How Many Wins Will It Take To Win The AFC South In 2011?

The Houston Texans aren't a sure-fire bet to contend for the AFC South title. At least not yet. 

Not with the secondary still young and the Glover Quin/FA cornerback endgame still unresolved. Not with DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin's availability and skill yet to be witnessed. Wadetussin should inevitably help the defense out, as Steph Stradley pointed out, but the amount of available talent on hand going up would also be a big plus.

But a funny thing has happened over the past few years. The once-mighty AFC South has started to get a touch of grey in some places, and last year's results showed that while the Texans didn't have the best record in the division, they very well may have the best short-term unit in it: their offense. 

Peyton Manning's mighty Indianapolis Colts continued to be the class of the division. This time though, they won just 10 games. Had Manning's sorcery known no bounds, the Jaguars could have clinched the division on the road in Week 15, and Jacksonville wound up winning just eight games. Manning will be 35 coming into next season, and he battled neck injuries last season. Reggie Wayne will hit 33 in November, and Dallas Clark has already turned 32. Outside of Jacob Tamme, the rest of the young parts of Indianapolis' offense have had their share of injuries (Austin Collie), foibles (Donald Brown, Pierre Garcon), or both (Anthony Gonzalez). Age is also turning into a problem on defense: Robert Mathis, Gary Brackett, and Dwight Freeney have all gone over 30. While the Colts have developed some good young defensive backs, the Tampa-2 is built on a strong pass rush, and we've yet to see if Jerry Hughes can jump in and start producing. 

That isn't to say that the Colts are doomed this year. They have a lot of great (if older) pieces and suffered some pretty bad injuries last season. The case can be made that they are as vulnerable as they've ever been since the Texans have existed though, and Manning's witchcraft will continue to have to carry the rest of the team with him.

The Jaguars are in a very similar situation to the Texans: they also had a good offense and horrendous pass defense last year. They went with Blaine Gabbert in the first round, which wasn't a good-use of leveraging their resources for a win-now push. Maurice Jones-Drew dealt with some injuries of his own last year, and they may lose Mike Sims-Walker to free agency as well, leaving them with a lot of questions in the passing game. They've spent a lot of draft picks rebuilding their defensive line, but with Aaron Kampman going down last year, they didn't get much of a pass rush from their ends at all.

The Titans still have their run game, and you can make a pretty good argument that their offensive line underperformed last year. but it's really hard to believe in a team coming off a 6-10 season with a rookie quarterback as a contender. Especially when said quarterback couldn't even complete 54% of his passes over his college career. Their only scary passing weapon, Kenny Britt, has spent the majority of the offseason being thankful that the NFL Lockout has made his off-field activities an afterthought. They lost highly regarded defensive line coach Jim Washburn to the Eagles, and with Jason Babin and Dave Ball ready to hit free agency, they could lose nearly half of the team's sacks from last season. 

Don't get me wrong, the Texans have plenty of problems of their own, but with Wade Phillips coming on, I think that they've gained ground on the rest of the division this offseason already. Even before they try and fix the secondary. If there was ever a free agency period for Houston to be active, I think it would be this one. 

Nine or ten wins just might be enough to take this division, and there's no reason the Texans shouldn't be trying to maximize the chances of that happening.

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