Written by The Blitz Team
The NFL regular season is almost upon us! For all the fans that have been waiting to put the 2017 season behind them, besides Eagles fans, of course, this will give everyone a chance at another run at the Lombardi Trophy. For this month’s All32 series, we are giving an outlook on what to expect from each team and give an idea how the season may turn out. The preseason gave us a little glimpse of how some players and teams are looking so far in 2018, but that is in the past and ‘real football’ is back again. We don’t know about you, but the Blitz team is beyond excited that the 2018 season is here!
Last year’s Texans flashed glimpses that they could be the best team in the AFC. Unfortunately, due to injuries, they fell to being one of the biggest underachieving teams in the league. They lost many of their star players and failed to really show much progress. Compounding that issue was the fact that Houston didn’t even have a draft pick this year until Round 3.
Offensively, the Texans showed last year that they could be one of the best teams in the league. DeShaun Watson looked like a star. He completely changed the way that the Texans offense looked when he was in the game. Coming off of an All-Pro season, DeAndre Hopkins is looking to repeat a season in which he had 13 touchdowns. D’Onta Foreman showed that he could come in and contribute behind Lamar Miller. However, the Texans are running light on receivers behind Hopkins. Will Fuller will need to show that he can stay on the field and remain a game changer. They also lost a tight end right as camp started.
On defense much was the same, and injuries completely derailed the team. JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Christian Covington were all lost for a majority of the season. Houston brought in Tyrann Mathieu to step in and solidify the secondary. Zach Cunningham is poised and is the perfect compliment to Benardrick McKinney. The Texans will also rely on Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney to add pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
In 2018, the Indianapolis Colts are looking to bounce back after a down season in 2017. They spent the entire year without star quarterback Andrew Luck, who was sidelined after shoulder surgery. After seeing him in training camp and in the preseason games, he looks to be progressing nicely and close to regular season form.
In Luck’s absence, second year GM Chris Ballard has built a roster that on the surface may not be a lot to look at, but if you really study the players, you will realize that there is talent all over the field. He retained Luck’s favorite pass catchers in Jack Doyle and T.Y. Hilton, and also added free agents such as tight end Eric Ebron and wide receiver Ryan Grant. He’s also built the offense through the draft. Last year he selected projected starting running back Marlon Mack in the fourth round and also nabbed Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines late in this year’s draft. Along with Wilkins and Hines, Ballard also grabbed the best offensive lineman in the draft in Quenton Nelson with Indy’s first round pick. Thus far through the preseason, Nelson has made a big impact on the starting line and has proved to be a real anchor at the left guard spot. The Colts offense has talent all over the field and will succeed as long as Luck is at quarterback.
The biggest question mark for this team in 2018 is going to be their defense. Across the board, this team is young and athletic. They have some veteran presence up front with guys like Margus Hunt and Jabaal Sheard. But outside of those guys the unit behind them is a bit iffy. They have safeties Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers both returning from injury, and rookie linebackers Skai Moore and Darius Leonard have stood out during their time working with the first team. Although there may be doubts with this unit, I feel like after about week 4 they will settle in and begin playing together.
The Colts’ outlook for 2018 is not the brightest, but it is promising. I would consider this year to be the true first year of GM Chris Ballard’s team, as last year he began bringing in players to build where they are today. This team is not going to wow anyone, but they will be in a lot more games this year solely because of the fact that Andrew Luck is back.
The Jaguars surprised many in 2017, making it all the way to the AFC championship game where they eventually lost the the New England Patriots. Despite the loss, the Jaguars proved a lot of people wrong and showed they could contend for a Super Bowl with the best teams in the AFC. They earned this by playing very tough defense and running the ball downhill. They will look to build on their success from 2017 and make a Super Bowl run in 2018.
On offense, there are some big names, but the majority of guys are unknown to the common fan. Lead by second year running back Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars will go into the season with an improved offensive line and look to overpower opposing defenses with ease. They added Pro Bowl guard Andrew Norwell to their front, and he will help take this offense to a new level. The receiving corps for the Jaguars is a little less than spectacular, headlined by second year targets Dede Westbrook and Keenan Cole. They also added Donte Moncrief, DJ Chark, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins this offseason. I don’t expect the offense to wow people, but they will do enough to win a lot of games this year.
The Jaguars defense is my personal favorite unit in the league. They have depth and stars at almost every position, and added to that depth this offseason. Their front four alone is a very scary group between Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell, and Marcell Dareus. They also have young and upcoming stars in Dante Fowler, Taven Bryan and Yannick Ngakoue, the latter of which has established himself as a top tier talent coming off of the edge. The Jags also have one of the best secondaries in the league. With the likes of Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Barry Church, Tashaun Gipson and versatile rookie Ronnie Harrison, they have a great mix of youth, talent, and experience. You can’t talk about the Jaguars defense without mentioning Jalen Ramsey, who is one of the best young corners in the NFL. He talks a huge game, and can back it up on the field. Although they might not be the most flashy names, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack have been one of the best linebacker tandems in the entire league. Both players have an excellent mix of size, power, and speed. If I were to start a linebacking corps for today’s NFL, I would look at the Jaguars’ bunch and try my hardest to emulate the unit they’ve put together.
The Jaguars are not going to be the most flashy team in 2018, but they will win their fair share of games and I fully expect them to run away with the AFC South division crown. They’re a team that was one win away from a Super Bowl appearance a year ago, and this season I think they’ve got a shot to make it to the big game. Expectations are high in Jacksonville, and I think they’ll meet them.
The Titans snuck into the playoffs last season and upset the Chiefs on Wildcard Weekend. While that would normally be a successful season, it apparently wasn’t enough as Tennessee fired its head coach and will enter 2018 with a new leader, Mike Vrabel. After making the playoffs, expectations will be high. Marcus Mariota will be expected to take the next step in his career after having an up and down season in 2017. The Titans offense features a dynamic duo in Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, a classic thunder and lightning running back tandem. Mariota still has his safety blanket in veteran Delanie Walker, who should continue to be a reliable target. Their 2017 1st pick, Corey Davis, is healthy and he will be the big factor in their offense finding sustainable success on the field throughout the year. This offense has the potential to be one of the better ones in the league.
Tennessee could feature one of the better defenses in the NFL as well. They have a strong front seven that includes Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo, Bennie Logan, and Wesley Woodyard. They also have their two top draft picks, Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, who should be able to make an impact. Ryan Logan, Malcom Butler, Adoree Jackson, Kevin Byard, and Kenny Vaccaro should all be quality defenders in the back end of the defense. This unit has the potential to be in the top 10 if they can gel right away as the season begins.
The Titans’ season depends on their franchise quarterback. If Mariota does take that next step, then I can see them winning the AFC South. If he takes a step back, then it could be another up and down season, while looking at the playoffs from the outside. The AFC South isn’t as easy as it use to be, so this will be a tough task to complete, and personally, I think the Titans end up sitting right outside the playoff picture in 2018.