After a short flight northward from Miami, we hover above Jacksonville to spy on the Jaguars, the first team of our AFC South knucklehead previews. Conveniently, they are the team most likely to finish last or vanish from the area without causing a ripple in the barely interested fan base. This poor bedraggled franchise is a co-leader each year in blacked out games. We western footballeezers all know who the other co-leader is, don’t we?
They got an owner who don’t like the HC, Jack del Rio and a QB, David Garrard, who don’t be getting much smoochies from anyone, either. Nonetheless, the Jags manage each year to muddle around, bang heads, and either contend for 2nd place behind the Colts or flop on their face and end up in the caboose with the Texans. Good luck, guys. Start rolling “Los Angeles Jaguars” around in your heads and maybe we’ll see you on the west coast in the next year or two.
The Houston Texans are the only team in the four major professional sports leagues that have never made the playoffs. King of the Have Nots. They began their existence in 2002 and it took them three years to finally win two games in a row. Last year, however, they had their first winning season (9-7) and did not finish last. Look out, Colts, here they come!
Curiously, the 49ers owe the Texans for both their starting QB and the backup QB. By dumping David Carr after the 2006 season, the wayward wend of Carr’s NFL journey led him through Carolina and New York before signing with the Niners this past off season. Carr will backup Alex Smith, who regained his starting job at halftime of the Texans game last year after the not-Dallas boys zoomed to a 21-0 halftime lead of an eventual 26-21 nail biter victory. Whether the 49ers should send Thank You notes to Houston or a couple of bags of dog dump will be determined this coming year. As will the contending status of the Texans franchise, which has yet to put back to back good seasons on their resume.
The Tennessee Titans, formerly Houston based Oilers, have the difficult task of trying to catch the Colts while fending off the Texans. Their HC, Jeff Fisher, has been coaching this team for sixteen years. George Seifert was the 49ers head coach when Fisher began his tenure. He’s a good coach and his teams play hard-nosed football, year in and year out.
But he’s only gone to the SB once, in 1999, and it took the Music City Miracle to get him there, where he lost to the Rams. If Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had not come along at the turn of the century, maybe things would be different for this blue collar guy. As it is, they did, and Fisher is living testimony that it helps to have a passing game in the current NFL era. Being a perennial contender, but never a champion, can keep you employed in Nashville, but not in the big market cities. Going to the playoffs is about as high as the fans of this team can root for.
The Peyton Manning franchise has been dominating the NFC South for a decade, and no end to this run is in sight. When it comes to the regular season, Manning might be the best QB to ever play the game. He can put ten to fourteen wins on the board every season no matter who is playing on the team. And he’ll do it again this year.
But, hahaha, HE CAN’T WIN THE BIG ONE! Well, actually, he can win the big one, as he did in 2006. But that game proved, just as it did for John Elway a decade earlier, that you must have a TEAM to win the big one. One man shows crap out in the Big One. In that 2006 SB victory, the Colts put up 180 or so rushing yards and played great defense. Last year against the Saints, the Colts had no rushing game and a so-so defense that got torched in the second half, as the Saints rolled to one score after another.
Even though the Indianapolisers have only one SB victory to show for the decade, their fans have reached the lofty pinnacle enjoyed by only the few elitest of teams. When the season begins, there is only one goal — the Big One. The playoffs are taken for granted. And every year without hoisting the Lombardi Trophy is a failed year. 49er fans had the longest stay in this ridiculously exalted stratosphere of any franchise in NFL history — 22 consecutive years.
The Colts have made the playoffs every year this century except 2001. This year will be no different.