AFC South, A Much Tougher Neighborhood

Colts

The Colts finished their second season under head coach, Chuck Pagano, along with their second straight playoff in as many years.  Last  year the Colts were deemed to be the worst team in the league by experts who cover the league.  Also, they would be picking at the top or near the top of the 2013 draft, yet things didn’t work out that way.  The Colts shocked the football world by finishing 11-5 and then losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.  They were considered over-achievers by many-thanks to rookie phenom, Andrew Luck.  Other didn’t know what to make of them.  This year, the owner of the team expressed his aspirations of winning multiple championships via Twitter; and many analysts thought that Irsay was just putting out crazy expectations.  Yet this year’s team managed to duplicate the same 11-5 record, and beat some of the best teams in the league.  More importantly, winning the AFC South title and gaining a Wild Card Playoff home game indicated that this team was back, a team that has dominated the AFC South since it inception.

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The Colts seems to be trending in the right direction, but most football experts felt that maybe they were favored by the poor play of the teams in the division.  The AFC South was historically bad by football standards this year, and as a result the Texans and the Titans both lost their coaches.  The Texans decided that Gary Kubiak had lost the team and Wade Phillips was named interim head coach for the remainder of their season.  They next decided after the season they would target Penn State head coach, Bill O’Brien to be the man to lead them back to respectability.  Meanwhile, the Titans decided to part ways with Mike Munchak and they tabbed Ken Whisenhunt to be their next head coach.  Add second year head coach Gus Bradley in Jacksonville, now the division is completely overhauled with Chuck Pagano as the most tenured coach in the AFC South.

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Mathis-Keenum

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A few years ago, the NFC West was the joke of the NFL, now it is arguably the toughest division in football with two teams that are considered by many to be the best two teams overall.  This transformation was accomplished by changes in coaches and their staffs, drafting near the top of the draft, and making solid picks when selecting.  Likewise, with the changes in coaching staffs, as well as  some additions and subtractions in personnel, the AFC South is not that far from being very competitive again. The Colts and more namely Chuck Pagano and general manager,  Ryan Grigson must address issues that were considered either misses or deficiencies in their respective positions.

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Pagano addressed this in his season-ending press conference that he would evaluate himself and work on any areas that need to be fixed. Reading between the lines, Pagano seems to be indicating that he is aware of his deficiencies: in game management & decisions. Ironically, those seemed to be some of the strengths of former head coach Jim Caldwell whom was criticized for lacking emotions & fire that Pagano ironically seems to have. Grigson also has to use a mirror on himself, although his first draft class was nearly perfect, the 2013 draft class and free agent signings were really bad. Factor in the lost pick from the Richardson trade, Grigson will have to work really hard to overcome the misses he clearly made.

Its not all doom and gloom for our Colts, but the margin of error is greatly shrinking in the AFC South.   The Colts will have a few more years with lots of cap space before they have to break the bank and pay Luck once his rookie contract expires.  The Texans will be much better and will most likely push the Colts for the top spot while Jacksonville and Tennessee will be greatly improved.   The Colts will continue to roll, but the days of falling behind by multiple scores and coming from behind to win will be much harder this season.  The AFC South was a dumpster fire the past couple of seasons, but now it looks like rebound is happening- and the Colts better be prepared, or they could find themselves looking up again.

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