1. The next step for the Colts is the Super Bowl. In the first three seasons of Andrew Luck’s career, Indianapolis has been eliminated from the playoffs in the Wild-Card Round, Divisional Round and AFC Championship Game. If that progression continues, Indianapolis will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. In an effort to get there, the Colts brought in veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson from the rival Houston Texans and veteran running back Frank Gore from the San Francisco 49ers. If Luck gets sufficient protection, he should cement himself as one of the two or three best quarterbacks in the NFL.
2. Jadeveon Clowney skipped the preseason, but the Texans think he’s ready. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2014, Clowney had microfracture surgery in December and has been worked back in slowly by coach Bill O’Brien. Clowney was caught by surprise when O’Brien said recently he expected him to be ready for Week One. If that’s the case, though, the Texans will have a pass-rushing duo of Clowney and JJ Watt that should terrorize opposing quarterbacks. The question for the Texans, much like it is for the Bills, is what kind of quarterback play can they get? Brian Hoyer, signed as a free agent from the Cleveland Browns, will start, with Ryan Mallett serving as the backup.
3. Andy Levitre could be done in Tennessee. The Titans have not gotten their money’s worth since signing Levitre to a monster contract worth up to $47 million after the 2012 season. Even though he’s started all 32 games in two seasons, Levitre’s play has been lackluster. During the preseason, he found himself out of the starting lineup in favor of free-agent addition Byron Bell at left guard. For that reason, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Titans decide to cut their losses and release Levitre before the start of the regular season – when his salary would become guaranteed.
4. It’s time for the Jaguars to start showing some results. With a 14-50 record since 2010, the Jacksonville Jaguars have become annual bottom-feeders. If General Manager David Caldwell, the St. Francis graduate, and coach Gus Bradley want to stick around, some progress has to be shown. The good news is second-year quarterback Blake Bortles has had a strong preseason. He was one of seven rookies to start on offense in 2014, so there is hope the unit can take a step forward as it gains more experience. To help Bortles, the Jaguars brought over tight end Julius Thomas from Denver as a free agent. Thomas, however, may miss the first month of the season with a hand injury.
5. Dante Fowler Jr. is out for the season. The Jaguars’ first-round draft pick, No. 3 overall, Fowler tore his ACL in his first practice with the team in the spring and will miss the entire season. Just four days later, the Jaguars gave Fowler the maximum contract available according to his draft slot. It was a good look by the team.