Indianapolis and Jacksonville, who tie for the league's third-toughest schedule, could be in for even rougher sledding if Peyton Manning and David Garrard aren't ready at the start of the season. Houston has a slightly easier climb in the division; its challenge will be improving on last year's 2--6 road record. Tennessee plays the easiest schedule in the South but could have trouble out of the blocks, with three road games before its Week 6 bye—especially if All-Pro Chris Johnson continues his holdout.

Whether this division lives up to its reputation as one of the league's toughest will depend on how it fares in games against the AFC North, which last year sent two teams to the playoffs (including Super Bowl runner-up Pittsburgh), and the NFC South, which nearly sent three. All four teams in the North feature the kind of grind-it-out running games, bruising defenses and terrible late-season weather (pity the Jaguars, who might have to contend with lake- effect snow when they go to Cleveland on Nov. 20) that leave opponents battered, bloody and all but broken come the postseason.

Eight great matchups involving AFC South teams

WEEK 1 at Sunday, Sept. 11

It's the second straight year that Houston hosts Indy in the opener. The Texans won in '10, lifting their alltime series record to 2--16.

WEEK 1 at Sunday, Sept. 11

Tennessee will take its lumps pitting a defense still adapting to a new scheme against a Jags attack that retained its core players.

WEEK 3 at Sunday, Sept. 25

The numbers should be gaudy as two of the league's most prolific aerial attacks meet for the first time since 2007.

WEEK 5 at Sunday, Oct. 9

Last year Pittsburgh limited Chris Johnson to 34 rushing yards in a 19--11 win. But new QB Matt Hasselbeck can get other playmakers involved.

WEEK 7 at Sunday, Oct. 23

The last time they met was in Super Bowl XLIV. Though the Lombardi Trophy won't be on the line this time, pride will.

WEEK 12 at Sunday, Nov. 27

One of the highlights of 2010: Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas hauling in a game-winning 50-yard TD pass as time expired.

WEEK 13 at Sunday, Dec. 4

Appointment viewing yet again. Indy's late rally fell short in '10, but the Pats might not get off so lucky if the Colts are full-strength.

WEEK 17 at Sunday, Jan. 1

The two teams split last season, with Indy's December win all but sinking Jacksonville's shot at its first division crown since '99.