This was already a good team, but now QB Andrew Luck doesn’t have to function in an offense surrounded by mid-tier talent. Coach Chuck Pagano will need his defense to step up.
2. New England
The Super Bowl champions likely will start the season without QB Tom Brady. That means Jimmy Garoppolo will man the ship in his second season on offense, but for how long?
The Ravens have their fourth offensive coordinator in four years, with Marc Trestman working with QB Joe Flacco. They’ll need some of their young weapons to star immediately.
This could be the final season for QB Payton Manning. The 39-year-old can still get the job done, but it’ll be a miracle if he can still stand at the end of the season with that line.
The identity of the Steelers changed dramatically last year. Now the defense enters training camp as a concern, particularly the secondary. The only change was the departure of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
6. N.Y. Jets
It’s hard to believe a team with Geno Smith at quarterback could be ranked this high, but he has talent around him in head coach Todd Bowles’ first season. The Jets should have a good defense, even with DE Sheldon Richardson suspended four games.
Ndamukong Suh got paid, and he should help improve the Dolphins’ defense significantly. But the other Dolphin cashing in this offseason, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, will need to elevate his game if the Dolphins want to make the playoffs.
This is a talented roster that just can’t seem to get past the wild-card round. Coach Marvin Lewis might have his job on the line this year. Can QB Andy Dalton move to a higher level and join the league’s elite?
9. San Diego
The Chargers will need rookie RB Melvin Gordon to make an immediate impact and take some of the load off QB Philip Rivers. If not, especially with Antonio Gates suspended for the first four games, be prepared to see Rivers turning the ball over a lot again.
The Bills are another team facing a crisis at quarterback. New coach Rex Ryan comes over from the Jets and has to pick between Matt Cassel, E.J. Manuel and Tyrod Taylor. Good luck with that.
11. Kansas City
The Chiefs finished last season without a wide receiver catching a touchdown pass. The position group has gotten better with the addition of Jeremy Maclin, but we’ll see if Alex Smith can get his wideouts the ball.
The Raiders improved their talent level over the past two years, adding WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree this offseason. The Raiders are trending in the right direction for once.
Good news: We might get to see J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney rushing on the same line. Bad news: The Texans have a QB competition of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage.
The Jaguars’ first-round pick, DE Dante Fowler, tore an ACL during OTAs. They’re in for a long year.
This all depends on what you think about Johnny Manziel. As great as it’ll be for the NFL to see him succeed, Manziel still has a big learning curve ahead of him after exiting rehab.
The Titans have what they believe is their franchise QB, No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota. They don’t have much around him, though. This team will be tough to watch.