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Cross-Sport Doppelgangers: AFC South

We reveal our cross-sport doppelgangers for the Texans, Colts, Jaguars and Titans.

Michael Lombardo

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Our cross-sport doppelgangers series rolls on with a look at the AFC South, drawing comparisons between each team in the division and their NBA/MLB look-a-likes. For more of this series, check out the parallels we drew for the AFC East and AFC North.

Houston Texans = Colorado Rockies

Both of these clubs are still relatively new to their respective sports, with the Texans joining the NFL as an expansion team in 2002 and the Rockies coming into the MLB in 1993.

The Texans and Rockies have both mostly struggled, save for a few seasons of real competitiveness. The Texans have only been to the playoffs twice, making it to the Divisional Round in both 2011 and 2012 before falling on the road to the Ravens and Patriots, respectively. The Rockies have been to the postseason three times, but only twice since 1995: advancing all the way to the World Series in 2007 (where they were swept by the Red Sox) and getting bounced in the NL Division Series in 2009 by the Phillies, 3-1.

Despite the struggles of both organizations, they have each raised one of the most dominant players in their respective sports. In Houston, that person is Andre Johnson. Now in his 12th season with the franchise, Johnson has gone over 1,000 yards seven times (exceeding 1,500 yards three times). He has five seasons with at least 100 receptions and four with eight or more touchdowns.

In Colorado, the dominant force is Troy Tulowitzki. Since joining the Rockies in 2006, Tulowitzki has racked up four all-star selections and two Gold Gloves. He has hit above .300 six times and topped the 20-home run mark seven times, including 36 blasts in 2011.

Both Johnson and Tulowitzki have struggled with injuries throughout their careers, but to be so dominant for so long — all with the franchise that drafted them — is truly amazing.

Indianapolis Colts = Dallas Mavericks

The Colts and Mavericks both ended long championship droughts with the same philosophy: make it to the playoffs every year and, eventually, things will break your way. And both teams rode a once-in-a-generation type of superstar to make those annual playoff appearances: Peyton Manning in Indianapolis (with Andrew Luck picking up where Manning left off) and Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.

The Colts made the playoffs 11 times in the 12-year stretch between 1999 and 2010. That run was filled with numerous letdowns, including going one-and-done as a home favorite four times, but the field finally broke Indianapolis’ way in 2006, when Manning out-dueled the legendary Rex Grossman to lead the Colts over the Bears in Super Bowl XLI, 29-17. It was the Colts’ first championship since 1970, when the team was still in Baltimore and Johnny Unitas was under center.

Dallas had a similar run of contention, making the playoffs every year between the 2000-2001 season and the 2011-2012 season. Like the Colts, the Mavericks were ousted in heartbreaking fashion several times, including losing to the Heat in the NBA Finals (2006) in one of the worst officiated series of all time and falling to the eighth-seeded Warriors in the first round the following season. But the Mavericks’ persistence finally paid off when they captured the franchise’s first championship by topping the Heat in the 2011 Finals, 4-2.

Ever the models of consistency, the Colts and Mavericks are both very much championship contenders again this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars = Toronto Raptors 

Like the Texans and Rockies above, part of the connection here is the relatively short existence of these teams. The Jaguars joined the NFL in 1995, the same season the Raptors joined the NBA.

Neither team has made it to the championship round, let alone hoisted a trophy, but both have at least tasted some playoff success. The Jaguars made it to the playoffs four years in a row from 1996-1999, twice making it as far as the conference finals. This era of contention was led by the offensive quartet of Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, a group that kept fantasy owners happy for years (with the possible exception of the injury-prone Taylor).

Jacksonville had another mini-resurgence between 2005 and 2007, making it to the postseason twice in a three-year span and getting as far as the Divisional Round in 2007 (before falling to an undefeated Patriots squad). These were the years where the team began to transition from Byron Leftwich to David Garrard and from Taylor to Maurice Jones-Drew.

The Raptors have been to the playoffs six times, including three times in the Vince Carter era (1999-2000 to 2001-2002) and twice in the Chris Bosh era (2006-2007 and 2007-2008). Toronto is in the midst of a new era of contention (thanks to Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas), making the playoffs a season ago and moving atop this season’s Eastern Conference standings following Wednesday’s win over the Western Conference leaders, the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Jaguars are not back to their third cycle of contention just yet. But with Gus Bradley calling the shots and Blake Bortles showing the necessary moxie to emerge as a franchise quarterback, that may not be as far off as Jacksonville’s 1-9 record would indicate.

Tennessee Titans = Milwaukee Brewers

This is what the middle of the pack looks like. Tennessee’s all-time winning percentage (48.67 percent) is awfully similar to Milwaukee’s (47.83 percent). Neither team has captured its sports biggest prize (although the Houston Oilers seized a couple of AFL Championships in 1960 and 1961), but both have come agonizingly close.

The Titans made it all the way to the Super Bowl in 1999, advancing in the tournament because of one of the most famous plays in postseason history (the Music City Miracle) and falling a yard short in their epic Super Bowl comeback attempt thanks to a play that is equally as famous (The Tackle).

The Brewers are also 0-1 on the grandest stage of them all, falling in Game 7 of the of the 1982 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Milwaukee held a 3-1 lead midway through the sixth inning of that decisive game before ultimately falling, 6-3.

Both franchises also share this unfortunate similarity: they are responsible for drafting some of the biggest crap-bags in all of pro sports. Tennessee did its part by drafting Albert Haynesworth in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, while Milwaukee upped the ante three years later by spending a first-round pick on Ryan Bruan.

Do you agree with this week’s comparisons? Want to talk more about them? Join Michael Lombardo for his weekly NFL Chat on Friday at 2pm EST. But you don’t have to wait until then … go ahead and ask your question now

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.

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