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For the last nine seasons, the Indianapolis Colts have dominated the AFC South. In 2011, that domination is over.
This shift in the balance of power has less to do with the Colts slipping as a franchise and more to do with their rivals in the division getting better. There is some of the former in the equation, though.
There has to be concern over Peyton Manning’s neck surgery. He waited so long to have the procedure because he wanted to be under the care of the team’s doctors. That’s understandable, but it puts him well behind the eight ball for getting ready for the season.
There are also lingering worries over other parts of the Colts roster. The defense has two star pass rushers in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but the secondary is suspect.
There’s also lingering questions about the running game. Joseph Addai is up and down more than a seesaw and Donald Brown has yet to break out.
The Houston Texans will be more than glad to fill the void left by the Colts at the top of the division.
Given their history of coming up short when much is expected of them, it’s tough to get on board with them as contenders.
The offense is already championship caliber. Matt Schaub is among the most prolific quarterbacks in the league and Andre Johnson is the best receiver in football. That’s to say nothing of Arian Foster, who led the league in rushing last season.
Most importantly for the Texans success, they finally have some direction on the defensive side of the ball. Wade Phillips has been brought in to instill his version of the 3-4 defense and he has done a good job of helping general manager Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak find the talent that best fits what he is trying to do.
Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning will start right away in the secondary. Recent draftee J.J. Watt will hold down defensive end and allow Mario Williams to move back to outside linebacker. This way, Phillips can bring Williams on blitzes from any number of different places.
The Texans defense will be a different group thanks to Phillips and the new additions. The change will be big enough to vault the Texans up the AFC South ranks, leaving the Indianapolis Colts in their dust.
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