Even Peyton Manning may not be invincible this season.
It's usually at this time of the year that we start talking about the possibility of a team in the AFC South de-throning the Indianapolis Colts. This year should be different. Sure, a different champion would be considered a "de-throning," but it wouldn't necessarily be a shocking development. Here's what Nate Dunlevy, writer of 18to88.com, had to say about the Colts this year:
"The article posed certain problems for me. On one hand, I don't necessarily disagree with Macey's assessment of the 2011 Colts as a whole. I think they are likely a 10 win team saddled with what could be a horrible defense. Obviously, if Manning doesn't play early in the year or is severely limited, that projection will drop."
To keep the quote in context, Dunlevy was talking about Football Outsiders' football almanac, which was critical of the Colts, especially their defense.
With the Colts seemingly vulnerable, is there truly a favorite to win the AFC South? I think not, and here's why.
The Colts could be starting the season without Peyton Manning, although life has taught us to believe he'll be there for week 1. Even if he is there, he's shown before that he's not above being rusty coming off of long breaks, so; we could expect the Colts to have a rough start. Looking at their schedule, I could see them being as bad as 1-3 (losing to the Texans, Steelers, and Buccaneers).
I'll get the Titans out of the way early. Their star running back is still holding out, they have a rookie quarterback that is likely to start, and their defense is still giving up tons of passing yards. That won't get it done, especially in the AFCS.
The Texans are my pick to win the division, if I had to pick. Their defense is switching schemes, but they really can't be any worse than their defense was last season. They have a high powered offense that features a very good quarterback, very good running back, and they may have the best wide receiver in football. If they ever had a year to break through, this one's it.
The Jaguars are the dark horse in what I believe to be a three horse race. They have a defense that should be much improved, and they still have what I consider (and I think he would agree) one of the best running backs in the game. Still, the Jaguars have a lot of questions swirling around the team. They have an unproven offensive line, unproven wide receivers, and a quarterback situation that has as many as 3 potential starters with no one seemingly wanting the job.
I've said before that the AFC South is wide open this year, and as we get closer to the start of the regular season, I see no reason to stop believing that.