The NFL kicks off in no time and it's time to start assessing all of the divisions
With the NFL pre-season well underway and the real action about to begin, we break down each division in the NFL to highlight what to what to watch out for, who to avoid in your Fantasy Football draft, and make one bold prediction which will surely come back to bite us.
Andrew Luck must stay healthy.
Chuck Pagano has been in the hot seat since 2012 with the Colts. We went against every modicum of common sense and evidence to believe that Andre Johnson was not past it, and Frank Gore had something still left in the tank, only to be spectacularly let down as they stumbled to an 8-8 record last year. The amount of pressure they are under is relative to the amount of success they have had during the Peyton Manning era. This year, Pagano and his coaching staff have to win this division if they want to remain in a job beyond Christmas.
Johnson is gone, Gore remains, and Pagano has to live without the best cornerback in football, as Vontae Davis is sidelined with an ankle injury. If this team gets off to a poor start, the memories of last year will come back to haunt them, and it could be a very long season.
Who is Andrew Luck? Or, perhaps, which Andrew Luck is the real Andrew Luck? Okay, it is hyperbolic to suggest that the Stanford man is not an elite quarterback, but if Luck is not fully healthy then the identity of this entire team is at risk of being an unknown.
The 26-year-old signed a monster contract in the off-season, but only played in seven games last year and suffered through a myriad of injuries. If Luck can become the player he was in 2015, then the Colts might very well turn a corner, but until we figure out how healthy Luck is then it’s too much to ask to predict them as a division winner.
Tennessee Titans to come very close to winning the division: It might seem a stretch to suggest they can turn a 3-13 record into a winning one, let alone a good enough record to win a division but this is no ordinary division and it remains to be seen just how good the rest of the teams are with the Colts and the Texans struggling to mediocre records last seasons and the Jaguars being irrelevant now for some time - but building.
Marcus Mariota showed flashes of brilliance last year and with Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry in the backfield, they might just have enough to eek out enough wins to come close. They also have Delanie Walker to compensate for the lack of depth at wide receiver and with Mariota's legs, they have another weapon that they must use to open up play action and the running game.
We are cheating here but Dante Fowler did not play a single snap of his rookie season after suffering an ACL tear during rookie mini-camp with his new team after being selected third overall. He has struggled after being thrown out of practice recently for having a bad attitude and failing to control his aggression, but expect the 2015 first round pick to do what he is expected to do this season and pick up between eight and ten sacks using that aggression in a positive way on the field.
Do pick Derrick Henry - They're going to force the ball to him and Bortles made steady improvement last season in the TD department.
Don’t pick Frank Gore - 2015 was not an anomaly and all those years in San Francisco have finally taken their toll.
Do pick Marcus Mariota - Between running himself and the play-action possibility given their backfield, Mariota will have a great year in 2016.
Do pick Lamar Miller - Still just 25, and with DeAndrew Hopkins there to keep the defence honest, Miller will be the main man in Bill O'Brien's backfield.
You can read the rest of our other divisional previews below: