Bold predictions for every NFL team in 2022 – AFC South | NFL News, Rankings and Stats – Pro Football Focus | Hot Mobile Press

The 2022 NFL season is upon us, which means it’s time to make some bold predictions. While everyone is focusing on overall team wins, I want to get a little more specific with some bold predictions and kick things off for each team by listing some settings that are specific to PFF grades – and some that are more general.

Given the nature of bold Projections are that the hit rate here probably won’t be incredibly high, but these settings will be based on data – things that I think have a realistic chance of happening, not just weirdness plucked from the ether.

The AFC East article can be found hereAFC North here. Now it’s time for the AFC South:

Houston Texans

1. The Texans have two defenders with over 50 pressure

The Houston Texans are still working behind the curve and can’t really capitalize on the win they received for swapping Deshaun Watson as they’ve only been treading water up to this point in the roster. But one area where they could be strong is Edge Rusher, where a combination of takeover veteran Jerry Hughes and rising star Jonathan Greenard could turn things around.

The Texans didn’t have a single player to hit more than 38 pressure points last season, but Greenard had 27 of just 215 rushes and earned an 89.2 PFF pass-rushing grade. That’s the kind of accomplishment that should deserve a much bigger workload. Hughes is nearly 34 years old but has averaged over 52 pressures over the last six seasons. He’s still got some pass-rushing juice to bring to the table.

2. Nico Collins will flirt with 1,000 yards

Getting there will depend a little too much on things way out of his control, but Collins could prove to be a real secondary threat on Houston’s offense versus Brandin Cooks. He shines like a freshman, blasting nearly 500 yards from just 59 targets, less than half the number Cooks has seen. Collins spent most of his time lining up wide, dropping just two passes as a rookie. He has impressive size and movement skills and represents the best chance for a second reception option after Cooks this season.

3. Laremy Tunsil is traded away

The Texans have yet to really begin their rebuild under Nick Caserio. This season is likely to be about identifying long-term parts of the project and figuring out if there are other assets that don’t fit that billing that could be traded away. Tunsil is a candidate.

It would create significant dead-cap capital to move him, but the Texans may be willing to endure short-term cap pain in order to win long-term. Tunsil was a top NFL tackle but endured a poor season before being shut down. At just 28, Tunsil may be part of the long-term plan, but at a significant cost. He’s one of the few players who would be valuable to other teams.

Indianapolis Colts

1. The Colts win the AFC South

The way last season ended for the Colts was disastrous. They should have been a playoff team but couldn’t beat a bad Jacksonville team late in the year to secure their spot, ending up on the outside to look inside. With Matt Ryan at quarterback, they should be better at the most important position in the game, and they’ve added other key players as well while Tennessee spent the offseason just trying to make lateral moves to avoid gaining ground against the rest of the AFC to lose. A slight drop in fortune for the Titans combined with a better Colts team would easily see the winner of the division flip.

2. Stephon Gilmore will be a top-five cornerback

Carolina’s season ended last year, so the moves they made tended to look a little worse, but Stephon Gilmore looked calm, like he’d still be capable of playing an elite cornerback once he got back on the field . Gilmore allowed 10.3 yards per catch on 22 goals in eight games with the Panthers. He let an 80.7 passer rating into his cover and only had two penalties. The Colts are playing a different style of defense, but one that Gilmore could still play at an elite level next season.

3. Matt Ryan will have his best season since 2016

Matt Ryan knows his career is coming to an end with little time left to make a difference and win a championship. Indianapolis gives him another team to play indoors and we’ll see a resurgence of Ryan’s game under Frank Reich. Ryan posted an overall PFF grade of 74.7 last season, his worst year since 2009, but he’s just a year away from that grade, at 83.1. Ryan’s environment is improving across the board with the Colts and he will play in an easier division, albeit in a tougher conference. He probably has a strong year ahead of him.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Travis Etienne wins Comeback Player of the Year

Urban Meyer’s tenure in Jacksonville was disastrous, and it stains everything he left behind. But Travis Etienne is a talented player who has a lot to offer the team. He missed his entire rookie season through injury, but Etienne has excellent explosiveness and big play skills, and some wide receiver cross-training that will help. Etienne could easily become the focal point of this offensive and make enough big plays to place himself at the top of Comeback Player of the Year.

2. Trevor Lawrence improved his PFF score by over 20 points

It wasn’t a rookie season to admire from Lawrence in Year 1. He finished the season with an overall PFF grade of 59.6 and an even worse passing grade. The only two quarterbacks with lower grades were Taylor Heinicke and Zach Wilson. But Lawrence has been billed not only as a great quarterback contender, but as the best to enter the league since at least Andrew Luck (2012) and perhaps Peyton Manning (1998).

This talent didn’t evaporate just because he was in a toxic environment with little receiver help and a broken scheme around him. Lawrence has a much-improved supporting cast this year, and a 20-point jump in class would put him within the range Mac Jones showed as a rookie.

3. Travon Walker finishes with an overall PFF score below 70

Much has been made this offseason about Walker and the unexpected leap he made to No. 1 overall despite lackluster college production. Proponents will point out that with his athletic profile there may never have been a prospect and that Georgia’s plan rarely called for him to flatten his ears and rush the passerby. As true as that is, even when asked, he wasn’t productive and Georgia’s plan didn’t hold back other players who could do much better and generate more pressure.

Last season, Kwity Paye earned the best PFF pass rushing score among rookie edge rushers (71.3), and Gregory Rousseau was the only one to earn an overall score above 70. Walker shouldn’t expect to top last year’s group, despite better physical ability.

Tennessee Titans

1. The Tennessee Titans miss the playoffs

There haven’t been many NFL off-seasons like this one in which most competitors made massive strides to get better and make their case for a Super Bowl run. Unlike most AFC, the Tennessee Titans made a series of lateral moves. They traded AJ Brown away instead of paying him big bucks only to have to spend the first-round pick they got for him on his replacement and hope a combination of Robert Woods and Treylon Burks does as well is like Brown and a busted Julio Jones.

Tennessee was No. 1 a season ago, but it always felt a little unsustainable, and I think the AFC is so strong this season that any team that doesn’t win the AFC South will also miss out on the wildcard spots .

2. The Titans will not have a double-digit sack player

Tennessee has a lot invested in its pass rush now, with Bud Dupre and Harold Landry in particular being the obvious assets. Neither player has posted a PFF pass rushing grade above 56.5 in the past season, despite all the pressure exerted by Landry in particular. Of his 69 presses, including the playoffs, 24 were cleanups and 17 were fully released. Almost 60% of his print was inferior, expected print. Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry each fired the quarterback 11 times last season, Landry was 14, but it wouldn’t take much for the variance to swing away, and all of those investments don’t yield a double-digit sack player.

3. Treylon Burks seamlessly replaces AJ Brown

The Treylon Burks story was on a journey! A first look at his college ribbon reveals a dominant playmaker, but then his training numbers had people chilling with excitement. Ultimately, the second and third views of the tape caused some to focus on the negatives, and reports of asthma when he first arrived at the Titans’ camp only added to the negativity.

Since then, Burks playing soccer has looked a lot like Burks playing soccer in Arkansas — i.e., a dominant athlete capable of big games at any time. This is very similar to AJ Brown. Expecting a newcomer to replace someone as good as Brown is a tall order, but Burks has the ability to handle it and I suspect he’ll prove the hysteria was largely irrelevant.

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