Which AFC South team improved the most

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via Washington Post

It's always fun to speculate which team has done the most to unseat the Colts overlords of the AFC South. The reason it's fun is because the Titans, Jaguars, and Texans often go to such lengths to strengthen their teams each and every year only to get smacked down again and again by the Indy machine. As a result of their efforts, the Colts have gotten better and the collective improvement has made the AFC South the best division in football. Yes, I know the Giants won the Super Bowl and Dallas was 13-3 in 2007. Dallas also hasn't won a playoff game in 15 years, and the other NFC East playoff team (Washington) would get smoked by anyone in the AFC South, including a Sage Rosenfels-led Texans team. So please, spare me the NFC East talk. Yes, it's a good division; a GREAT division. It isn't the South.

Even with the South being so strong in 2007, I personally think most of the AFC South teams got better this off-season, with the exception of the Titans (more on them later). Aside from the AFC South having some of the best teams in football, they also have the best team bloggers in football. I'll freely admit that I am the agitator in our blogger division. Rarely do you see Jimmy writing articles about how Bob Sanders can't stay healthy, or Tim typing stories about how Indy's special teams play sucks. However, you are sure to see me writing a post either insulting Vince Young or criticizing the stupid draft moves of Gary Kubiak. I wouldn't do this if I didn't feel that guys like Tim, Chris, and Jimmy would not immediately call me "idiot" are debunk my claims with intelligent points with just a pinch of homerism. This is why we do what we do.

This is team blogging.

In this case, I think the Texans and Jaguars have bettered themselves since last season, with the Titans noticeably getting worse in the talent department. However, despite the changes (good or bad), none of these teams have done enough to unseat the Colts, who themselves have made great moves to shore up their weaknesses.

The off-season fad is to say the Jaguars have finally done enough to unseat Indy. Even AOL has found a writer who thinks the additions of WR Jerry Porter, CB Drayton Florence, WR Troy Williamson, and draft day additions like DE Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves are enough to knock off a Colts team that has beaten the Jaguars 5 of the last 6 times. Indeed, even the football guru himself, John Clayton, thought the Jaguars had an impressive run in free agency.

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Did getting Drayton Florence (#29) help push the Jags over the Colts?

Photo via www.nctimes.com

While the Jaguars are much improved, it is important to note that so are the Colts. New Era Scouting's Dave Gardner has an article up talking about how the Colts are, quietly (per usual), shaping into the best team in football talent-wise.

The Colts could have kept the same roster from last season and still made it to the playoffs. With all the skill positions in place on offense (they’ll be fine with or without Marvin Harrison), and an excellent back seven on defense, they were in place to win at least ten games. However, as they prepare for the first season in a new stadium, it should be ready to host more than just the eight regular season games.

Not long ago, I wrote about how the Jaguars do not have a single area of their team that is better than Indy's. Chris at Big Cat responded, disagreeing with my take and offering little rebuttal in terms of substance.

I'll grant Quarterback, I'll even concede the offensive line and Tight Ends.  But to say that the Colts have better Linebackers, Defensive Line, and Secondary than the Jaguars is an ignorant statement.  The Jaguars use their linebackers a little differently than the Colts do in the "Dungy 2", and really can't be compared directly.  The combination of Durrant, Ingram, Peterson, and Smith give the Jaguars three guys who can play every combination of linebacker spots, the speed to play sideline to sideline, and a nasty hard hitting attitude.  I'd take our bench linebacker over any of the Colts starters.  Remember, the biggest knock on the Jaguars pass rushers is that they're young.  None of our guys are coming off of a Lis Franc, like Mr. Freeney.

I'm happy Chris thinks so much of his new secondary, but when the Jaguars have a Defensive Player of the Year-type guy in their defensive backfield, they can say their secondary is better than Indy's. Maybe. Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea are the best safety tandem in football. Sanders won the DPOY and Bethea went to the Pro Bowl (and unlike other Pro Bowl safeties, Bethea is pretty good). And the corners, Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden, started every single game last season.

The result? The Colts had the #2 pass defense in football, allowing an average of 5.9 yards per competition with 16 TDs and 22 INTs. QB had an average rating of 73 against Indy. This entire DB unit will be back in 2008, and with the added depth of second year man Dante Hughes. Until the Jags have a secondary that produces like this, saying they are better is nonsense. Utter nonsense.

And they can say whatever they want about their LBers, but the fact is the Colts LBers define speed and hard hitting. They also have tremendous depth. 2007 rookie Clint Session was amazing, and with all three starting LBers coming back this unit is better than Jacksonville's. We also have yet to see what Philip Wheeler will bring to the equation. Indy's linebackers do an excellent job dropping into zones and making plays, and are very active in stopping the run.

The DE argument is silly. Freeney is recovering extremely well from his foot surgery and Robert Mathis is better than both Harvey and Groves. The younger guys may one day develop into great rushers, but we're not talking about two or three years from now. We're talking 2008, and the Colts will get even better in that area if they sign Rosevelt Colvin. Indy also drafted Marcus Howard, who is faster than both Freeney and Mathis.

So, I see little change in the AFC South. The Colts are still the most talented team in the division with the best coaches and front office personnel. I recognize that AFC South teams like the Jags have made significant moves to get better, and better they are. But it isn't enough. The Colts did not just sit ideally by. I realize this is boring to media hacks who are desperate for a story line, but the bottom line is Indy is still great, and the other AFC South teams still have not caught up.

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