1. Indianapolis Colts
The next step logically is to get to the Super Bowl, but they’ll need home field advantage to get there.
2. Houston Texans
A few tweaks on offense and defense could have them surprising some opponents to the playoffs.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The growing pains continue, but there are signs they could push for a .500 record.
4. Tennessee Titans
There isn’t much hope for this season. Stability at the QB position is the lone bright spot.
Head Coach: Chuck Pagano
Key Position: Running Back
It certainly is a risk to bring in a running back well into his 30s to be the workhorse, but there isn’t a better one in the NFL than Frank Gore. For a Colts team that feels they can win right now, there isn’t a better guy to have than Gore. He is an excellent ball carrier and will do wonders on third down, especially in pass protection. Dan Herron and Vick Ballard are better as change of pace backs and will be fresh for a long playoff run.
Key Acquisitions: LB Trent Cole (Philadelphia Eagles), RB Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers), OL Todd Herremans (Philadelphia Eagles), LB Nate Irving (Denver Broncos), WR Andre Johnson (Houston Texans), DL Kendall Langford (St. Louis Rams), S Dwight Lowery (Atlanta Falcons)
Key Rookies: WR Phillip Dorsett, DE Henry Anderson
Head Coach: Bill O’Brien
Key Position: Linebacker
The Texans have been spoiled with the production that J.J. Watt is giving them. More needs to come from the edge rushers if Houston wants to turn the corner into contenders. Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus have to be those guys. Clowney especially since his rookie season ended prematurely to injury. Houston will be looking up at Indianapolis for many years if they can’t put pressure on their quarterback.
Key Acquisitions: QB Brian Hoyer (Cleveland Browns), S Rahim Moore (Denver Broncos), RB Chris Polk (Philadelphia Eagles), WR Cecil Shorts (Jacksonville Jaguars), WR Nate Washington (Tennessee Titans), DT Vince Wilfork (New England Patriots)
Key Rookies: CB Kevin Johnson, LB Benardrick McKinney
Head Coach: Gus Bradley
Key Position: Offensive Line
This was by far the worst line in the league last year. Even with a rookie quarterback the line was just awful all year. Signing Jeremy Parnell and Stefen Wisniewski were smart moves that provide some stability going forward. Luke Joeckel was the lone bright spot who could be a mainstay for the next decade.
Key Acquisitions: DT Jared Odrick (Miami Dolphins), T Jeremy Parnell (Dallas Cowboys), RB Bernard Pierce (Baltimore Ravens), LB Dan Skuta (San Francisco 49ers), TE Julius Thomas (Denver Broncos), C Stefen Wisniewski (Oakland Raiders), CB Davon House (Green Bay Packers)
Key Rookies: RB T.J. Yeldon, G A.J. Cann
Head Coach: Ken Whisenhunt
Key Position: Linebacker
All the eyes will be on the quarterback position for this team, but it will have to start with the defense. They were just awful and they couldn’t do anything right. Bringing in Brian Orakpo puts less pressure on Derrick Morgan to be the lone pass rusher. Also it frees up Zach Brown (who will be healthy) to be a force in stopping the run.
Key Acquisitions: T Byron Bell (Carolina Panthers), CB Perrish Cox (San Francisco 49ers), WR Harry Douglas (Atlanta Falcons), TE Anthony Fasano (Kansas City Chiefs), LB Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins), S Da’Norris Searcy (Buffalo Bills), RB Terrance West (Cleveland Browns)
Key Rookies: QB Marcus Mariota, WR Dorial Green-Beckham