AFC South: Top Team Tournament
The Top Team Tournament is a project where I take every franchise’s best team (post-merger) and pit them against each other. This week I am analyzing the AFC South. In each blurb, I break down the team’s stats, successes, and (possible) failures. My goal is to give everyone a bit of background for each team while not diving deep into the histories of them. I will also do my best to not linger on possible heartbreak endings to these fantastic seasons. Along with my background, I will give my brief predictions for the teams in this tournament.
’99 Jaguars – In just their 4th season as a franchise, the ’99 Jaguars were able to dominate (most of) the league, going 14-2 and reaching the Conference Championship. With the best defense in the league (217 points against) and one of the best receivers in the league, they beat every team they came across, except the Tennessee Titans. In the three match-ups against the Titans, the Jaguars lost 19-20, 14-41, and 14-33 (AFC Championship). The best game they played that year was against the Marino-led Dolphins, beating them 62-7. This would be Marino’s last game in the NFL.
|Mark Brunell QB||3060 yds, 14 TDs, 9 Ints||Pro Bowl ’99|
|Jimmy Smith WR||116 Rec, 1636 yds, 6 TDs||Pro Bowl ’99, 2nd tm All-Pro|
|Fred Taylor RB (injured wk 10)||732 yds, 6 TDs||Two 100 yd games in playoffs|
|James Stewart RB||931 yds, 13 TDs|
|Tony Boselli T||1st tm All-Pro ’99, ProBowl ‘99|
|Tony Brackens DE||2 Ints, 1 TD, 8 FF, 12 Sacks||Pro Bowl ’99, 2nd tm All-Pro|
|Kevin Hardy LB||74 tkls, 10.5 Sacks, 2 FF||1st tm All-Pro ’99, ProBowl ’99|
|Donovin Darius S||4 Ints, 56 tkls|
|Aaron Beasley CB||6 Ints, 2 TDs, 2 FF, 1.5 Sacks|
With no Hall of Famers, these Jaguars are going to have a tough road ahead of them in this tournament. If they manage to overcome the ’11 Texans, they have a chance to play the Titans in the next round. With this possibility, it is relatively tough to see them progressing further in the bracket.
’11 Texans – With such a young franchise, I have confidence that the best seasons are ahead for the Texans, possibly very soon. That being said, the 2011 team is the best that they have ever fielded to date, even if it was plagued with injuries. Led by Matt Schaub before his melt-down, stud running back Arian Foster, supreme receiver Andre Johnson, and rookie J.J. Watt, the Texans went to the playoffs for the first time as a team. They ended up winning the Wild Card against the Bengals (31-10) and losing to the Ravens (13-20).
|Matt Schaub QB (injured wk
|2479 yds, 15 TDs, 6 Ints|
|Arian Foster RB (started 13 games)||1841 total yds, 12 TDs||Pro Bowl ’11, 2nd tm All-Pro ‘11|
|Andre Johnson WR (started 7 games)||492 yds, 2 TDs|
|Owen Daniels TE||677 yds, 3 TDs|
|Chris Myers C||Pro Bowl ‘11|
|Brian Cushing MLB||2 Ints, 4 Sacks, 81 tkls||2nd tm All-Pro ‘11|
|Johnathan Joseph CB||4 Ints, 1 FF, 40 tkls, 18 PD||Pro Bowl ’11, 2nd tm All-Pro|
|J.J. Watt DE||5.5 Sacks, 48 tkls|
|Connor Barwin LB||1 FF, 11.5 Sacks, 36 tkls|
|Antonio Smith DE||1 FF, 6.5 Sacks, 19 tkls||Pro Bowl ‘11|
Another young franchise, another (assumed) early exit from the Top Team Tournament. The only player on this team that I would consider a future hall of famer would be J.J. Watt, and he was just a rookie in this season. Although he is fantastic, I don’t believe that he alone can will this team into the second round of this tournament.
’05 Colts – Before I begin, this team was chosen because it was a better statistical team than the ’06 edition that won the Super Bowl. Now that that is out of the way, let’s preview the ’05 Colts. Led by the Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, this team went 14-2 in the regular season and was 2nd in both scoring offense and defense. With amazing weapons such as Wayne and Harrison catching passes and James in the backfield, Peyton Manning was able to punish teams all year. The season came to a disappointing end, losing the divisional round to the eventual champion Steelers.
|Peyton Manning QB||3747 yds, 28 TDs, 10 Ints||1st tm All-Pro ’05, ProBowl ‘05|
|Edgerrin James RB||1843 Total yds, 14 TDs||ProBowl ‘05|
|Marvin Harrison WR||1146 yds, 12 TDs||2nd tm All-Pro, Hall of Fame|
|Reggie Wayne WR||1055 yds, 5 TDs|
|Jeff Saturday C||1st tm All-Pro ’05, ProBowl ‘05|
|Tarik Glenn LT||ProBowl ‘05|
|Dwight Freeney DE||6 FF, 11 Sacks, 29 tkls||1st tm All-Pro ’05, ProBowl ‘05|
|Bob Sanders FS||1 Int, 1 FF, 71 tkls||1st tm All-Pro ’05, ProBowl ‘05|
|Robert Mathis DE||8 FF, 11.5 Sacks, 43 tkls|
|Raheem Brock DE||4 FF, 6.5 Sacks, 35 tkls|
Being that it took just one more year to win the Super Bowl and they got taken out of the playoffs by the eventual champions, I have high hopes for the Colts in this tournament. Being top-3 in both offense and defense will serve them greatly against the many powerhouses of this game. Peyton Manning may be able to state his final case for G.O.A.T. QB by winning the whole thing.
’00 Titans – Just like the above team, this Titans squad was just one year off of a Super Bowl appearance. This edition of the Titans has been regarded as the best by many people, including Coach Jeff Fisher. With a much-improved defense, they were able to come out on top in the AFC South with a 13-3 record and the 2nd place defense in points against. Their three losses in the regular season were lost by 7 points total. In their final 3 games of the regular season, they out-scored their opponents 90-3 before losing to the Ravens for a second time in the Divisional round.
|Steve McNair QB||2847 yds, 15 TDs, 13 Ints||Pro Bowl ‘00|
|Eddie George RB||1962 Total yds, 16 TDs||Pro Bowl ’00, 1st tm All-Pro ‘00|
|Derrick Mason WR||895 yds, 5 TDs||Pro Bowl ’00, 1st tm All-Pro ‘00|
|Frank Wycheck TE||636 yds, 4 TDs, 1 50-yd passing TD||Pro Bowl ’00, 2nd tm All-Pro ‘00|
|Bruce Matthews G||Pro Bowl ’00, 1st tm All-Pro ’00, Hall of Fame|
|Jevon Kearse DE||4 FF, 11.5 Sacks, 37 tkls||Pro Bowl ‘00|
|Samari Rolle CB||7 Ints, 1 TD, 1.5 Sacks, 35 tkls||Pro Bowl ’00, 1st tm All-Pro ‘00|
|Blaine Bishop SS||1 FF, 2.5 Sacks, 57 tkls||Pro Bowl ’00, 2nd tm All-Pro ‘00|
|Randall Godfrey MLB||2 Ints, 1 TD, 5 FF, 3 Sacks, 99 tkls||2nd tm All-Pro ‘00|
Depending on how the simulator gauges defense, this team could go deep in this tournament. Having 8 Pro Bowlers on a roster will definitely help them progress, but a relatively weak quarterback may be the downfall of this Titans team. Having a first round match against the ’05 Colts will be a tough challenge, but I’m sure they are up for whatever comes at them.
Let me know your predictions and any critiques I should make! This is part of an ongoing project that I have been and will be updating for the coming months.
Next week I dive into the AFC West including the ’98 Broncos, ’06 Chargers, ’76 Raiders, and ’69 Chiefs.
Thank you for stopping by and reading!