With the talent competitiveness in the AFC growing, choosing a team to emerge from the shadows is like picking out the national champion of March Madness. There’s Oakland who’s story may have been different had Carr not gotten hurt, the Colts who are anxiously waiting for Luck to return to 2013 form, and then you also have the Los Angeles Chargers, because if the offense can stay healthy and Rivers taps into his full potential, they could get rolling late in the season. Realistically you could probably list the whole AFC South as a sleeper (especially the Texans) the way their teams are looking, But let’s be real one team is relying on all offense, another team doesn’t have an image and the other….well they’re just too proud to admit it times to clean house and try again…
Maybe I should’ve put an asterisk by their name as you just simply cannot ignore the fact that this was a playoff team last year and may have gotten a step further had they had Carr available. The reason why they’re on this list though, is because even with the addition of Marshawn Lynch, there’s still two sides of the ball that needs to be played and asking a Raiders defense that finished dead last in sacks and gave up 1,035 yards in the FIRST TWO GAMES! That’s egregious, which is why I feel that the Raiders as a whole just aren’t quite there yet.
Where do you start…for beginners, this is the team I was referring to that’s too proud to admit it’s time to hit the restart button. Now I’m not saying they need to blow it up like the Jets, but there are defiantly some pieces that need to be moved around and shipped out. To add insult to injury, there’s no time table for when Luck will come back so the team is just in limbo playing on hope. They have playmakers, and household names on both sides of the ball but as a collective team, they’re far too patchy to believe that they will be a playoff contending team.
The team that’s still looking for an identity. Let’s be real, the Chargers are one of those on paper they’re a decent team when in actuality, they’re a lot worse…even with the resurgence of running back Melvin Gordon. Throw in the offensive lines lack of ability to keep Rivers upright (coming off of 36 sacks) and the loss of their first round rookie guard Forrest Lamp, it’s hard to imagine Rivers or Gordon doing much of anything behind a subpar offensive line.
So who is the sleeper?
The Tennessee Titans
Hellooo, what’s NOT to like about them. They’re young, they’re exciting to watch and they have contributing veteran leadership all throughout their roster. Unlike Winston, Mariota has peaked in each of his seasons in the league and with added offensive talent and support, there’s no reason why he can’t take his game to the next level and elevate this offensive unit as a whole. Going by the numbers, recall the commotion Elliot and the Cowboys made on the ground...499 rush attempts for 2,396 yards while the Titans ran the ball 476 times for 2,187 yards on the season. I’ll even go as far to say that this will be the year we see the Mariota we have been waiting to see. Don’t be surprised if he puts up tier 1 quarterback numbers, puts himself ahead of Andrew Luck for best QB in the division and gets this team back into the playoff mix.