AFC South - What You Need To Know
Houston Texans (10-6, 381 Points For, lost in Divisional Playoffs): The Texans probably would have been the AFC's playoff favorite last year if not for a slew of designer injuries around midseason. Sack-master Mario Williams is gone for good - he signed with Buffalo - but otherwise, the Wade Phillips defense looks formidable. QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson are no longer fantasy targets - Schaub doesn't throw all that much in the red area, and Johnson can't seem to stay on the field. Johnson's never scored ten touchdowns in any season, a sobering stat given how talented he is. Tailback Arian Foster is the consensus No. 1 pick in most fantasy league and he's running behind an elite line, but be warned that backup Ben Tate is a difference-maker as well. Tate should be the first or second backup runner off your board, depending on how you feel about Kansas City's Peyton Hillis. Strength of schedule can be a fool's errand, but nonetheless keep in mind that the Texans have the fourth-easiest slate, on paper, as we head into 2012.
Tennessee Titans (9-7, 325 PF): Although the Titans were a sneaky-competitive group last year, they're moving into a transitional phase - with second-year QB Jake Locker close to winning a starting job over incumbent Matt Hasselbeck. Locker's rushing ability makes him a possible QB2 this fall, though he got into trouble with his aggressive play in college. Chris Johnson is also entering a prove-it season; he was a bust after his late signing last year, though he miraculously played all 16 games. He's a reasonable pick in the middle of the first round, on volume more than upside. Kenny Britt is a Top 10 wideout by talent alone, but he's been arrested eight times since turning pro (the latest for a DUI incident) and he's probably going to receive a multiple-game suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell. Rookie Kendall Wright might have to play a lot of snaps right away, though the most consistent receiver on this roster (and the best fantasy value) is unheralded Nate Washington. TE Jared Cook isn't much of a blocker, but his receiving stats have improved every season. He's something of a sleeper if you want to go cheap at the position, though he's become a little trendy in the tout industry.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11, 243 PF): First, the good news: the Jags offense can't be nearly as horrendous as it was last year, and at least these guys aren't on prime time three times (as they were in 2011). But if holdout back Maurice Jones-Drew doesn't make nice with the club and report to headquarters, you won't want to spend your Sundays tracking these folks. Backup Rashad Jennings has looked snappy in camp and could be a Top 20 back if MJD walks away for good. That established, most holdouts hear the biological clock ticking just before the games start (and the game checks start), so look for Jones-Drew to eventually report. Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert has to improve quickly - import Chad Henne is pushing him - and there's talent on the flanks, albeit Laurent Robinson is learning a new offense and Justin Blackmon had a disappointing DUI arrest shortly after draft day. This probably will be the AFC's worst team in 2012.
Indianapolis Colts (2-14, 243 PF): While it's going to take several years to return to contention, the 2012 Colts should be an improved and fun team. The defense looks woeful on paper, but we'll take that for fantasy purposes: bring on the shootouts. Rookie QB Andrew Luck has been impressive from Day 1 (and his preseason debut was a smash), leading many to conclude that he's a Top 12 quarterback right now. His decision-making is excellent, and he's handy with his pocket movement. The Colts have plenty of good receivers for Luck to work with, and most of them are excellent draft values: Reggie Wayne; Austin Collie (hopefully the concussions are gone for good); rookie TE Coby Fleener. Running back Donald Brown also looks ready to break through; you can get him in the 25-30 range at the position in most leagues, but we won't be at all surprised if he's a Top 15 back on the field. Get to know this roster.