Andrew Luck has taken the Indianapolis Colts a bit deeper into the playoffs in each of his first two seasons in the NFL.
Now, it gets tougher after a 2013 season in which the Colts won 11 games and the other three teams combined for 13 wins.
The Houston Texans, under new coach Bill O’Brien, are determined to put up a better fight, with J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing healthy and joined on defense by the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, Jadeveon Clowney. As for the Colts, Arthur Jones is a nice acquisition on a defense that will be missing a key player because of a four-game suspension. On offense, Luck is Luck, but the Colts need Trent Richardson to prove he isn’t a big bust. As for the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, the phrase “works in progress” comes to mind.
Top story line – Bill O’Brien, aka the league’s toughest-looking coach since Bill Cowher, arrives to try to take the division back from the Indianapolis Colts.
Key acquisition – Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 draft pick, will bolster a defense geared toward regaining its elite status and stopping Luck. Unfortunately, it isn’t certain when he’ll play yet as he recovers from sports hernia surgery in June.
Biggest loss – It may just be Andre Johnson, who is unhappy and may be a holdout.
Top story line – The Colts were forced to adjust to injuries on the fly and still Andrew Luck took them to a division title and to a playoff win in his second season. It figures to be more difficult to take the AFC South this year.
Key acquisition – Defensive end Arthur Jones comes over from the Baltimore Ravens, joining Chuck Pagano, who coached him in Baltimore.
Biggest loss – It may only be for four games, but the suspension of Robert Mathis could have a big effect on how well the Colts start.
Top story line – Some “observers” have used the word “playoffs” to describe this team this year. They’re probably “wrong.”
Key acquisition – Blake Bortles, the third overall pick in the NFL draft and the first QB chosen, brings a measure of excitement as a Florida native. But he isn’t likely to be second on the depth chart to Chad Henne just yet.
Biggest loss – Well, the biggest name, anyway: Maurice Jones-Drew leaves for Oakland.
Top story line – Remember that Ken Whisenhunt has taken a team to the Super Bowl because the Titans are a team in flux.
Key acquisition – Dexter McCluster brings his electrifying game from the Kansas City Chiefs and is likely to catch a lot of passes out of the backfield from Jake Locker.
Biggest loss – It may just be Chris Johnson, who is with the Jets now.