Posts Tagged ‘Arian Foster’

Calling it down the middle, the AFC South has been a one-team buffet for years now. In the Manning days, it was the Colts to have their way with, but in recent years it has reverted to the Texans, who have won the last two division titles. The Colts had a resurrection last year under its newest star signal caller Andrew Luck, and made every game of the season count. But while this was happening, there were the Jaguars and Titans, who have been on a search for identity while both of these runs have been going.

Now with a new year on deck, there are new dynamics all around. Can the Texans hold off the rise of the Colts? Or were the upstarts in Indy moving ahead of their time, and on course for a return to the middle in year two. Meanwhile, will the Jaguars be able to avoid the path that nearly landed them atop the NFL Draft a year ago, and can Tennessee saddle up with its old horse with a few new adjustments to get him back to where he was?


QB: Andrew Luck RB: Arian Foster, Chris Johnson WR: Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Cecil Shorts TE: Owen Daniels OT: Duane Brown, Eugene Monroe OG: Andy Levitre, Wade Smith C: Chris Myers

DE: JJ Watt, Derrick Morgan DT/NT: Aubrayo Franklin, Jurrell Casey OLB: Brooks Reed, Robert Mathis MLB: Brian Cushing, Paul Posluszny CB: Jonathan Joseph, Jason McCourty FS: Ed Reed SS: Bernard Pollard

K: Rob Bironas P: Shane Lechler KR: Mark Mariani PR: TY Hilton


Watt broke through to rare air in his second season, leading the NFL in sacks and taking the Texans defense to elite status.

Watt broke through to rare air in his second season, leading the NFL in sacks, taking home Defensive Player of the Year honors and taking the Texans defense to elite status.

HOUSTON TEXANS (12-4 in 2012)

The Good: There are playmakers everywhere on this defense. In addition to Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt, who may have had the most complete defensive season in NFL history a year ago, Ed Reed has entered the picture as well. Age is catching up, but for the most instinctual player in game, that shouldn’t be much of a hindrance. Add in Brian Cushing, Jonathan Joseph and Brooks Reed, and they’ll be a problem once again.

The Bad: Which Arian Foster are they getting? The straw that stirs the drink on offense has be held back by HIS back for much of the offseason, and durability could become an issue. Ben Tate may be the best backup runner in the game, but for a team that’s so built around moving the ball on the ground being without its biggest weapon for a stretch is a tough scenario.

X-Factor—DeAndre Hopkins: Years back, the Texans could stretch the field, and it was not just Andre Johnson that could do it. But in recent years, that element has not been as prevalent. In an attempt to bring that back, the club added Hopkins with the 28th pick of the first round, who adds another vertical threat. On his 82 catches at Clemson last year, he averaged 17 yards per.

Schedule: @SD (W), TEN (W), @BAL (L), SEA (W), @SF (L), STL (W), @KC (W), IND (W), @ARI (W), OAK (W), JAX (W), NE (L), @JAX (W), @IND (L), DEN (W), @TEN (L)

Prediction: They have been the roosters in the hen house for years now down south, but the Colts put a charge into them by being able to beat them with the big play. They have addressed that on both sides of the ball, and still have the veteran core in addition to the developing young core that has kept them where they have been, and will stay. 11-5


Luck set seven records as a rookie passer, including the most wins for a #1 pick quarterback, which was a 10 game turnaround from 2011.

Luck set seven records as a rookie passer, including the most wins for a #1 pick quarterback, which was a 10 game turnaround from 2011.


The Good: They have invested in giving Andrew Luck everything he could possibly need at every stop. With Reggie Wayne still the mainstay and TY Hilton, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener still developing, they added Darius Heyward-Bey to be a home run hitter down the field. If Ahmad Bradshaw can add a new dynamic out of the backfield catching passes as well, a top 5 offense could be in brewing.

The Bad: They won with smoke and mirrors on defense last year. If the offense didn’t go big, they were getting run off the field. Only one playoff bound team gave up more yards than Indy’s 5,988 and 24.2 points a game. It is tempting to fate to think that will work twice, especially with dates versus San Francisco, Denver, Cincinnati, Seattle and a double dip with Houston on deck.

X-Factor—Matt Hasselbeck: In a perfect world, he never sees the field. But what he could do for Andrew Luck’s development as a passer could do more for the club than anything else. Cutting down on the 18 interception/9 fumble season rookie effort he posted as a rookie is on his shoulders, but the benefit of a year with a three-time Pro Bowl, former Super Bowl QB could escalate his curve immediately.

Schedule: OAK (W), MIA (W), @SF (L), @JAX (W), SEA (L), @SD (L), DEN (L), @HOU (L), STL (W), @TEN (L), @ARI (L), TEN (W), @CIN (W), HOU (W), @KC (L), JAX (W)

Prediction: The team is going to go where the offense can take it. Luck will have to take better care of the ball, and they will have to get more from the ground, but it could see over 5,000 yards in the air by natural progression. But the defense is still similar to what took the field last year, and the likelihood of the same breaks that got them 10 wins a year ago are unlikely to come down again. 8-8


After spending last fall watching the back of a Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M, Joeckel is tasking with re-installing confidence in the Jags attack.

After spending last fall watching the back of a Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M, Joeckel is tasking with re-installing confidence in the Jags attack.


The Good: They have a good set of playmakers on the outside in Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts. Shorts had a breakout season across the board his second season, going over 100 yards four times and averaged over 19 yards a catch in five separate games. Blackmon came on strong late in the year, including a seven catch, 236 yard breakout versus the Texans in week 11.

The Bad: They did little to turn the corner for a defense that gave up 380 yards and 27 points per week. This was due to a unit that put the least pressure on opposing QBs in the game a year ago (JJ Watt in 20.5 sacks, Jaguars 20). And with the inconsistent play on offense, once they get behind and survive with offenses having that much comfort to work with.

X-Factor—Luke Joeckel: While grabbing someone that could create some pressure would have been a good call, getting a guy with a chance to be a premium pass protector was too good to pass on. Blaine Gabbert has been unsteady with his pocket presence early in his career and landing Joeckel could help provide some much needed security.

Schedule: KC (L), @OAK (L), @SEA (L), IND (L), @STL (L), @DEN (L), SD (L), SF (L), @TEN (L), ARI (L), @HOU (L), @CLE (L), HOU (L), BUF (W), TEN (W), @IND (L)

Prediction: A bad defense with maybe the most decisively bad situation at quarterback in the NFL, the Jaguars are not in a place to make an impact outside of boosting the win column for others. With Blackmon suspended for four games, and game scenarios that don’t lend towards getting their lone bright spot, Maurice Jones-Drew, the ball as much as they’d like, a run to top of the 2014 Draft looks likely. 2-14


Johnson has never finished a season under 1,000 yards on the ground, but his yardage per game has dropped three straight years behind questionable blocking.

Johnson has never finished a season under 1,000 yards on the ground, but his yardage per game has dropped three straight years behind questionable blocking.

TENNESSEE TITANS (6-10 in 2012)

The Good: There’s an offense that has some shake to it, and they have a line to help it grow now. In recent years, Chris Johnson hasn’t lost a step, but he hasn’t had much time to get them moving before somebody met him. With the addition of Andy Levitre and the selection of All-American guard Chance Warmack, the former 2000 yard runner could see the most open field he’s found in years.

The Bad: The Titans gave up the most points in the NFL a year ago, including over 30 points seven different times. It’s a unit that hasn’t played to its talent, but also has to tackle better at linebacker and get better and coverage as well. In a division with two aggressive offenses in Houston and Indianapolis, and one of the best runners in the league, there’s little leeway for a soft unit week to week.

X-Factor—Jack Locker: Of all of the teams in the NFL, the Titans probably have the biggest unknown quantity behind center. The issue with him has never been the talent, but how it apply it regularly. In his first year as a starter, it was interrupted by an injury halfway through and saw him throw multiple interceptions in four of his last six games. If he turns the corner, they have a chance to succeed.

Schedule: @PIT (L), @HOU (L), SD (W), NYJ (W), KC (W), @SEA (L), SF (L), @STL (L), JAX (W), IND (W), @OAK (W), @IND (L), @DEN (L), ARI (L), @JAX (L), HOU (L)

Prediction: With a defense that is up in the air and inconsistent quarterback play, it is tough to see the Titans being a candidate to jump too far forward, or at all. They will be able to move the ball better on the ground, but if they cannot keep opponents honest, it won’t mean much. Look for a holding pattern here. 6-10


The AFC South is segregated, has been for while (not in a Civil War is needed type of way). Ironically, it’s landlords have come from up north in Indianapolis however, and last year was no different. The Colts brought their eighth title home in ten years of the division. However, no division has potentially more change on deck than the South, and it all starts around what may not be in Indy.

The Houston Texans started off last season in a fashion that suggested change wasn’t going to wait until this year, as they aggressively knocked off the Colts to start the year off. Along the way, the Jaguars got into the mix and eventually became one of the most surprising party crashers in 2010 Playoffs. In the end, the Colts pulled together around Peyton Manning and pulled it out.

This year, for the first time ever, Peyton’s status is uncertain and therefore so is the Colts. Can the Jaguars capitalize on the momentum they discovered last year, or can the Texans finally live up to how they read on paper? How about the Titans? With Chris Johnson back and a new coach leading the way, maybe they’ll take the crown. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s bigger than just Peyton and the Colts will hold down the fort regardless. The times, they are-a changing down way or four.


QB: Peyton Manning RB: Chris Johnson, Arian Foster WR: Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne TE: Dallas Clark OT: Michael Roos, Eric Winston OG: Wade Smith, Jonathan Scott C: Jeff Saturday

DE: Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis DT: Terrance Knighton, Tyson Alualu OLB: Mario Williams, Jimmy Durant MLB: DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing CB: Cortland Finnegan, Jonathan Joseph S: Antoine Bethea, Michael Griffin

K: Rob Bironas P: Matt Turk Returner: Mark Mariani

HOUSTON TEXANS (6-10 in 2010)

Offense: A. Johnson-WR, A. Foster-RB, M. Schaub-QB, O. Daniels-TE (A-)

Defense: M. Williams-OLB, D. Ryans-MLB, B. Cushing-MLB, J. Joseph-CB (C+)

The Good: They are being retooled as potential blitzing machine. While the secondary was shredded last season, a lot of what hurt them was a limited blitz. The focus in the offseason was to use the tools in place better and bring in new assets to get after the passer frequently. Mario Williams will move to outside linebacker in the new 3-4 scheme coordinator Wade Phillips will employ, and JJ Watt and Brooks Reed were drafted to bring plenty of trouble around the field.

The Bad: Their greatest strength is on shaky ground. Arian Foster totaled over 1,600 rushing yards and led the league, but much of his offseason was spent battling hamstring injuries. His emergence gave the Texans the running threat they long needed to balance out their air-only attack. Having him sidelined for any period of time this year could hold back any hopes of a takeover this season.

A new look defense is the focus, and it will be on Mario Williams & company to exorcise the Texans demons.

X-Factor-Jonathan Joseph: The Texans hemorrhaged 267 yards per game on average to opposing quarterbacks, so saying they needed to make some changes at cornerback is obvious. Enter Jonathan Joseph, who made the jump to Houston from Cincinnati and instantly inherits a world of expectation. How well he performs behind the revamped defensive rush can improve the entire team’s potential.

Fearless Projection: IND (W), @MIA (L), @NO (L), PIT (W), OAK (W), @BAL (L), @TEN (W), JAX (W), CLE (W), @TB (W), @JAX (W), ATL (L), @CIN (W), CAR (W), @IND (L), TEN (W)

In The End: It seems like every year by now is going to be their “breakthrough” year. Finally, it seems like the time has arrived. The entire division is in some kind of flux, and the Texans have finally made the improvements they need at the right time to take the control. Their postseason debut will finally find them this time around, via a South championship. Record 10-6


Offense: P. Manning-QB, R. Wayne-WR, D. Clark-TE, J. Saturday-C (A)

Defense: D. Freeney-DE, R. Mathis-DE, G. Brackett-MLB, A. Bethea-S (C+)

The Good: Many of their offensive weapons are back. Last season Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Addai all missed extensive time. However, Peyton Manning was able to mask these issues by just shouldering more of the load himself than he ever had. The problem is he is the only QB in the league that could have pulled that off and still won the division. With his status completely unknown, having the arsenal of weapons back is essential.

The Bad: The corners could get torched. Jacob Lacey, Jerraud Powers, Kevin Thomas and Justin Tryson could be in rotation by necessity all year as they try to find a way to get some combination that works will. If they don’t step up, it could be a very long season for the Colts defense, as they were awful against the run a year ago, giving up 127 yards a game. Some part of the defense has to produce.

How soon Peyton gets his hat off and helmet on will tell the story of the Colts fate, and in a hurry.

X-Factor-Peyton Manning: No team’s success hinges more on one player than the Colts. Since 1998, he’s played every game and operates the entire offense through himself. And as he proved a year ago, he can still push them regardless of who surrounds him. As the preseason proved, it doesn’t work the other way around. Very few players are truly irreplaceable, but Peyton is at the top of the list.

Fearless Prediction: @HOU (L), CLE (W), PIT (L), @TB (W), KC  (L), @CIN (W), @NO (L), @TEN (L), ATL (L), JAX (W), CAR (W), @NE (L), @BAL (L), TEN (W), HOU (W), @JAX (W)

In The End: Much of where they finish up is based on when Manning shows up, but the toughest part of their schedule is early and that’s when his availability is uncertain. They slipped some last season overall, and didn’t make the necessary adjustments to hold off the up and coming Texans…or to prepare for Manning to actually miss any time. Their two-year run atop the South will end. Record: 7-9


Offense: M. Jones-Drew-RB, M. Lewis-TE, M. Thomas-WR, B. Gabbert-QB (C+)

Defense: D. Smith-OLB, P. Poslunzsny-MLB, R. Mathis-CB, D. Landry-FS (C+)

The Good: The defense was improved to be able to handle more of the load. Paul Posluszny will add a second active tackler with Daryl Smith that will clean up the middle of the field well. The defensive line features an underrated pair of tackles in Tyson Aluala and Travis Knighton, and Matt Roth joins the group to round it out well opposite Aaron Kampman. The biggest addition could be Dawan Landry at free safety, a position that has long been a week spot in Jacksonville.

The Bad: It’s going to be a long season on offense either way it goes. The receiver group is already an issue, with no semblance of a number one target out the WR group. At least David Garrard was a savvy enough vet to not lose games with the group, but with his sudden release it puts Luke McCown in the seat until the Blaine Gabbert era is rushed into play. Maurice Jones-Drew is still here and well rested, but teams will load up the box non-stop to get to him in a hurry since there is no QB of note to scare them off.

How Daryl Smith and the defense shoulder the load will tell the story of the Jags...and Jack Del Rio's future.

X-Factor-Blaine Gabbert: He’s got all of the tools: the big arm, the size and the confidence. The time is now for him, because there’s nothing to be gained competitively from playing McCown. He doesn’t represent the type of QB that will be able to salvage a playoff run, and by at least playing Gabbert, it starts the clock towards his maturity (and the team renaissance that could come with it) earlier.

Fearless Prediction: TEN (W), @NYJ (L), @CAR (W), NO (L), CIN (W), @PIT (L), BAL (L), @HOU (L), @IND (L), @CLE (W), HOU (W), SD (L), TB (W), @ATL (L), @TEN (L), IND (L)

In The End: There’s a lot on the line in Jacksonville this year, and a late season surge last year was all that saved coach Jack Del Rio’s job. This year’s defense has the potential to keep that trend going forward, but unsteady QB production will be a season long problem and will run the rest of time off Del Rio’s clock in Jacksonville. Record: 5-11

TENNESSEE TITANS (6-10 in 2010)

Offense: C. Johnson-RB, K. Britt-WR, M. Hasselbeck-QB, R. Bironas-K (B-)

Defense: C. Finnegan-CB, M. Griffin-S, W. Witherspoon-OLB, C. Hope-S (C)

The Good: The offense came together, later than sooner. Chris Johnson’s holdout was ended in time to have their biggest weapon available for the full season. There’s no substitute for what he brings, especially to a team in transition. His load won’t be as heavy with Matt Hasselbeck on board this year, and while he’s not who he used to be, he will be a steadying presence that will be able to get everything that can be brought out the receivers.

The Bad: The defense could get worse, and considering it was assaulted for 252 yards a week through the air last year, that’s a bad scenario. This is due to an anemic pass rush that lost its only real pass rush threat in Jason Babin, and a secondary that is both too young at cornerback and too old at safety. The unimproved defensive line also what hammered for 115 yards a game on the ground a year ago, and is breaking in new tackles at both spots inside the defensive line.

Munchak inherited a messy situation in Tennessee, and has a task ahead of him to pull this group back together.

X-Factor-Kenny Britt: He escaped both suspension, jail for multiple driving offenses and preseason injury to make it to the field, and he could be in store for a breakout season as a result. Hasselbeck will be the most consistent passer he has paired with in his young career, and coming off a year where 9 of his 42 catches reached the endzone, he will be looked too often.

Fearless Prediction: @JAX (L), BAL (L), DEN (W), @CLE (W), @PIT (L), HOU (L), IND (L), CIN (W), @CAR (L), @ATL (L), TB (L), @BUF (W), NO (L), @IND (L), JAX (W), @HOU (L)

In The End: The offense has playmakers, but isn’t deep and has a fragile quarterback behind a shaky line. In addition, the defense will have trouble getting after the passer…and isn’t really built to stop the pass on the other end. They’ll break in their first new coach in 16 years (Mike Munchak) with a frustrating debut on the job. Record: 5-11

To see how right, wrong or in-between this all works out, and me living with it, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360.

The end of the year is upon us. In some places it’s already underway. However, in the world of sports, 2010 ended before it even started, and here in THE CHEAP SEATS, sometimes I too missed the memo on that, and gave those unfortunate souls too much of the benefit, while giving nowhere near enough doubt.

On the other hand, sometimes I flat-out underestimated what would come to be (see my #1 flub of the year below for that…). While still in other areas, I got Superbad-level blindsided by a breakout year from a team or player. For some casual-to-serious sports talkers, this is fine. But since I release a good number of my opinions for public consumption, I end up with a Mike Tyson from ’87 level blow to my ego/conscious when these things go bad.

At any rate, my first year (or 8 months actually) writing this site has been full of some decent writing and solid observations, if I do say some myself (yet luckily, I’m not alone. Thanks Mom). I’ll be putting up my “Best of 2010” links on my Twitter feed all day, so check out @CheapSeatFan for that countdown all day to round out the first year of the decade. That frees me up to “celebrate” my fumbles, errors and self-inflicted tragedies of over projection here today with this column. Happy New Year and happy finger-pointing….

10. Arian Foster-Nowhere Man (August 11th): I figured Houston would just throw a million times to Andre Johnson and company, while only running the ball when they really needed to, if then. So it made perfect sense to me to leave an undrafted free agent, who only had ONE good week the year before, outside my top 20 running back for fantasy football in 2010. Little did I know that he’s have 16 GREAT weeks in his this year. I won’t be caught sleeping again in ’11 (And you probably won’t catch Foster in next year’s draft with a pick lower than four).

9. The F*cks & Sprockets (7/27, 10/28 & 10/29): I had a lot of good things to say about the outstanding summer prep of both the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets. You couldn’t tell me that they wouldn’t be mainstays as competitors this year. While there is a lot of season to go, I think its safe to say I overestimated the addition of Corey Maggette & John Salmons, and the return of Yao Ming (who has since returned to his real home, the injured list).

Yeah man, I know that feeling...keep on reading.

8. This isn’t my idea of a “Fantasy”: This isn’t about an article, more or less, this is a personal matter. I’d like to publicly say I was off base by calling my fantasy football team a “juggernaut”. My receiving corps of Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith and Brent Celek didn’t quite click, and I’m still waiting on “the ultimate up and comer” Shonn Greene to report to work, even though the season is over. Lets just say my record looked a lot sexier backwards than forwards, but that’s the case about many things in life.

7. Wingless Redbirds (9/3): While I didn’t write about this prediction in advance, because the site wasn’t up yet, if I had, I would’ve called you crazy if you would’ve told me I’d have to write a concession letter like this before September even started on behalf of MY St. Louis Cardinals. I’d have definitely called the white coats if you said the that the Cincinnati Reds, led by a reborn Scott Rolen & NL MVP *sigh* Joey Votto, would be the reason. Here’s to sanity returning to both me and the NL Central by April.

6. The Passion of the NFC (10/6): I mean come on!!! I’m not alone on this one, and if anybody says they knew it,  show them section 16 of the Ten Commandments. I mean the only prophets worthy of speaking on this are Wade Phillips, Brad Childress and Mike Singletary. But I’d be a little more careful about approaching the last one than the first two. At least I’ve still got the Saints for now.

5. Locked Down (7/15): Back in July, I bought into the hype of a can’t miss kid by the name of Jake Locker, who foolishly passed on millions of dollars and guaranteed NFL stardom. Then he had a game that read like this against some legit talent

20 attempts, 4 completions, 71 yards (45 of which were on 1 pass), 1 TD & 2 interceptions

Thanks a lot Nebraska for blowing that up in my face. At least Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are here with me in the ER too.

4. His Beautiful Dark Twisted Year (8/13): I’ll let the numbers address this one as well.

– Randy Moss in 2009: 1 team, 83 catches, 1264 yards & 13 (league leading) touchdowns

– Randy Moss in 2010: 3 teams, 27 catches, 375 yards, 6 TD….through 15 games, and 3 attempted releases (only 2 of which worked)

My bad on recommending him in the same breath as Andre Johnson for your ensured fantasy success.

That angry mob with the torches and pitchforks are the folks that took Moss in their drafts. Sorry people.

3. Three The Hard Way: Few months back in the midst of the NBA’s free agent circus of the summer, I made a real big case about why the Miami Heat assembling a super trio wouldn’t work strategically or financially….yeah. And this is why Pat Riley is who he is and not who I am.

2. The Return of the Bungles (8/28 & 10/6): Maybe I got caught up in the hype, or maybe it actually was just karma visiting Cincinnati for the first time since 2008. Whatever it was, it made perfect sense to me that the Bengals would take a step forward after sweeping the AFC North in 2009. Well chose them to take far too many steps forward here, and I look my greatest loss of the year here, having the Bengals rep the AFC in the Super Bowl in my NFL prediction article.

Apparently adding Terrell Owens, drafting an amazing group of college guys and returning all of a core that went 10-6 the year before has a reverse effect in the Bizarro Land of Marvin Lewis & Carson Palmer. The bright side? I learned to NEVER go with a team that features two grown men that wear tights and call themselves “Batman and Robin”, unless its I’m in a movie theater (and maybe not then either).

1. Lamb Chops No More (8/24): I’m a man, a grown one at that. I can fess up and admit my mistakes and biases, and often times in discussion, I am against all things Rams. But on both a logical and fan level, this was both a tremendous defeat and huge upset. The St. Louis Rams took home a six-pack of wins from 2007 to 2009, and languished among the worst of the worst in all of sports.

Finally, for all of their losing, they “earned” the top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. With that choice they took a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, that had not played for basically an entire season after injuring his throwing arm no less, in Sam Bradford. With all of those time tested elements for professional disaster mixed into one guy, it seemed assured that they would continue on the same track. Instead, what did they do? They won more games in 4 MONTHS than they did in three years and are a game away from starting the new year in the PLAYOFFS!!!

It's been all downhill for my Rams predictions from this moment on. Go ahead...enjoy it "friends" and "family".

It’s safe to say I picked them to do far, far less than this a few months back, and to the satisfaction of virtually everybody I know in my hometown, I have eaten every word of it weekly. Now for the final twist of fate, I am actually rooting for them to win and make the playoffs (only because I am the president of the Missouri chapter of the “Pete Carroll Anti-Fan Club”).

These are indeed strange, wacky times here in THE CHEAP SEATS.