Training camp solution: Leadership emerged. Vince Young has taken control of the team’s offense, while linebacker Stephen Tulluch has emerged as the best player and leader of the defense.
Hanging problem: The Titans want Kenny Britt to emerge as their No. 1 receiver, but maturity and conditioning issues continue to slow him down. On defense, the group’s linebacker situation remains unsettled heading into the season.
Surprise: Rookie cornerback Alterraun Verner looks like a keeper and could provide a huge lift to a group that has a lot of questions.
Training camp solution: Former Defensive MVP Bob Sanders stayed healthy and looked like Bob Sanders again without any setbacks all month. That hasn’t happened since, well, forever.
Hanging problem: A shaky offensive line looks shakier. Charles Johnson is one of the league's worst starting left tackles and he’s been out with a foot injury. Center Jeff Saturday is recovering from knee surgery. G.M. Bill Polian finished last year complaining about his offensive line, and they look worse.
Surprise: With receiver Anthony Gonzalez healthy again and rookie tight end Brody Eldrige emerging as a versatile threat in the offense, Peyton Manning may have the best set of weapons of his career. Really.
Training camp solution: Despite the season-ending injury to second-round power running back Ben Tate, the Texans found their bell cow. Arian Foster took hold of the starting running back job early in the offseason and never let go. He looks like the real deal. Steve Slaton will play third downs.
Hanging problem: The Texans entered camp looking thin at outside linebacker and cornerback. Nothing that happened in August changes that.
Surprise: Tight end Owen Daniels won’t be ready for a full complement of snaps early in the year after a setback in his return from ACL surgery. We only put this under surprise because it seems like every other major injury recovery in the league is “ahead of schedule.”
Training camp solution: We’re having a hard time coming up with one for the Jaguars, which doesn’t bode well. There was no quarterback controversy? Promising second year left tackle Eugene Monroe got his first full camp under his belt?
Evan Silva highlights the game's best players on offense, defense and special teams. Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen was an easy selection.
Hanging problem: Let’s see: the team’s best player Maurice Jones-Drew has an injury problem. The safety position is a huge mess, with journeyman Anthony Smith emerging as the best player. The defensive line has been banged up. Bad vibes all around.
Surprise: The Jaguars have made a lot of progress selling tickets despite storm clouds around the franchise.
1. Titans (11-5)
*2. Colts (11-5)
3. Texans (7-9)
4. Jaguars (5-11)
*Will win wild-card spot
Training camp solution: Kyle Orton played so well in camp that the team gave him a contract extension. He’s The Guy until 2012, when Tim Tebow will have a chance to take over. Tebow had flashes in the last month, but he’s got a long way to go. Brady Quinn has an even longer way to go and may not be in Denver for long.
Hanging problem: The Broncos can’t settle on a linebacker group following Elvis Dumervil’s devastating pectoral injury. With Jarvis Green underwhelming on the defensive line, the defensive front seven has major questions. Dumervil won’t be back until December at the earliest.
Surprise: Left tackle Ryan Clady may start in Week 1 despite a patella tendon injury over the summer. That would settle down a shaky looking offensive line.
Kansas City Chiefs
Training camp solution: With a little continuity to help out, the Chiefs offense has reason for optimism. Dwayne Bowe has matured, quarterback Matt Cassel is a nice fit for Charlie Weis, and the team has three talented runners starting with Jamaal Charles and ending with rookie hybrid Dexter McCluster.
Hanging problem: Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey, former top-five picks on the defensive line, continue to impress no one. The Chiefs welcomed back an ineffective front seven and need these guys to step up.
Surprise: Coach Todd Haley continues to list Thomas Jones as the team’s starting running back, even though Charles is the best player on his offense. Don’t expect that to continue. (Also rookie Javier Arenas looks like a special returner.)
Training camp solution: Rookie middle linebacker Rolando McClain has taken over a leadership position on this underrated defense. The Raiders have solid depth throughout the defense and have stayed healthy. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy is a rising star.
Chris Wesseling highlights 10 players who will struggle in 2010 like Redskins QB Donovan McNabb, and 10 more who will thrive.
Hanging problem: The offense is another story. The team has key injuries to starters at every position except tight end. The offensive line could be a weak spot, especially at center. New quarterback Jason Campbell won’t magically turn this group around.
Surprise: Second-year wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missed a week of work due to “fatigue” and was not laughed out of town.
San Diego Chargers
Training camp solution: First-round running back Ryan Mathews is the real deal. He’s going to be a huge upgrade from the 2009 version of LaDainian Tomlinson; Mathews can handle every down workload.
Hanging problem: What do you think? Wideout Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill remain unsigned, with no movement of late. The team has to be worried with Brandon Dombroski protecting Philip Rivers’ blind side.
Surprise: We honestly don’t think the Chargers will miss Jackson much with Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee playing wideout. And taking Antonio Cromartie from the secondary sounds like addition by subtraction.
1. Chargers (10-6)
2. Broncos (8-8)
3. Chiefs (7-9)
4. Raiders (5-11)
PFT: Jets RB Mike Goodson was charged with five gun and drug counts Friday morning, after New Jersey State Police found the car he was riding in parked in the middle of Route 80 in Denville, N.J.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
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