Houston Texans – 8.5 2015: 9-7
The Houston Texans made the biggest splash this year in free agency. Some could argue it was their divisional rival Jaguars but the Texans signed players at the glory positions. The Texans were the definition of a quarterback carrousel last season but still managed to win 9 games on the strength of their defense. Houston finished the year with the third best defense in yards per game and seventh in points allowed per game. The Texans went into free agency with their mindset on finding a franchise quarterback and a replacement for Arian Foster. They signed Brock Osweiller to a 4 year $72 million contract that will pay him $37 million guaranteed in the first two years. Osweiller finished last year playing in 8 games with 1,967 yards, 10 touchdowns to 6 interceptions, and a 62% completion percentage. Those are not elite numbers but in a league where there aren’t many top quality starting quarterbacks you have to take your chance when one with a potentially high ceiling hits the market. The Texans also signed Lamar Miller from the Dolphins to take the replace of long time Texan Arian Foster. Miller is widely expected to have a phenomenal season in Houston and will finally be given the carries her deserves after being drastically underused in Miami. Houston lost Brandon Brooks in free agency but not much else. They drafted wide receiver Will Fuller in the first round to add a legitimate speed threat opposite DeAndre Hopkins (WR). There are some skeptics on Fuller’s route running ability but the Texans will mainly just want him to go deep. The Texans defense will be stout once again and if former first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney can finally fulfill his potential, this team might finish with the top defense in the league. Look for the Texans to win 10 games this year and clinch a Wild Card spot.
Indianapolis Colts – 9.5 2015: 8-8
The Colts finished 11-5 in each of Andrew Luck’s first three seasons. Luck was beat up last year behind a depleted and untalented offensive line and suffered a lacerated kidney as a result and missed the final seven games of the season. The Colts were determined to find Luck protection this offseason, even if it came at the expense of not improving their defense. The Colts drafted center Ryan Kelly out of Alabama in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Kelly is expected to be a day 1 starter and make an immediate impact on that line. In the third round the Colts took Le’Raven Clark out of Texas Tech. Clark could push for time at RT in training camp and if Denzelle Good struggles. The biggest upgrade is going to be having a healthy Anthony Castonzo back. Castonzo went down with an MCL Sprain in week 11 last year and the entire offense suffered for it. While focusing on the offensive line, the Colts ignored their running game and Frank Gore is expected to take a large majority of the carries this year. Gore finished with less than 1,000 rushing yards for the first time since 2010. With the improvements on the offensive line and the return of Andrew Luck, look for Gore to return to his 1,000 yard form despite turning 33 years old in May. The Colts made virtually no improvements on defense this year but that has never really mattered as long as Luck is on the field. With Luck fully healthy this year, look for the Colts to return to form – scoring a ton of points while also giving up a ton of points. Look for this team to have some ugly wins and reach 10 wins.
Jacksonville Jaguars – 7.5 2015: 5-11
The Jaguars are another young, exciting team that has high expectations this year. Jacksonville had tons of cap space and boy did they spend it. They brought in Malik Jackson on a 6 year $90 million contract. They helped bolster the secondary by singing Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukamara who should both make an impact this year as part of a secondary that ranked 29th against the pass last year. Add in the addition of 2015 first round pick Dante Fowler, who missed his entire rookie season after tearing his ACL in OTA’s, and you can see why analysts are expecting a big improvement for this team. The Jaguars weren’t done in free agency though. They added Jalen Ramsey, who was widely viewed as the best overall talent in this draft, and Miles Jack, who fell to the second round because the possibility he will need to have micro fracture surgery in the future. On offense the Jags sign running back Chris Ivory to add some power to their running game. While many thing the Jags overpaid for Ivory when they already have TJ Yeldon, I believe he was worth the money since 1) they had it to spend and 2) Yeldon only scored 2 rushing touchdowns last season. The Jags also picked up Kelvin Beachum in free agency to compete with the underperforming Luke Joeckel. The Jags made a lot of positive moves this offseason that should help the team move in the right direction. Playing in the same division as the Texans and Colts will make things hard but I expect them to show improvement. Look for this team to surprise some people some weeks, then show their youth the next, on their way to winning 7 games.
Tennessee Titans - 5.5 2015: 3-13
Smash mouth football. The Titans have made no secrets about how they want to attack defensive on offense. The Titans finished in last place in the AFC South last season and don't plan on repeating that again this year. Marcus Mariota had a good rookie season, showing that he might be the answer to this teams long drought of good quarterback play. The Titans want to protect Mariota, who was sacked 36 times last season, and did so by drafting Jack Conklin eighth overall out of Michigan State. Conklin will anchor the right side of an offensive line that was ranked 29th by Pro Football Focus last season. The Titans traded virtually nothing for DeMarco Murray from the Eagles and drafted Derrick Henry in the second round to pair with him. Both runners posses a very physical style of running that coach Mike Mularkey covets. The Titans are still lacking talent at receiver but look for rookie Tajae Sharpe to get time at receiver and make an impact after getting reps with the first team this spring. The Titans finished last year with the 12th best defense in yards allowed per game, 7th in passing yards allowed, and 18th against the run. Not bad for a team who's offense struggled to stay on the field last year. Drafting Austin Johnson out of Penn State in the second round should help against the run and Kevin Dodd from Clemson should help pressure the opposing quarterback. The Titans still don't have a big time playmaker in the secondary and need help at the linebacker position. If the defense can play the way they did last year, this team should be much more competitive. Like most teams, the Titans record will depend on the play of Mariota. I like Mariota to take the next step this season and lead this team to 6 wins in what should be a tough division.