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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Verdicts on Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee

Jaguars ready for a serious Super Bowl bid

Jacksonville's Leonard Fournette dives into the end zone against Pittsburgh
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Houston Texans

2017 4-12 Coach Bill O'Brien
QB Deshaun Watson RB Lamar Miller
Major Ins S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Aaron Colvin
Major Outs OT Breno Giacomini, G Xavier Su'a-Filo
Top draft picks S Justin Reid (second round), OT Martinas Rankin (third round)

The Texans' poor record last year doesn't tell the whole story as Bill O'Brien's roster was decimated by key injuries not least to arguably the best defensive player in the league, JJ Watt, while rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson briefly looked brilliant before suffering a serious knee injury.

They will surely be a lot stronger this year if they can keep their star men off the treatment table.

Receiver DeAndre Hopkins shone despite the quarterback carnage but they need the get more out of their running game to ease the pressure on Watson.

Changes in the secondary have boosted their pass defence.

Indianapolis Colts

2017 4-12 Coach Frank Reich
QB Andrew Luck RB Marlon Mack
Major Ins TE Eric Ebron, DE Denico Autry
Major Outs RB Frank Gore, LB Jon Bostic
Top draft picks G Quenton Nelson (1), LB Darius Leonard (2)

The Colts have a new coach but their whole season centres on quarterback Andrew Luck's fitness.

They need his shoulder to be in full working order if they are to have a chance and he needs to stay fit, which is no easy task behind a poor offensive line.

Their defence was not much better - they were ranked 30th in points allowed and 31st in sacks - so they don't inspire much hope, while running back Marlon Mack is unproven despite showing promise.

Even if Luck does prove his fitness, a winning season would still be a surprise.

Jacksonville Jaguars

2017 10-6 Coach Doug Marrone
QB Blake Bortles RB Leonard Fournette
Major Ins G Andrew Norwell, WR Donte Montcrief
Major Outs TE Marcedes Lewis, WR Allen Hurns
Top draft picks DT Taven Bryan (1), WR DJ Chark (2)

Memories of letting the AFC Championship game slip from their grasp last season will still be fresh in Jacksonville and now the Jaguars, who were among the NFL's dregs a few years ago, will have to deal with high expectations.

Quarterback Blake Bortles has been seen as a weak link but he faces a flurry of teams who struggled against the pass last season. Running back Leonard Fournette is a tank and the defence is excellent in all departments.

They look ready to take the next step and a genuine push for the Super Bowl can be anticipated in northern Florida.

Tennessee Titans

2017 9-7 Coach Mike Vrabel
QB Marcus Mariota RB Derrick Henry
Major Ins CB Malcolm Butler, DT Bennie Logan
Major Outs DT Sylvester Williams, RB DeMarco Murray
Top draft picks LB Rashaan Evans (1), LB Harold Landry (2)

The Titans changed their coach despite fighting their way to the playoffs last season but despite reaching the post-season, they will want to see more from quarterback Marcus Mariota after an indifferent 2017 campaign.

DeMarco Murray has gone but expect to see plenty of former Patriot Dion Lewis in the running game in support of Derrick Henry who has waited for his chance.

They will be aided by one of the strongest offensive lines in the game. There are few weaknesses on the other side of the ball so it is realistic to anticipate another strong campaign.

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Memories of letting the AFC Championship game slip from their grasp last season will still be fresh in Jacksonville
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