- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Perfect sense: Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Texans running back Arian Foster are two of the AFC’s running backs, although Baltimore’s Ray Rice is the starter. MJD is on the verge of his first rushing title a season after Foster led the league in ground yards. Johnathan Joseph qualifies as one of the best veteran additions in the league, and deserves his spot as a backup to Darrelle Revis and Champ Bailey.
Made it on rep: Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney is the division’s lone starter. He remains a premier pass-rusher who is very tough to block. The past two weeks when the Colts have won showed how feared he and Robert Mathis remain, as the Titans and Texans were overeager to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. But on one of the league’s worst teams, Mathis might have had a better season. And while Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt of the Texans are 3-4 ends who don’t get the glory that comes with taking the quarterback down as often, a case could be made for either as a bigger contributor to his team’s success this season.
Got robbed: The Texans are currently the No. 2 defense in the NFL and have been in the top slot for much of the season. Four Houston defenders -- outside linebacker Connor Barwin, inside linebacker Brian Cushing, Smith and Watt -- are alternates, although we don’t yet know where in the pecking order. While outside linebacker is loaded and it’s tough for 3-4 ends to get in, Ray Lewis has missed a lot of action with a toe injury. I suspect both Cushing and Jacksonville's middle linebacker, Paul Posluszny, have been more influential for their teams this season. Texans center Chris Myers should represent one of the league's best offensive lines. The Titans got no one on the initial roster. Kicker Rob Bironas has been remarkable and qualifies as their best candidate. But the AFC’s kicker, Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, has certainly had a big year.
Perfect sense: Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Texans running back Arian Foster are two of the AFC’s running backs, although Baltimore’s Ray Rice is the starter.