NFL Offseason: Good News and Bad News for AFC South

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Mar 23, 2013



Pro football guru Russell Baxter looks at a different NFL division each week. You can also see the AFC East, NFC East, AFC North and NFC North.

By Russell S. Baxter
Cold, Hard Football Facts Pied Piper of Pigskin (@baxfootballguru)

The faces are a changing in the National Football League as free agency is in full swing.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing our look at all of the divisions and the AFC South is next up.

The Houston Texans have prevailed the last two seasons in a group once owned by the Indianapolis Colts.

But the latter staged one of the great turnarounds in league history in 2012 and also featured one of the great inspirational stories of that or any season in head coach Chuck Pagano’s battle with leukemia and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians winning NFL Coach of the Year honors subbing for his friend.

It was indeed “Chuckstrong.”

So here’s a recent look back at the AFC South. As usual, be it recently or historically, there’s always some interesting numbers that we all find fascinating in terms of trends, one of the many aspects that makes the National Football League the game we all love.

 

Houston Texans (12-4)

The Good News: After going nine straight years without reaching the playoffs and unable to reach double digits in regular-season wins, the Texans were 12-2 in 2012 and are a combined 22-10 in their last 32 regular-season games dating back to ’11 and have won the last two AFC South titles.

From 2002-10, Houston was a combined 55-89 and failed to reach the postseason. Even with last season’s second-half defensive slump, coordinator Wade Phillips has helped this team make major strides. Including playoffs, the Texans have allowed 14 points or less in 18-of-36 games dating back to his arrival in 2011.

In the four seasons prior to Phillips’ arrival, the Texans gave up 14 points or less in 12-of-64 contests from 2007-10...

The Bad News: Back to last season’s aforementioned issues on defense, amazing considering the team had the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in defensive end J.J. Watt and his league-high 20.5 sacks. 

Including their playoff split with the Bengals and Patriots, Houston allowed 242 points in their last nine games (26.9 points per game). During the team’s 8-1 start, Gary Kubiak’s squad gave up just 143 points (15.9 points per game). And after allowing just 30 or more points just once in their first nine contests, the Texans allowed 30-plus points in four of their final nine outings…

Quarterback Matt Schuab certainly had his issues down the stretch as well. In his final six games (including playoffs), the Texans’ signal-caller threw for three scores and was picked off five times. During the team’s 11-1 start, Schaub threw 21 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions…

 

Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

The Good News: The Colts pulled off one of the great reversals in NFL history a year ago when they won 11 games and reached the playoffs following a 2-14 season in 2011.

But this was old hat for this franchise. In league annals, a team has shown an eight-game improvement in the win column from the previous season 14 times and this marked the fourth time in Colts’ history that they had achieved the feat.

Indianapolis finished 13-3 in 1999 after its 3-13 season in 1998, and also rebounded from a 1-15 campaign in 1991 to finish 9-7 in 1992. And the then-Baltimore Colts won the AFC East with a 10-4 records in 1975 after going 2-12 in 1974…

Do you think general manager got a lot out of his 2012 draft class? The Colts scored 40 touchdowns in 16 regular season games last season and 22 of those came from their rookie selections in wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (8), quarterback Andrew Luck (5), tight end Dwayne Allen (3), running back Vick Ballard (3), tight end Coby Fleener (2) and wide receiver LaVon Brazil (1)…

The Bad News: Despite all the positives coming out of Indianapolis last season, there’s still a lot of work to be done. The Colts did give up 30 more points (387) than they scored in 2012 (357) and only three teams in the league gave up more rushing yards per game.

The team also finished with only 15 takeaways in 16 regular-season contests a year ago. Chuck Pagano’s club was minus-12 in turnover differential this past season thanks to 27 turnovers by the club. And the majority of those came from Andrew Luck, who threw 18 interceptions and lost five of his 10 fumbles. The first overall pick in the 2012 draft will need to cut back on those 23 turnovers in 2013…

 

Tennessee Titans (6-10)

The Good News: Following a somewhat disappointing 2011 season, running back Chris Johnson got off to a slow start this past season.

But the former Pro Bowler, who ran for 210 yards and zero scores in his first five games in 2012, ran for 1,033 yards and six touchdowns in his final 11 outings…

You have to admire the Titans’ consistency when it came to their pass-catching corps this past year. While rookie Kendall Wright led the team with 64 catches, wideouts Nate Washington (46), Kenny Britt (45) and tight end Jared Cook (44) reception totals were near identical and all four players snared exactly four scoring passes…

The Bad News: Perhaps due to quarterbacks Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck (now with the Colts) virtually splitting time due to injuries, the Titans were up and down when it came to putting points on the board. Mike Munchak’s hit-or-miss club totaled 194 points in their six victories compared to only 136 points in their 10 losses this past season…

As has been well documented, the Titans not only allowed a league-high 471 points in 2012 but it was the highest total allowed by the franchise in the organization’s 53-year history (dating back to the days of the Houston Oilers).

Tennessee allowed 30-plus points in eight games. In 2011, only two out of the Titans’ 16 opponents scored 30 or more points…

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

The Good News: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert appeared to be making some strides in his second NFL season before going down after 10 games this past year.

The former first-round pick connected on 58.3 percent of his throws for 1,662 yards, nine touchdowns and only six interceptions in 2012. In 15 games during his rookie campaign, Gabbert threw for 2,214 yards, 12 scores and 11 interceptions while completing just 50.8 percent of his passes…

One very pleasant surprise was the play of second-year wideout Cecil Shorts, a fourth-round pick in 2011 from Mount Union. While rookie Justin Blackmon totaled a team-high 64 catches, Shorts finished second on the club with 55 receptions and posted team-highs in receiving yards (979) and touchdown grans (7)…

The Bad News: The Jaguars not only tied for the worst record in the league this past season at 2-14, it was the worst finish in the franchise’s 18-year history.

In fact, since finishing 11-5 and reaching the postseason in 2007 (as well as winning a playoff game at Pittsburgh), Jacksonville has lost nearly twice as many games as it has lost (27-53 record) dating back to ’08 and has not enjoyed a winning season since…

How bad was the Jaguars’ offense in 2012?

Only the Chiefs (211) and Cardinals (250) scored fewer points than Jacksonville (255)…Even more astounding was the fact that running back Maurice Jones-Drew led the team with 414 yards…despite missing the final 10 games of the season…


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