Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive line improvements
Last season, the Cincinnati Bengals had one of the best turnarounds in sports history. In 2020, the Bengals had one of the worst records (4-11-1) in the NFL. After drafting quarterback Joe Burrow’s college teammate, receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals immediately became a threat in the AFC. A Cinderella season ended in a heartbreaking loss to the LA Rams in the Super Bowl. The main factor in each of the Bengals losses was the offensive line. This offseason they signed La’El Collins, Alex Cappa and Ted Karras to improve the O-line. With a new O-line, Burrow will have plenty of time to find pro bowl caliber weapons Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar’s weapons
The Ravens have talent at every position. However, the wide receivers are extremely worrisome. Sophomore receiver Rashod Bateman will have to be the WR1 on the Ravens if they want to succeed. A pro bowl caliber season by Bateman would make Baltimore a threat to win the Super Bowl as they have no other major holes. Tight end Mark Andrews is coming off an all-pro season and looks to earn the “best NFL tight end” title again. The Ravens had the worst luck of any team last summer as their two best running backs (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards) suffered year-long injuries.
Cleveland Browns: Who’s the QB
It is unlikely that Browns new quarterback Deshaun Watson will be this upcoming season due to dozens of sexual misconduct lawsuits. Jacoby Brissett will likely be named as the starter, meaning Baker Mayfield is looking for a new team. The Browns also acquired receiver Amari Cooper this offseason. Assuming Brissett starts this season, his connection with Cooper could become one of the most dangerous in the NFL. With Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward dominating on defense, the Browns could be a dark horse to win it all.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Replacing Ben
The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had to worry about a new quarterback since 2003, the year before they drafted future hall-of-famer Ben Roethlisberger. After he announced his retirement at the end of last season, Steelers fans wondered who’d be next under center. They drafted Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round back in April. However, Mitchell Trubisky might earn the starting role. Similar to the Browns, the Steelers have great offensive and defensive players including reigning defensive player of the year linebacker T.J. Watt and four-time all-pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. However, they need a quarterback to thrive in order to win the Super Bowl.
Indianapolis Colts: The missing piece
After a surprising 1-4 start last season, the Colts became one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Sophomore RB Jonathan Taylor earned the “league’s best running back” title after finishing the season with the most rushing touchdowns and yards. Their defense was among the elite as pro bowlers DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard and Kenny Moore headlined each defensive area (D-Line, Linebacker, Defensive back). They were 9-6 entering the new year, but two heartbreaking losses to the Raiders and Jaguars would eliminate them from playoff contention. Why? Quarterback Carson Wentz played poorly in both games. The Colts traded Wentz to the Washington Commanders this offseason and later acquired 2016 MVP QB Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons. The 37-year-old QB has gradually gone into a downward spiral, but he can potentially be the missing piece to Indianapolis. If Matt Ryan can turn back the clock, the Colts can win it all.
Tennessee Titans: Find the pass attack
After losing their two best receivers, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, to trades and free agency things only got worse… or did it? Part of Brown’s trade included earning (and eventually drafting) first round pick WR Treylon Burks, arguably the most talented rookie receiver. The Titans drafted Liberty QB Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. It is uncertain if he will replace Ryan Tannehill, but Tannehill told the media that he didn’t want to train Willis for the starting job. The Titans have arguably the best running back in the NFL, Derrick Henry, returning after a season-ending injury last fall. However, they can’t hand the ball off on every play. The Titans have a very underrated defense including pro bowlers Jeffery Simmons and Kevin Byard. If the Titans can figure out their quarterback situation, Burks can become a superstar. If they can blend the pass and run attack, Henry can ball out every game without being overworked. Above all, they have reigning coach of the year Mike Vrabel on top of it all. This can be a dangerous team, but they need to find their man under center first.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Clemson redemption
After drafting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence last offseason, the Jags still finished with the worst record in the NFL. They also drafted Clemson running back Travis Etienne last offseason, but he missed the entire season due to a foot injury. The former national champions couldn’t get that chemistry back last season because of the injury. However, Etienne is on track to play this season. In addition, he’ll split snaps with James Robinson, a very underrated RB. The Jags signed WR Christian Kirk to a shocking four-year, $72 million deal this offseason. The NFL community has extremely high expectations for Kirk to prove that he was worth the money. If the Clemson players can find their chemistry and Kirk can exceed expectations, the Jaguars can turn back the clock to 2018 when they were a Super Bowl caliber team.
Houston Texans: Youth talent
The Texans are currently in rebuild mode and the NFL Draft this offseason might have completed it. Houston drafted LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. third overall. College teammates Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson struggled against Stingley during practices at LSU. Stingley had six interceptions his freshman year, but midseason injuries would sideline him in his sophomore and junior years. He is expected to be one of the best rookie defensive backs this season. The Texans also drafted two Alabama players: linebacker Christian Harris and receiver John Metchie III. Harris has the speed and hard-hitting abilities to become one of the best linebackers in his draft class. Harris and Stingley could become the future leaders of the Texans defense. Metchie joins sophomore quarterback Davis Mills. Last year’s draft consisted of five quarterbacks that had potential to become franchise leaders. Mills wasn’t considered one of them, but out-performed nearly all of them last season. With a talented receiver like Metchie joining an underrated wide receiver room, Mills can have the weapons to prove that those five teams made a mistake by not drafting him. This motivation could lead to a Super Bowl victory.