Perhaps the two toughest divisions in football go head-to-head this year as teams from the AFC South match up with the NFC East. The Texans, now in their fifth NFL campaign, should easily surpass their 2-14 record from a season ago, but a look at the rest of the AFC South reveals that
will be sporting one of the toughest schedules in the league this fall. Here's a look at the rest of the Texans' conference foes as training camp begins.
Indianapolis- The Colts are still the top dog in the division as the season approaches, but the gap between Indy and the rest of the AFC South might have closed a bit with the departure of running back Edgerrin James to the desert.
The Colts have several candidates to replace James, including rookie Joseph Addai, a Houston native who attended LSU. The Colts are hoping that Addai can step in much like James did for Marshall Faulk. That seems unlikely, at least this early in his career. Peyton Manning is probably going to be facing a lot of nickel and dime defenses until Indy can prove it can still move the ball on the ground consistently.
Also gone from the Colts is kicker Mike Vanderjagt. His departure won't be felt as hard as James', especially since the Colts added Adam Vinatieri, one of the most consistent kickers in league history. If Vinatieri had been in the fold last season, it might have been the Colts and not the Steelers raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Vinatieri should only get better playing in the kicker-friendly RCA Dome.
Two Colts losses that are not getting much attention are defensive tackle Larry Tripplett and linebacker David Thornton. The Colts made the jump from offensive juggernaut to legitimate Super Bowl contender thanks in large part to a solid defense. While they were able to hold on to sack machine Dwight Freeney this offseason, the losses of Tripplett and Thornton could hurt a defense that ranked 16 th against the rush a year ago. If teams are able to control the clock and keep Freeney from teeing-off on third-and-long, the Colts' opponents might be able to keep the ball out of Manning's hands.
Jacksonville- Has their ever been a team that went 12-4 more quietly in the NFL than the Jaguars last season? There hasn't been much noise nationally about
's offense to another level this season.
Ranked 15 th in total yards last season, Jack Del Rio and company had to be a little surprised by the retirement of wide receiver Jimmy Smith this offseason. That puts second-year wideout Matt Jones at the top of
's depth chart. That's a lot to ask for a player that was taking snaps less than two years ago. First-round tight pick Marcedes Lewis has the ability to step in at tight end and contribute immediately, but what Lewis might bring to the field athletically, he counters with a lack of experience. Couple the Jaguars' young receivers with an aging and fragile Fred Taylor, and Leftwich might be asked to do a little more than he is capable of. That could put too much pressure on a defense that might be on the field more than it can handle.
of the selection of Vince Young by the Titans. On draft day, it appeared that
Young would study under quarterback Steve McNair before one day taking the reigns
When Young does take over, he should join running back Lendale White in the backfield for years to come. White will certainly bolster a running attack that ranked 23
rd in the NFL a year ago. Add Chris Brown and Travis Henry to the mix and the Titans look to have great depth at a position they may rely on heavily with a young signal-caller.
Defensively, the Titans improved a mediocre 2005 defense by snatching Chris Hope from