jarvis Green and Jamal Williams to the defensive-line, and they replaced linebacker Andra Davis with Akin Ayodele. Green has been a career backup that couldn't cut it in 2009 for New England, while Williams was roughed up by the Raiders last year and Ayodele is a cast off from the Fins. Last we heard, Tim Terrific doesn't play defense.
KC brings up the rear, and that's what happens when you draft worse than the Raiders year in and year out. They may have turned the corner with the last two drafts, but they are a raw, young team, and they have a murderous road schedule: Indy, Houston, Chargers, and Broncos. If they split their road games in Cleveland and St. Louis that will be a victory in and of itself. See you next year with the team with the best BBQ in the league.