Houston Texans (9-7)
The first team to ever start four quarterbacks and make the playoffs, the Houston Texans have already made history. In a season that has been a tale of two teams, the Texans started off bad on offense and worse on defense. However, after being embarrassed by the Miami Dolphins, the defense began playing at an elite level and the offense was…less bad. Arian Foster went down for the season with an achilles injury, hindering an already limited passing attack. Luckily for Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden, DeAndre Hopkins played at an elite level all season, finishing the season with 110+ receptions and over 1500 yards. J.J. Watt continued to lead this defense as pieces around him fell into place. Making history more than once, the Texans won their first ever game in Indianapolis, the deciding game in them clinching the division. Hosting the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round, the Texans look to continue their improbably season en route to a potential first Super Bowl.
Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
Built around quarterback Andrew Luck, no one would have predicted that this team would play five different players at he QB position. Luck struggled early and dealt with a number of injuries, then later lacerating his kidney and tearing his abdomen, effectively finishing his season. The Colts were left with Matt Hasselbeck, then Charlie Whitehurst, then Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley. Adding to the offensive woes, first round pick Philip Dorsett dealt with an ankle injury much of the year, meanwhile Andre Johnson never found his rhythm. GM Ryan Grigson rebuilt the defensive line in free agency while the secondary tried to survive a plethora of injuries. Honestly, the fact that this team finished .500 is a testament to their will power and desire to win. Entering Week 17 with any shot of the playoffs was almost a miracle and leaves this franchise again like Super Bowl contenders with the return of Andrew Luck next season.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
The Jaguars are almost there on one side of the ball, yet far away on the other. Quarterback Blake Bortles seems to have made the turn people had hoped as he threw for over 4,000 yards and almost 40 TDs. Helping that cause, receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns both had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Rookie back T.J. Yeldon struggled with injuries, but still produced 740 yards on over four YPC. On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars struggled as they were bottom five in yards against them (despite playing in the AFC South). The offense is making strides, and first round pick Dante Fowler Jr. will take his first NFL snap next season which provides hope. One more successful draft and this team may be able to challenge in the struggle that is the AFC South.
Tennessee Titans (3-13)
Entering last season’s draft, many people thought the Titans were not far off and just needed their franchise quarterback. Taking QB Marcus Mariota second overall, things were looking good as he completed four touchdown passes in a 42-14 route of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately, the Titans would only go on to winning two more games all season, firing coach Ken Whisenhunt after a 1-6 start. Interim coach Mike Mularkey tried, but this team has so little talent. A stable of average at best running backs, inconsistent receivers, and an offense line that led to Mariota missing a quarter his games, the Titans have a long way to go. Things were not a whole lot better for Mariota as he had 18 ten interceptions and eight fumbles in 12 games. The bright side for the Titans is that they have the top pick in a draft with a few potential stars. Headlined by Joey Bosa and Laremy Tunsil, the Titans will have a chance to improve the trenches and start the climb back to success.
*Images from Sports Daily, Deadspin, USA Today, Saint Peters Blog, and the Tennessean