OUTLOOK: Andrew Luck reached his first AFC title game, but he and the Colts were overwhelmed by the Patriots in the game that yielded the DeflateGate controversy. The Colts at least cannot be accused of standing pat as they try to put a championship-caliber team around their young franchise quarterback. They signed RB Frank Gore, WR Andre Johnson, G Todd Herremans and pass rusher Trent Cole in a veteran-laden shopping spree. Will they be the missing pieces to a Super Bowl puzzle? Or are they too old to help Luck take the next step?
IMPACT ADDITION: Johnson doesn’t have to be the No. 1 receiver that he was for so many years in Houston. The Colts have T.Y. Hilton to fill that role. But Johnson must fill a complementary role and help make up for the production lost when the Colts did not re-sign Reggie Wayne.
FANCY STAT: 12
TD passes targeted 20 yards or more downfield by Luck.
OUTLOOK: J.J. Watt needs a little bit of help if the Texans are going to reach the playoffs after last season’s near miss. Brian Hoyer won the starting quarterback competition over Ryan Mallett. It was a conservative choice by Coach Bill O’Brien. Mallett is a high-risk, high-reward option. Hoyer is more of a game manager who probably won’t lose games single-handedly but might not be primarily responsible for winning too many, either. Is that good enough in Houston’s situation?
IMPACT ADDITION: DT Vince Wilfork arrives in Houston after 11 seasons with the Patriots. He still was a good, tough-to-block player last season for New England and he gives the Texans another player in their defensive front seven who will create problems for opposing offenses.
FANCY STAT: 119
Sacks, hits and hurries by Watt, 65 more than the next best defensive end playing in a 3-4 scheme.
OUTLOOK: Second-year QB Blake Bortles looked like the real deal at times during the preseason. He’s probably not ready to be a Pro Bowl-caliber passer just yet. But the Jaguars will need last year’s No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft to progress from his 11-touchdown, 17-interception rookie year showing. Bortles has three second-year wide receivers to throw to in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee.
IMPACT ADDITION: This was expected to be Dante Fowler Jr., the linebacker drafted third overall this spring out of Florida. But his rookie season ended before it began with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in his first NFL practice. Instead, second-round RB T.J. Yeldon out of Alabama will attempt to give the Jaguars a running game complement to Bortles’s passing.
FANCY STAT: 22.6
Percentage of drives ending in an offensive score, the worst in the league.
OUTLOOK: It will be interesting to see how the Titans handle Marcus Mariota’s rookie season at quarterback. Will they encourage him to take off from the pocket and make plays running with the ball? That probably would increase Mariota’s rookie year effectiveness, as the Redskins did in the rookie season of Robert Griffin III. But keeping Mariota mostly in the pocket and beginning the process of making him an efficient passer from there probably is the best way to go for his long-term development.
IMPACT ADDITION: It had better be Mariota for the Titans’ sake as their playoff drought has now extended to six seasons and he is their main source of hope for the future. It also will be worth noting how Brian Orakpo fares as a pass rusher in his first season in Tennessee after his sometimes-productive, injury-plagued stay in Washington.
FANCY STAT: 25.3
Average net yards per drive, the third lowest in the NFL.