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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Which A.F.C. Teams Could Challenge Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs?

A.F.C. SouthHouston Texans (4-12)

Key arrivals: QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Rex Burkhead, OT Marcus Cannon, OL Justin Britt

Key departures: WR Will Fuller V, C Nick Martin, DE J.J. Watt

The 22 pending lawsuits against Deshaun Watson accusing him of sexual misconduct, which he has denied, loom over a franchise that chooses to pretend it’s not at all weird for him to take fourth-team reps at quarterback or serve as scout-team safety — or be with the team at all. Then again, not much makes sense about the Texans, whose front-office dysfunction and salary-cap mismanagement alienated their best players and precipitated a roster, reconstituted with free agents on short-term deals and coached by a first-timer in David Culley, that may luck its way into a victory or two. Or maybe not.

Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

Key arrivals: QB Carson Wentz, OT Eric Fisher, DT Antwaun Woods, DE Kwity Paye

Key departures: QB Philip Rivers, QB Jacoby Brissett, OT Anthony Castonzo, DE Denico Autry, LB Justin Houston, S Malik Hooker

Not many teams are constructed and coached as well as the Colts, who went about solving the quarterback quandary prompted by Philip Rivers’s retirement … by acquiring one of the worst in the N.F.L by many statistical measures, advanced or traditional. Carson Wentz has been reunited with Coach Frank Reich and Press Taylor, former mentors in Philadelphia, but is recovering from foot surgery that imperils his availability for Week 1. If Wentz can’t revive his career, a team brimming with talent — guard Quenton Nelson, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and linebacker Darius Leonard all rank among the best in the league at their positions — can expect to struggle, especially with a brutal early schedule.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)

Key arrivals: QB Trevor Lawrence, RB Carlos Hyde, DT Malcom Brown, CB Shaquill Griffin

Key departures: WR Keelan Cole

In a college hotbed, owner Shahid Khan has entrusted a successful college coach, Urban Meyer, and the best college quarterback prospect in a decade to resuscitate one of the N.F.L.’s woebegone franchises. The Jaguars will be relevant. Whether they’ll be anything more than competitive depends on the progress of, duh, Lawrence, and their brigade of recent high draft picks, defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, cornerback C.J. Henderson and receiver Laviska Shenault. Alas, the Jaguars couldn’t schedule Florida A&M or Kent State to ease Meyer’s transition; they’ll have to settle for playing the Texans twice.

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