Binge Media Sports: 2014 NFL Preview-AFC South/NFC South

On September 2, 2014 by Luke Norris

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Welcome back to Binge Media Sports as I continue my look at the upcoming 2014 NFL season. We’ve gotten halfway through with previews of teams from the East (click HERE) and teams from the North (click HERE). Today, we head to the South so let’s get to it.

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texans HOUSTON TEXANS

LAST SEASON: 2-14, FINISHED 4TH IN THE AFC SOUTH, MISSED PLAYOFFS

2014 PREVIEW: The offensive talent is there. Arian Foster still has the potential to contend for the rushing title, but he also might catch a few more passes this season out of the backfield as Bill O’ Brien has changed up the offense. Houston also has one of the top receivers in the league in Andre Johnson. The question is who is going to get him the football. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named the starter, but if he struggles, will the newly acquired Ryan Mallett get his chance. After years of backing up Tom Brady, you figure he had to learn something, right?

On the defensive side, the Texans have the best player in the league in defensive end J.J. Watt, who if you haven’t heard, just got a $100 million dollar extension. The hope is that he doesn’t turn into Albert Haynesworth and let the money go to his head. He’ll be joined by the overall number one pick, linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. There’s always an adjustment from college to the pros, but Clowney has the tools. I don’t see the Texans winning this division, but I’m quite certain that they’ll get more than the two wins they got last year.

colts INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

LAST SEASON: 11-5, WON THE AFC SOUTH, LOST IN DIVISIONAL ROUND TO THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

2014 PREVIEW: Remember when the loss of Peyton Manning was supposed to set the Colts back by about six or seven years? Well, nobody told Andrew Luck. He’s got this team poised to make a deep playoff run in 2014. After an injury-plagued 2013, Reggie Wayne is still one of the smartest receivers in the league and should be healthy come Week 1. Hakeem Nicks will be looking to make a statement after being cut loose by the Giants, and T.Y. Hilton makes for a hell of a third option. Trent Richardson has to have a better season than he did last year, but he’ll be splitting time with Ahmad Bradshaw. Andrew Luck has options now, and that may lead to an MVP, maybe even a Super Bowl run.

The defense will have to pick it up, especially the first four games as Robert Mathis will be out to a failed PED test. But the addition of former Raven Arthur Jones brings more power to the front line. The secondary isn’t the strongest in the league, but even if they’re average, the offense may just pick up the slack anyway. The Colts are the clear favorite in this division.

jaguars JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

LAST SEASON: 4-12, FINISHED 3RD IN THE AFC SOUTH, MISSED PLAYOFFS

2014 PREVIEW: The Jags have added some offensive weapons at receiver in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson to help out Cecil Shorts. For the time being, Chad Henne will be throwing them the ball, but he’s really just warming up the seat for the number three overall pick, Blake Bortles. The highly touted pick is still making his case to be the starter. They’ve got some interesting running options in Toby Gerhart and the versatile Denard Robinson. I’m not sure if this offense could be really good or really bad, but it will certainly be interesting to watch the progression.

Things are picking up on defense. They signed defensive end Red Bryant away from the Seahawks and he creates a ton of problems for the running game and also stole Chris Clemons, who can really attack the quarterback. The problem is that the rest of the team, while talented, is very young and are still a few years away from being dominant. The Jags are doing all the right things for the future, but it’s not in the cards for them to compete in 2014.

titans TENNESSEE TITANS

LAST SEASON: 7-9, FINISHED 2ND IN THE AFC SOUTH, MISSED PLAYOFFS

2014 PREVIEW: The quarterback situation is an interesting one in Tennessee. Jake Locker will be your Opening Day starter, but can he make it through an entire season? In three seasons, he’s started a total of 18 games. That kind of inconsistency will knock you out of the league pretty fast, so he needs a good year. Charlie Whitehurst is considered the backup for now, but sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger out of LSU looked pretty good in the preseason. Whoever it may be, they’ll have decent, but not spectacular options to get the ball to in Justin Hunter, Nate Washington, and Kendall Wright.

Switching to a 3-4 this season, the defense will still struggle. There’s really no other way to say it. Outside of Jason McCourty on the outside, and Jurrell Casey on the inside, there’s really nothing to be overly hopeful about this year. The Titans were able to win seven games last year, but I don’t even know if they can reach that in 2014.

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falcons ATLANTA FALCONS

LAST SEASON: 4-12, FINISHED TIED FOR LAST IN THE NFC SOUTH, MISSED PLAYOFFS

2014 PREVIEW: Last year certainly wasn’t what the Falcons had in mind. Injuries hindered Atlanta last year as Julio Jones went down after a few weeks, Roddy White was never at full strength, Steven Jackson missed quite a few games, and the list goes on and on. With all those pieces back and healthy for 2014, quarterback Matt Ryan looks to move the Falcons back in the right direction. Expect a little more potency on the offensive side of the ball.

The defense has the talent to be good, but it’s another case of youth. Cornerback Desmond Trufant is quietly becoming one of the most dangerous in the league, but he’s only in his second year, as is Robert Alford on the other side. And with underrated defensive end Jonathan Babineaux leading the front line, the Falcons should be improved. They’re in a very tough division, but should at least double their win total from a year ago.

panthers CAROLINA PANTHERS

LAST SEASON: 12-4, WON THE NFC SOUTH, LOST DIVISIONAL ROUND TO THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

2014 PREVIEW: With the Falcons moving forward, the Panthers may take a step back this season. They surprised everyone with twelve wins last year as they won this tough division. But with the loss of many key players, including locker room leader Steve Smith, Cam Newton will really have to step up and take control of this team. He’s still a huge threat to run the ball, but at some point that will go away. Jonathan Stewart’s health may still be an issue and the receiving core is not what it was a year ago.

The Carolina defense, however, is very strong. At defensive end, you have Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, who alone had 15 sacks last year. And if you don’t watch a lot of Panthers football, do yourself a favor and tune in just to watch middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. In only his third year, he’s become the model for what a middle linebacker should be. The secondary may be a little weaker, which doesn’t help in this division. Overall, the Panthers are going to have to work very hard to repeat what they did last year.

saints NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

LAST SEASON: 11-5, FINISHED 2ND IN THE NFC SOUTH, LOST DIV. ROUND TO THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

2014 PREVIEW: The Saints are ready to go. Sure, they lost Darren Sproles to Philly, but Drew Brees still has plenty of weapons to work with, the first being his experience. He knows how to win in this league. Couple that with the amazing talent of tight end Jimmy Graham, target receiver Marques Colston, and Pierre Thomas out of the backfield, and you’ve got a recipe for putting up big yardage and big point totals.

Rob Ryan’s boys are starting to take a ton of pressure off of the offense. They don’t have a lot of household names on that side of the ball. Akiem Hicks is developing quite nicely, and they’ve got some speed on the inside, but the great thing about this defense is that they all work together in the schemes that Ryan gives them. The Saints will once again look to win this division.

buccaneers TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

LAST SEASON: 4-12, FINISHED TIED FOR LAST IN THE NFC SOUTH, MISSED PLAYOFFS

2014 PREVIEW: When Jay Cutler went down in Chicago, 35-year-old Josh McCown stepped in and played extremely well in his absence. He played so well that Tampa and new head coach Lovie Smith named him the new starter after he signed a two-year deal. He’ll certainly have to use his knowledge and experience to work with the young guys he has alongside him. Doug Martin is hoping to bounce back from injury and get back to his rookie year form, where he ran for nearly 1,500 yards. Rookie receiver Mike Evans will look to learn from Vincent Jackson, but will be another threat in this offense.

Lovie Smith has always been a defensive-minded coach. He’s got some decent talent to work with in Adrian Clayborn and Clinton McDonald, and let’s be honest. The Bucs have nowhere to go but up. If they can stay healthy, there’s a chance that they could go from worst to first. But with all the talent in this division, they’re really going to have to play to their best each and every week.

Almost home kids. Check back next time for previews of the AFC and NFC West, which includes the two participants from the Super Bowl, the Seahawks and the Broncos. I’ll also be looking at the 49ers, Cardinals, Rams, Chiefs, Chargers, and Raiders. Who do you have in the South divisions?. Let us know below or follow me and tweet @THElukenorris.

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