Dec 30 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Vick Ballard (33) is tackled by Houston Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson (25) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Division Predictions: AFC South

Each week, Rishi Pochiraju will predict the placement of teams in an NFL division.  Up today: the AFC South.

The AFC South produced two playoff teams a year ago, and I expect that to happen again in 2013 with the same two teams (Indianapolis and Houston). Indy features a rising star quarterback in Andrew Luck, while Houston boasts a complete team and one of the best running backs in the league.

The Titans and Jaguars both have their work cut out for them, and each team has quarterback questions, especially Jacksonville. I believe Jake Locker will pan out.

The division will be a competitive one between the Colts and Texans, perhaps coming right down to the wire. The week 15 matchup between the teams could possibly decide the outcome of the division.

Without further ado…

1st Place:  Indianapolis Colts

Regardless of how well the Texans played in the regular season last year, the Colts were only a game behind them in the division. Indy finished second while Houston (who ended the season poorly) finished first. Indianapolis has the more promising quarterback in Andrew Luck (what did he not do last season?).

The Colts don’t have as good of a supporting cast around Andrew Luck as the Texans have around Matt Schaub, but Luck is a more talented player and a championship-caliber quarterback. Luck has made names out of players such as T.Y. Hilton, a sixth-round pick. Schaub has weapons in Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, but Schaub himself can only take Houston so far.

Another thing: Houston hasn’t beat Indianapolis when the Colts have hosted them. Ever. It is bound to happen in the future, but I believe the Colts will split the two games against Houston (as they did last year) or win both. As I said, the division will come down to the wire – Houston and Indianapolis might end up with the exact same win-loss records and the division may come down to a tiebreaker.

2nd Place:  Houston Texans

Houston is a quality ball club, perhaps more talented, and definitely more complete, than Indianapolis. However, I don’t see them winning the division for the third straight year. The way the team played down the stretch last year (2-4 to close out the season, including playoffs) did not indicate that the team is capable of winning again. One of those losses was a one-sided victory against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Keep in mind that the final game against the Colts in Week 15 is in Indianapolis. Houston has never won there.

Arian Foster and Andre Johnson are great players, but the team’s success rests purely on the shoulder of Matt Schaub. He needs to prove to be more than just a game manager who exceeds under the system to take the Texans to a division title.

An uprising Indianapolis team and the way Houston played down the stretch last season doesn’t provide me with much optimism heading into 2013 for Houston. The team will still make the playoffs as a wild card in a weak AFC (compared to the NFC), but won’t win the division for the third straight year.

3rd Place:  Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker’s development is key in Tennessee’s ability to succeed. First off, he needs to stay on the field – a shoulder injury cost him five starts last season. Chris Johnson seems to have disappeared – one day he’s the best running back in the league; the next, he’s off the radar.

Maybe being off the radar is just what the Titans need. The team flew under the radar during free agency, signing several important, relatively big-name players, including Bernard Pollard and Delanie Walker. I like what the Titans have done, but now the question is how these players will fit into the system that Tennessee likes to run, both on offense and defense.

I don’t believe Tennessee has what it takes to compete with Indianapolis and Houston yet, but the team will be expected to improve on an unsuccessful 2012 campaign. After all, there’s only one team that’s happy at the end of the year, and that’s the team that wins the Lombardi.

4th Place:  Jacksonville Jaguars

Who’s going to be the starting quarterback? Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert? I believe it’ll be Henne, but the Jags will be searching for a quarterback next offseason. The 2014 draft should be loaded with quarterback talent.

A new head coach is in town in Gus Bradley, and he’s a defensive coach on a team with a lack of offensive output. Somehow, some way, the quarterback and two receivers, Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon, need to gel for offensive success.

If star running back Maurice Jones-Drew successfully returns from a foot injury, and the Jags get a few lucky bounces in their way, this season will be a step in the right direction for the franchise.

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Tags: AFC South Andrew Luck Blaine Gabbert Chad Henne Colts FanSided Fansidednfl Houston Texans Indianapolis Colts Jacksonville Jaguars Jaguars Jake Locker Matt Schaub NFL Predictions Tennessee Titans Texans Titans

  • Kevyne Collins

    Not gonna happen. You are biased. Houston faded down the stretch and had a tough time against elite talent, no doubt. Yet Indianapolis kept on winning by the skin of their teeth and overachieved, not to mention their OC is gone. Doesn’t matter that Andrew Luck’s Stanford OC is gonna be there. The players still have to learn that offense.

    However, all Houston has to do is open up their offense and play to win. That issue down the stretch should have opened up Gary Kubiak’s eyes. You’ve got to go, and keep going, even if you end up putting up 50 a game. Make sure that the opposing team cannot come back, and they can do that because Schaub does not throw INT’s. That is how you utilize a QB like Schaub. Do not let up. Put the games offense entirely in his hands. They will handle these things with a better receiving core, and Arian Foster catching more passes.

    Houston 14-2 (Losses to Indy and Seahawks)
    Indianapolis 9-7
    Tennessee 9-7
    Jacksonville 7-9

    • Rishi Pochiraju

      Please explain to me how I am biased? Personally, I am a Redskins fan and have no connections to the AFC South whatsoever.

      I have Indianapolis winning the division based on what I saw towards the end of the season in 2012 and the comparison of QBs between Houston and Indy.

      I made my predictions based on that, not based on the fact that I am :”biased” and support one team over another in the division.

      • Keggers

        Well your forgetting one tiny little detail in that analysis of yours about how good Indy is going to be this year. They were the worst team in the NFL the year before so they played a last place cream puff schedule last year. No such luck this year. They will be lucky if they can even even match their record of last year.

        • Rishi Pochiraju

          “Last place cream puff schedule”?

          That comes with the lack of play in the AFC South – a weak division. Beat teams like Houston and Green Bay last year.

          The past doesn’t matter in terms of being a bad team the year before or being a good team. It wasn’t “luck” that brought them to 11-5. Any team can beat any other team, no matter how they played the year before.

    • Rishi Pochiraju

      Seems like you jinxed it.

  • Saul Pavlinsky

    I will disagree Jacksonville will surprise everyone this year and will finish second behind Houston.

  • mrvicchio

    With all due respect; Indy will not place first in the division. Last year they had the whole “Chuck Strong” emotional high pushing them through a weaker then normal schedule. Houston faded the last 4 games due to injuries and misfires that did NOT represent the other 75% of their games. Houston will top the Colts, and take the 1st or 2nd seed. Count on it.