By Maximillian C. Burgos | Contributing Writer
Tennessee Titans (12-4):
The Titans are gearing up for a break out year. With an offense that has the potential to be explosive this year, the Titans can make the playoffs in convincing manner during the 2017 campaign barring significant injuries. The only thing that can derail their potential break out year, is the health of Marcus Mariota. Mariota needs to stay healthy for the Titans to be successful.
As long as the rushing attack is solid with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, like it was this past year, and the defense can keep games within reach, the Titans will do well. Their schedule has some rough patches but the last four games of the season should be a good momentum builder for going into the postseason.
Houston Texans (9-7):
If the Texans have at least mediocre quarterback play, they can be competitive. If rookie DeShuan Watson or fourth-year signal-caller Tom Savage can establish themselves are at least average, the team can go places. A healthy J.J. Watt will also be invaluable for the team’s defensive and morale. Watt can turn the tide of a game all on his own. Having him back is exactly what the team needs.
Even with William Fuller IV hurt to start the season, the Texans have talent in the their receiver core and back field. They also have a solid tight-end in C.J Fiedorowicz, even if he does drop some balls at times. The defense is still a force to be reckoned with Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus — and the rushing attack should still be fierce. Despite losing key defender A.J. Bouye to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Texans can make another playoff run.
Indianapolis Colts (7-9):
The Colts did better than expected last season managing an 8-8 record. They need a lot of help on the defense. Andrew Luck also needs a lot of help on offense. With the new GM, Chris Ballard, the Colts could have a better shot next year, but this year might be on par or worse than last year.
If Luck can stay healthy and the offensive line can keep him from being the most-sacked quarterback in the league, they Colts will have a chance to do alright this year. Their really is no hype around this Colts team though. Maybe an 8-8 year again, but 7-9 seems more like it.
The team was 8-8 the past two seasons. If they go 8-8, or even 7-9 this season, it would not be surprising if Chuck Pagano is finally let go. Ballard would pick his own guy — and it wouldn’t be surprising if he chose Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy.
The last-time the team had a winning record was during the 2014 season when they went 11-5. From 2012 to 2014, they had three straight 11-5 seasons, before falling off recently.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11):
Jacksonville can improve marginally since last year with Leonard Fournette, their first-round pick, in the backfield and other talented units. If Blake Bortles does not make real progress this year, after having a disaster last season under Gus Bradley, the Jaguars could be in for another disappointing year despite hiring Tom Coughlin to head the football operations and Doug Marrone as the full-time head coach. They have talent at the wide-receiver position but it does not matter if the ball does not get out to them.
The Jaguars defense has seen some improvements with some solid pickups like Bouye and safety Barry Church, previously of the Dallas Cowboys, but the overall quality of the defense is yet to be proven despite having several key players. They were subpar in their performance last year. With a balance schedule, they need to be able to keep the team in most games and help win the must-win games in order to get better.
If Bortles can’t live up to expectations, it could set the franchise back in the long-term. It’s been a long-time since they had a proven, long-term signal-caller.