AFC South: AFC Schedule Analysis 2011

Breakdown: If he wasn’t locked out, Peyton Manning might have just called the Indianapolis Colts' video staff to start gathering film of Wade Phillips' defenses. Because Indianapolis opens at the Houston Texans for the second consecutive year, and this time it’ll be against a brand new defensive coordinator who will surely keep as many secrets as possible in the preseason (providing there is one).

The Colts will play five prime-time games -- home against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Texans and on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints (in a rematch of Super Bowl XXLIV) and at the New England Patriots. They do not make a road trip on a short week, something they’ll surely welcome.

Complaint department: Three in a row and four out of five on the road always seems unreasonable (see: October). But there is a nice payback with November coming all at home with games against the Atlanta Falcons and Jaguars before a bye, and then another home game against the Carolina Panthers.

Tough two: We don’t know who’s going to add what or whether the start of the season will be delayed. We do know Colts at Patriots is traditionally gigantic and Colts at Ravens can have a great deal to do with playoff positioning as well. Now make those trips on consecutive Sundays in early December. Pretty challenging. We could see either or both as soon as four or five weeks later in playoff rematches.

Colts Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 3, at Tampa Bay, 8:30 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at New Orleans, 8:20 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at New England, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Thursday, Dec. 22, Houston, 8:20 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Breakdown:Mike Munchak will make his debut as a head coach in Jacksonville, then faces a team his team’s fans probably hate most, the Baltimore Ravens. The Tennessee Titans have a very comfortable month from mid-October to mid-November, with their bye week followed by a three-pack of home games -- against the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.

A year after they played five of their six division games in the final six weeks of the season, those crucial games are much more reasonably spaced out. In fact, their games against the Jacksonville Jaguars are spaced as far apart as possible, in Week 1 and Week 17.

Complaint department: While one spacing issue went away, another surfaced. Tennessee plays its four games against the NFC South in a five week span from Nov. 13 to Dec. 11. It’s hard to predict the quality of any team at this point. But the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers combined for a 34-14 record last season.

Weather-watching:Opening in Jacksonville will give Munchak a reason to work his team hard in the heat of training camp -- if there is training camp and if there is a opening day as scheduled. The Titans had a chance at three big-time cold weather games, but got a break drawing their trips to the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers in consecutive weeks at the start of October, before things will be their worst in those venues. No such luck with the Dec. 4 game at the Buffalo Bills.

Titans Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Denver, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Cincinnati, 4:05 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Houston, 1:00 PM

Houston Texans schedule analysis

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
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Breakdown: The Houston Texans are slated to open at home against the Indianapolis Colts for the second season in a row. Last season, Arian Foster ran wild and the Texans pulled the upset, but then faced a lot of discussion about having put too much offseason focus on that one game. This time they will love unveiling their new 3-4 defense against Peyton Manning, with him having prepared with nothing but old Wade Phillips film.

The only sniff of prime time comes in Week 16, in a Thursday night game at Indianapolis. This is a development that will surely upset fans when they see that the Jacksonville Jaguars have three. They should be looking to the Tennessee Titans, not Jacksonville, for comparison however. And the Titans don't have any either.

Complaint department: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens stand to be the two most physical games on the schedule, and playing the two within three weeks is less than ideal. Back-to-back road games twice in the first seven weeks of the season will be a test as well. But there is always a trade off for such things, and the Texans also have two sets of back-to-back home games.

Potential coast to the finish: Should the Texans have a big bounce-back season from 2010's disappointing 6-10 record, at this point their final month hardly appears a murderer’s row. Sign me up for their finish at the Cincinnati Bengals, against the Carolina Panthers, at Indianapolis and against Tennessee.

Texans Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Miami, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Oakland, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Baltimore, 4:05 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Thursday, Dec. 22, at Indianapolis, 8:20 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Tennessee, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: General manager Gene Smith talks of his team as an ascending one, and if prime time games are any indication, the NFL agrees. Jacksonville gets three.

But while the league might like where the Jaguars are heading, they’re also interested in the Jaguars having sustained box office success. Two home appearances on "Monday Night Football," against Baltimore and San Diego, will certainly help boost civic pride and ticket sales. The third game in the spotlight is a Thursday nighter at Atlanta.

The Jaguars have been a team that’s swooned at the end in recent years. A finish of Tampa Bay, at Atlanta, at Tennessee and Indianapolis could give them a chance to make up some ground or hold on to a playoff berth if they can finish the season playing well, for a change.

Complaint department:How’s this for a three-game run starting in mid-October: at Pittsburgh, against Baltimore on MNF and then at Houston on a short week. Two super physical opponents in consecutive weeks, and then a big division showdown. The NFL did the Jaguars no favors by not splitting up the Steelers and Ravens. At least that trifecta is followed by a bye week.

Gift opening?: The Jaguars struggled to defend longer throws to the outside and to sack the quarterback. They’re expected to add players who will help address both issues, but it may take some time. The schedule-maker may have provided an assist. Three of the team’s first five games are at home, against teams with serious questions at quarterback. They open against Tennessee, play Week 3 at Carolina and host Cincinnati Week 5.

Jaguars Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Monday, Oct. 24, Baltimore, 8:30 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 5, San Diego, 8:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 15, at Atlanta, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM

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