Divisional Breakdown : AFC South Teams

Welcome to this week’s divisional breakdown! Today, we’re learning all about the AFC South.

The Houston Texans

History: Houston’s team was the Oilers until 1997, when owner Bud Adams was granted permission to move the team to Tennessee. They (eventually) became the Tennessee Titans. Teamless, Houston levied for an expansion team and was granted one (but not before a long and expensive battle with Los Angeles). The Texans first season was 2002.

Current Players to Know: Matt Schaub will be returning as quarterback after sitting out the second half of last season to a foot injury. J.J. Watt will be holding down the fort on defense as the team’s star defensive end as long as his dislocated elbow heals by the season opener on September 9th. And Andre Johnson is Andre Johnson: possibly the best wide receiver in the league.

Head Coach: Gary Kubiak

2011 Regular Season Record: 10-6

What to Watch For in 2012: The Texans could be a Super Bowl contender in 2012. They made a splash in the playoffs last season and that was without starting QB Matt Schaub. If they can stay healthy they could have a great season.

The Indianapolis Colts

History: The Colts have been members of the NFL since it’s inception and were one of three teams to move over to the AFC during the 1970 merger. They moved from Baltimore to their current home in Indianapolis in 1984.

Current Players to Know: Andrew Luck, Andrew Luck, and Andrew Luck. You may have heard that the Colts’ 14 year franchise quarterback, Peyton Manning, was ousted from Indy for the young whipper snapper Andrew Luck. Luck is touted as the best prospect to come out of the draft in decades, so all eyes will be on him and how he replaces a legend this season.

Head Coach: Chuck Pagano

2011 Regular Season Record: 2-14

What to Watch For in 2012: Well…everything. The Colts were deplorable last season without Manning, and their reaction was to clean house completely. Sixty of the ninety players who reported to training camp this season are new, the head coach is new, the defensive system is new, even the long-standing executives are new. It’ll be so interesting to see how the Colts adjust to this era in their history.

The Jacksonville Jaguars

History: The Jaguars are a relatively new team, granted as an expansion team and the 30th team overall in 1995. They’ve had sparks of greatness and splashes of less-than-greatness in that short amount of time.

Current Players to Know: Maurice Jones-Drew will be the big name here – he’s the running back who is holding out for a better contract and is key to the Jaguars offense functioning at it’s best. Rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon should help the offense if he lives up to his potential. Blaine Gabbert is almost definitely going to be the starting quarterback.

Head Coach: Mike Mularkey

2011 Regular Season Record: 5-11

What to Watch For in 2012: The Jaguars can do defense…it’s offense they struggle with. If Blaine Gabbert struggles Chad Henne would be the replacement at QB – not a bad deal in the least, and potentially preferable. The MJD story will continue to be a focal point until it resolves.

The Tennessee Titans

History: The Tennessee Titans were originally the Houston Oilers. They remained the Oilers even after they moved to Tennessee in 1997 (owner Bud Adams requested the move), but in 1998 due to fan request the name was changed to the Titans.

Current Players to Know: Matt Hasselbeck is a veteran quarterback, Jack Locker is a second year QB. The two are currently fighting it out (cordially) for the starting spot. Chris Johnson is a running back who had a record setting year several years ago but has not returned to similar glory since, although he’s still outstanding at his job.

Head Coach: Mike Munchak

2011 Regular Season Record: 9-7

What to Watch For in 2012: Who starts at quarterback? How productive will Chris Johnson be? Will Kenny Britt, consistently delinquent juvenile, be available to play for most/any/all of the season or will he be suspended? The Titans managed to have a decent year last year (partially because most of the other teams in the division managed to have a non-decent year last year), so they have the potential to be respectable this season.

Divisional Breakdown : AFC North Teams

In the coming weeks we’ll talk more about how the league is organized in Basics posts. But just so we’re all on the same page right now, let’s do a quick overview of NFL teams.

  • There are 32 teams in the National Football League
  • There are two conferences within the National Football League: the AFC (American Football Conference) and the NFC (National Football Conference). There is a long and confusing history behind this establishment but here’s the gist of it: the NFL and the AFL were two separate football-playing organizations until 1970 when they merged and became two parts (the NFC and AFC) of one whole (the NFL). Though changes have been made to the teams and the divisions within each conference since the merger, the current setup has been in place since the 2002 realignment.
  • Did you survive that bullet? It was kind of a long and wordy one. It’s easier from here on out!
  • Each Conference (AFC and NFC) has four geographic divisions: North, South, East, and West.
  • (4 teams x 4 divisions) x 2 conferences = 32 teams.

Make sense?

(Let’s also take a moment to note a phenomenon: I can’t believe I remember how to use parentheses in multiplication. Wonders never cease.)

SO: on Tuesdays/Wednesdays in August we’ll be learning more about each division in preparation for the start of the 2012 season. Today we’ll dive right in and start with the AFC North.

AFC North

The Baltimore Ravens

History: The Ravens actually used to be the Cleveland Browns, but in 1996 then-owner Art Modell tried to move the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore. After lots of legal dispute it was decided that the Browns franchise was to stay in Cleveland but the “team” – players, coaches, etc – would be allowed to move to Baltimore as an expansion team. The new team name was actually chosen by a fan vote. They opted for the Ravens as a tribute to Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem, The Raven, penned in Baltimore.

Current Players to Know: Joe Flacco is entering his 5th season as the team’s starting quarterback. He’s led his team to the playoffs every season of his career so far. Ray Lewis is the fiery emotional leader of the team. He’s a linebacker entering his 17th season in the league. Ed Reed is every quarterback’s worst nightmare – he’s one of the best safeties in the league.

Head Coach: John Harbaugh

2011 Regular Season Record: 12-4

What to Watch For in 2012: Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon last April so his playing status for the season remains doubtful. His absence on defense will be noticeable. Ray Lewis is in better shape than ever after getting slim and trim in the off season, but questions will undoubtedly arise as to whether or not this will be the veteran’s final season.

The Cleveland Browns

History: The Browns are named for Paul Brown, a football pioneer and the team’s first coach and founder in 1944. The Browns originally played in the AAFC, then moved to the NFL, then were deactivated from 1996-1999 due to the aforementioned relocation attempt to Baltimore. The NFL decided that the franchise would stay in Cleveland but would be inactive for 3 years in order for a new stadium to be built. While the Browns had early success in the Paul Brown era, they’ve been lackluster in the modern era.

Current Players to Know: Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden – both quarterbacks vying for the same starting position. Trent Richardson is a Heisman-nominated running back and first round draft pick starting his first year in the league. Joe Haden is a force to be reckoned with at cornerback.

Head Coach: Pat Shurmur

2011 Regular Season Record: 4-12

What to Watch For in 2012: The Quarterback Battle between incumbent starter Colt McCoy and 28 year old rookie Brandon Weeden. McCoy has not been the franchise quarterback the Browns had hoped for when they drafted him in 2010, and all signs point to Weeden being named the starting quarterback in Week 1.

The Cincinnati Bengals

History: Remember Paul Brown? Art Model fired him from the Browns in 1960. In 1966 the governor of Ohio convinced Brown that Ohio needed a second team to rival the Browns. The Bengals, a name chosen to create a link to a former professional football team of the same name in Cincinnati, were born.

Current Players to Know: Andy Dalton had a stand-out first year as the Bengal’s QB. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a running back with one of the most fun names to say in football, will spend his first season in Cincinnati after leaving the Patriots during the off season. A.J. Green is an exceptional wide receiver who makes the most unbelievable catches you’ll ever see.

Head Coach: Marvin Lewis

2011 Regular Season Record: 9-7

What to Watch For in 2012: The Bengals have a lot of talent on their roster this season. The big question will be whether all of that talent can come together cohesively. And without tweeting, which Head Coach marvin Lewis just banned – at least through training camp.

The Pittsburgh Steelers

History: The Steelers were founded in 1933 by Art Rooney. The Rooney’s still own the franchise and are one of the most well-respected owners/families in all of sports. The Steelers were originally named The Pirates but Mr. Rooney changed the name to the Steelers in 1940 to reflect the heritage of Pittsburgh. (My favorite part of Steelers history? They needed to merge with the Philadelphia Eagles during World War II. The merged team became the “Steagles.” That never gets old.)

Current Players to Know: Ben Roethlisberger, the team’s quarterback, is the source of legend (for his toughness) and controversy (for his wild ways). James Harrison is a linebacker best known for getting fined by the NFL for his punishing, and often illegal, hits. Troy Polamalu, apart from being the face of Head & Shoulders, is one of the best safeties in the game.

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin

2011 Regular Season Record: 12-4

What to Watch For in 2012: The Steelers had a rough end to last season with an embarrassing playoff loss to the Denver Broncos. In the off season they lost star wide receiver Hines Ward to retirement and are currently entertaining trade offers for another star receiver, disgruntled hold-out Mike Wallace. They are hardly bereft at the position but it will be an adjustment all the same. Another adjustment: Todd Haley as the new offensive coordinator.