Houston Texans 10-6
Keys to Victory: The Texans are a young team, but they've improved quickly. Over time, they've assembled the pieces, from Carr to Schaub, Green to Slaton, they finally have the team capable of taking them to the playoffs. With a talented young defense, all the Texans need to really do is perform on offense to make to the post season. They definitely have weapons; Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Steve Slaton, Owen Daniels. If Schaub can stay healthy, Houston can go far. While I think the team has potential, I think they need to work a little harder for the glory, and they wont make it very far in the play offs quite yet. All in due time, though. All in due time.
Indianapolis Colts 12-4
Keys to Victory: Manning. Manning, Manning, Manning, and Manning. Probably the greatest QB in the game since Steve Young(nh), Manning will take the colts to another winning record, and another playoff appearance. A lot of people think the Colts will slide this year, but I disagree. They haven't lost much, Marvin Harrison is gone and makes room for the fresh, young talent. Anthony Gonzalez is more than ready to step up and be one of Manning's new go-to guys, and the addition of Donald Brown should breathe new life into the running game. Not only will he help keep Addai fresh, but he has plenty of play making ability of his own. The only obstacle the Colts face is their defense. Bob Sanders may start the season on PUP, Marlin Jackson is having problems with his surgically repaired knee, Kelvin Hayden has a significant hamstring injury, and Antoine Bethea broke his hand. That's every single starter in the secondary injured, and if this carries into regular season, the Colts will have some real trouble. They're already soft against the run, though the re-addition of Ed Johnson should help a bit, and the LBs are mediocre at best, which leaves the tandem of Mathis and Freeney to carry the defense. Good luck guys, you'll need it.
Jacksonville Jaguars 6-10
Keys to Defeat: The biggest problem the Jags had last year was the offensive line. It was old, banged up, and just.. Not very good. The Jags have revamped, however, bringing in Tra Thomas, Tony Pashos, rookies Eugene Monroe and Eben Briton. The line is significantly improved now, unfortunately, their second biggest problem is still a problem: Wide Receiver. They brought in Torry Holt, but it remains to be seen if he can still play at a high level at his age, and seem to have a couple promising players in Mike Walker and Mike Thomas but on paper, the passing game looks very, very weak. They also have yet to see if Maurice Jones-Drew can handle the load as a feature back. You can also add David Garrard to the long list of QBs who need to step up this season. As for the other side of the ball, the Jags lack a clear #2 CB opposite Rashean Mathis, and have very few play makers. They need their young DEs to step up and generate a pass rush to get the defense off the field as quickly as possible, but I don't see that happening.
Tennessee Titans 8-8
Keys to .500: The Titans are going to miss Haynesworth. One of the most fearsome players on defense, his presence alone made offenses think twice about running it up the middle or staying in the pocket too long. Teams are going to take advantage of his departure, and it's going show. However, the Titans still have a great defense, the secondary can make plays, and they still have a good pass rush. The defense wont be the problem. It's the offense; Collins got the Titans to the play offs riding a hot running game and some short passes, but he needs to do more than that. Especially since defenses know exactly what to look for now, speedster Chris Johnson is not a secret any more, and he's going to have to work harder to get into the open field. With some serious talent at WR now, Collins has no excuse to survive on mediocre play. In the end, I think he's going to manage the Titans right into the .500 crowd, and come up just short of the playoffs.