Good News/Bad News (2013 AFC South)

By Russell S. Baxter

Pro Football Guru

It may technically still be the offseason, but there’s never a bad time when it comes to reminiscing NFL-style.

Here’s the fourth of our eight divisional reviews of the 2013 season, in which we look at the positives and negatives for all 32 teams, with a twinge of recent history and trends as well. We’ve already taken a look at the NFC West, the AFC West and the NFC South.

Next up on the list is the division that had fewer combined wins (24) than any other in 2013: the AFC South.

Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

Good News: Although there’s still work to be done on the defensive side of the ball, Chuck Pagano’s club did make some strides the past season compared to this unit’s shaky performance in 2012. The Colts did allow 51 fewer points (336) than they did the previous year (387). And a club that totaled only 15 takeaways in 16 regular-season games in ’12 forced 27 turnovers in 2013. Combine that with the fact that Indianapolis committed a league-low 14 turnovers this past season and it’s little wonder Pagano’s team was plus-13 in turnover differential, topped only by the Seattle Seahawks (+20) and Kansas City Chiefs (+18) this past year…

During his rookie season, quarterback Andrew Luck threw 23 touchdown passes but committed just as many turnovers (23). In his second year at the helm, the first overall pick in 2012 once again threw for 23 scores. But this time, there was plenty of good luck as the talented pro cut his turnovers in half (11), throwing only nine interceptions and losing just two fumbles…

Bad News: Of course, there was also some bad Luck, as in his erratic postseason performance in the split with the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots. While the second-year signal-caller threw six touchdown passes in the two games and helped orchestrate the team’s massive comeback (down 38-10 in the third quarter) in beating the Chiefs, Luck threw a total of seven interceptions in his two postseason outings. In three career playoff starts, the young quarterback has thrown six touchdown passes and committed nine turnovers (8 interceptions, 1 lost fumble…

It’s a problem that has seemingly lasted for years. The Indianapolis defense was ranked 26th in rushing defense in 2013, up a few notches from the previous season (29th). In the playoffs, the Colts allowed a combined 384 yards on the ground in the split with the Chiefs (150) and Patriots (234). Meanwhile, although Pagano’s club racked up a respectable 42 sacks in 2013, it was virtually a one-man show as outside linebacker Robert Mathis totaled 19.5 of those sacks…

Tennessee Titans (7-9)

Good News: While a bit erratic, the Titans’ defense was an improved unit from the previous season. In 2012, the club gave up a league-high 471 points, the most in franchise history. This past season, Tennessee surrendered 381 points and allowed only 36 offensive touchdowns. That latter figure was 11 fewer (47) than in 2013. The stars of this unit were third-year defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (team-high 10.5 sacks) and Pro Bowl cornerback, who totaled a team-high five interceptions and came up with seven of the team’s 25 takeaways this past season…

Bad News: Head coach Mike Munchak’s third season with the club proved to be his last as the squad dropped eight of its final 12 games after a 3-1 start. This up-and-down club was quite stingy when it came to wins and far too generous defensively in losing efforts. The Titans allowed a mere 105 points in seven victories (fewer than 20 points in six of those victories) while the team surrendered a whopping 276 points (30.7 PPG) in nine setbacks…

Is it any coincidence that the last time the Titans won the division as well as reached the NFL postseason was the last time they managed a winning record vs. the AFC South rivals? In 2008, Tennessee was a league-best 13-3 and also finished with a 4-2 mark within the division. Over the last five seasons, the Titans are a combined 10-20 vs. their AFC South adversaries, including 3-9 the last two seasons…

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)

Good News: Although it was another down year for the franchise, veteran quarterback Chad Henne played well down the stretch. While the six-year veteran signal-caller finished 2013 with more interceptions (14) than touchdown passes (13), it should be noted that Henne threw for nine scores and was picked off only five times in the team’s final five outings. That was quite a turnaround from his first 10 appearances of the season, when he managed only four scores compared to nine interceptions. Henne also threw a pair of touchdown passes in four of his final five outings of the season…

Bad News: Since finishing 11-5 and reaching the postseason in 2007 (as well as winning a playoff game at Pittsburgh), the Jaguars have lost more than twice as many games as it has won (31-65 record) dating back to ’08 and has not enjoyed a winning season since. How bad was the Jaguars’ offense in 2013? Even more inefficient than a year earlier, when the team finished 29th in total yards and 30th in points scored (255) in the league. This past season, Jacksonville totaled an NFL-low 247 points and only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gained fewer yards per contest…

The team’s search for a pass rush continued in 2013 without much success. A season after totaling a league-low 20 sacks, the Jaguars were tied for last in the NFL with just 31 sacks this past season. Consider that Jacksonville has a combined 51 sacks in its last 32 games, nine fewer than the Carolina Panthers managed (60) in ’13…

Houston Texans (2-14)

Good News: Veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson quietly 109 receptions in 2013, third in the NFL behind Washington’s Pierre Garcon (113) and Pittsburgh Antonio Brown (110). The 11-year pro has now totaled 927 career receptions, 14th in league history, and with 73 grabs in 2014 could become the 10th player in NFL annals to reach the 1,000 reception mark…

While his numbers didn’t approach the performance that earned him 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, defensive end J.J. Watt went back to the Pro Bowl after leading the Texans with 10.5 sacks in 2013. In three seasons in the league, the former first-rounder has started all 48 games and totaled 36.5 sacks…

Bad News:

Quarterback Matt Schaub certainly had his issues down the stretch in 2012 and in ’13, he set a dubious NFL record when he had an interception returned for a touchdown in four straight games (Weeks 2-5). All told, Texans’ signal-callers were responsible for five pick-sixes this past season. Meanwhile, Houston had a problem when it came to returning the favor. The team intercepted a league-low seven passes (one returned for a score) and totaled a mere 11 takeaways, the worst figure in the NFL…

When you consider what has happened to a team that at one time looked like the club to beat not long ago it is almost mind-boggling. Including the 2012 postseason, the Texans are have dropped 14 consecutive games and are a mere 4-18 in their last 22 contests dating back to Week 14 of ’12, Keep in mind that prior to their current woes, Houston owned an 11-1 record in its first 12 games that season…