Jaguars finalize practice squad

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars filled out their 10-member practice squad Tuesday by signing rookie tight end Marcel Jensen, who had been with the team during OTAs, training camp and the preseason. Here is a quick look at the squad:

OT Cody Booth: The undrafted rookie played left tackle and tight end at Temple. He had been with the Bears since May but got cut Aug. 1 and signed with the Jaguars Aug. 16.

DL DeAndre Coleman: He's a big body (6-foot-3, 315 pounds) who wasn't able to crack the rotation at tackle or end because of the Jaguars' offseason upgrades along the defensive line.

TE Marcel Jensen: He looked very good in OTAs and minicamp, but once the pads went on in training camp he had some problems. He has good size (6-6, 270 pounds) but is a raw talent who needs time to develop.

RB Henry Josey: The undrafted free agent from Missouri led Philadelphia in rushing in the preseason (225 yards) and also had a 27-yard touchdown on a screen pass. It was going to be tough for him to get playing time behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles.

S Craig Loston: The undrafted free agent from LSU has the size (6-2, 209) the Jaguars like in a safety.

QB Stephen Morris: Being familiar with Jedd Fisch's offense, plus being younger, made him the pick over Ricky Stanzi to be the team's third quarterback.

WR Kerry Taylor: He had problems with drops throughout camp. He caught 19 passes in seven games with the Jaguars last season.

CB Peyton Thompson: He spent the 2012 season on Atlanta's practice squad and part of the 2013 season on Washington's practice squad. He spent just six days with Chicago last month.

WR Tony Washington: The undrafted rookie free agent caught three passes for 37 yards with Indianapolis in the preseason.

LB Marcus Whitfield: He's another pass-rushing linebacker who could potentially be a fit at the OTTO position.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s probably a toss-up in deciding which was quicker: Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay's escape from the media by going through an underground tunnel at the Hamilton County courthouse or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's announcement of Irsay's fine and suspension.

Goodell needed only about three hours after Irsay pleaded guilty to impaired driving to announce that the owner would be suspended for six games and fined $500,000 for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.

The Colts have been preparing for this moment since Irsay was arrested back in the middle of March. They knew Irsay wasn’t going to get off with just a slap on the wrist from Goodell, because that would cause an uproar from players around league.

[+] EnlargeRyan Grigson
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsGeneral manager Ryan Grigson says the Colts will cope with the absence of owner Jim Irsay following his suspension.
The franchise ran fine while Irsay, who later admitted he still had a little hand in things, was getting rehabilitation treatment following his arrest. General manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano handled things on the football side. Colts chief operating officer Pete Ward, who is in his 34th year with the franchise, dealt with the business side of things. Irsay’s oldest daughter, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, had the final say on team decisions.

It'll continue to be run that way -- minus the little bit of dabbling by Irsay -- during his suspension.

“Nothing’s going to change,” Grigson said in an interview with Indianapolis radio station WFNI 1070 AM. “We’ve been down this road before when he was away. Nothing’s going to change. We’ve had plenty of adversity around here. This is another one we have to overcome.”

The suspension will sting Irsay more than it stings his employees.

Anybody who has been around Jim Irsay knows his life is football. It goes all the way back to when he was a kid and his father, Robert Irsay, owned the Colts.

Jim Irsay isn’t one of those owners who simply shows up on game day and hangs out in a suite eating fancy food and sipping exotic beverages. The one-time general manager is a very hands-on owner. He’s a regular at the team’s facility during the week, he constantly talks to Grigson and Pagano, and he’s always inside the locker room after games. Irsay was given the game ball after the Colts beat the Denver Broncos in Week 7 last season.

None of that will happen -- not for six weeks, at least.

Starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Irsay is not permitted in the team’s facility. No practice. No games. He cannot represent the team at any league meetings. No interviews. And no interaction on social media.

No Twitter for Irsay?

You would think Goodell is being petty like a father disciplining his son, but Irsay gives Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban a run for his money when it comes to owners interacting on Twitter.

Irsay routinely holds contests on Twitter that allow fans to win money and tickets to games.

And who can forget about Irsay’s middle-of-the-night tweets the week of the Denver game last season?

So for six weeks, Irsay will be relegated to sitting on his hands at home, or perhaps in some tropical location, keeping an eye on his team from a distance while he counts the days down until he can return to the franchise he owns.

That in itself is punishment enough for him.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's logical for some fantasy football owners around the country to choose rookie Blake Bortles over Chad Henne, going on the belief that Henne won't remain the Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback for the entire season.

 If they're playing in a dynasty league, it makes even more sense to grab Bortles over Henne because Bortles is clearly the future of the franchise.

But taking Tim Tebow over Henne? That makes no sense. Henne is the Jaguars starter and barring injury, GM David Caldwell said the ideal scenario would be for Henne to play the entire season to allow Bortles to sit on the bench and develop.

And yet Tebow is owned by more teams in ESPN fantasy football leagues that Henne. Tebow is owned by 1.3 percent of teams while Henne is owned by 0.8 percent. (Numbers as of 3 p.m. EST Tuesday)

Tebow hasn't played in the NFL since the 2012 season, and it appears he has garnered no interest from NFL teams in quite a while. Even the St. Louis Rams, who lost Sam Bradford to a torn ACL, didn't call Tebow. They're going with Shaun Hill, an eight-year veteran who has played in just four games over the past four seasons.

Despite that, nearly twice as many teams own Tebow than own Henne.

Bortles, by the way, is owned by 5.3 percent of teams.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Since the NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars found out they still have trouble running the ball and that people apparently aren't too impressed with the upgrades they've made along the defensive line. Not even the fact that rookie quarterback Blake Bortles appears to have a bright future in the NFL was enough to keep them from dropping in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings.

The Jaguars came in at No. 31 on Tuesday afternoon in the first edition of the 2014 rankings, one spot below where they were ranked in the days after the draft.

The Oakland Raiders were last. Seattle, Denver, New England, San Francisco and New Orleans were ranked Nos. 1-5, respectively.

The voting process for the rankings has been expanded and given a catchy name: the ESPN Power Panel. It is comprised of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities.

Here is my ballot:

1. Seattle
2. Denver
3. Green Bay
4. San Francisco
5. New England
6. New Orleans
7. Philadelphia
8. Indianapolis
9. Chicago
10. San Diego
11. Cincinnati
12. Detroit
13. Atlanta
14. Baltimore
15. Carolina
16. Kansas City
17. Arizona
18. Pittsburgh
19. Miami
20. Dallas
21. Washington
22. Tennessee
23. N.Y. Giants
24. St. Louis
25. Minnesota
26. N.Y. Jets
27. Tampa Bay
28. Jacksonville
29. Cleveland
30. Buffalo
31. Houston
32. Oakland
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans stand 28th in the first NFL Power Rankings of the 2014 season.

There are 76 ballots. Mine is of little influence in the big picture. I think they are going to be an average team and I had them 17th. It clearly didn’t tug them up much, and only the Bills, Browns, Jaguars and Raiders are below them.

I’ve written a lot about the national view of the Titans. They lack star power and flash. They have new systems on both sides of the ball. They have an unproven quarterback.

Even so, they have a far better coaching staff and an easier schedule. I’ve got them going 7-9 again. Here’s my game-by-game assessment (which holds for exactly one week.)

Brace yourself for this next part…

I ran through the game-by-game predictions for the 13 writers who cover the teams the Titans will play this season.

One of them -- one -- picked his or her team to lose to Tennessee.

Have the Titans on your team’s schedule, you are penciling in a win. Unless you are Texans reporter Tania Ganguli, who penciled in a split in the season series pitting Houston and Tennessee.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Confucius.

Friedrich Nietzsche.

Rene Descartes.

Andre Branch?

The Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end certainly doesn’t qualify as one of history's great philosophers. When it comes to what’s happening in the Twittersphere, however, Branch has his own existential, Hundred Tweets of Thought, "I tweet, therefore I am" thing going.

Branch regularly dispatches motivational phrases, thought-provoking questions, and advice to his more than 12,300 followers. He even has his own term for those little nuggets, too: #WindmillWisdom. It’s his way of connecting with the fans and having fun at the same time.

"I definitely want to interact with all the fans," Branch said. "That's what we do it for out here, our family, our friends, each other, and the fans, because that's who comes here every Sunday and roots us on. So, for the loyal fans, why not interact with them?" The origin of Windmill Wisdom is tied to the origin of the Windmill, which is the dance that Branch does after a sack or a big play. He leans back and rotates both arms in giant circles. Branch had come up with the dance during his rookie season in 2012, but he called it the money dance. Fans and members of the media called it the Windmill, however, and that's what stuck. Windmill Wisdom was born by accident. Branch had been tweeting motivational phrases, quotes and advice, when a friend first gave him the inspiration for the title. "He was like, 'Man, that's some Windmill Wisdom right there,'" Branch said. "And I was like, 'Oh, that's a good idea.' So I stuck with it. I asked all the fans on Twitter how they felt about it. They loved it, so I just kept it going." Fans do seem to like it. His Windmill Wisdom tweets are regularly retweeted and favorited, and sometimes fans even drop one on him, too. There have even been times when a fan has tweeted Branch and asked for help. Branch gets his information from various sources. His mother, Paulette Battle, will give him some ideas, or he'll hear a quote or see a motivational phrase somewhere else and use it. He said he's always looking for something to use. "I might hear something from you and I'll be like, 'Oh, that was pretty good,' and I'll tweet it," Branch said. "Or if a fan tweets me and says, 'Man, I need some Windmill Wisdom.' I've got them. I will tweet them back." Branch says his favorite Windmill Wisdom came from his mother: "There is no paradise without sacrifice." "I don't know where she got it from, but she told me that and it stuck with me," Branch said. "That's been sticking with me for about five years, since she told me. I was like, 'Man, that's a good one.'" As you might expect, Branch's teammates sometimes give him a hard time about his tweets. Like offensive tackle Cameron Bradfield, who said he's curious about where Branch gets his material. "You make me wonder now if I should ask him where he gets his stuff from, if he went to Barnes & Noble and grabbed a book of 101 sayings or something like that," Bradfield said. He wasn't surprised when told that Branch's mother gives him some ideas: "Hey, his mom is a smart lady then. Very smart." But Bradfield said there's no chance that Branch came up with any of them on his own. Or that he got help from any of the other players in that corner of the locker room. "They're defensive linemen," Bradfield said. "They're not the smartest apples in the bunch." Not only does defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks not have a favorite Windmill Wisdom tweet, he said he's not sure why fans seem to like them. But he does like the fact that Branch is interacting with fans with his true personality, which allows them to feel a connection to the team, and he wants Branch to keep posting. "I don't know where the hell they come from and I don't know why it's so popular because it isn't any senior wisdom, but they all like it and enjoy it," Marks said. "He embraces; they embrace it. "... I get so tired of it on Twitter, Instagram. I stop looking at my accounts. It isn't wise in my eyes, in my thoughts. I've got my own wisdom, but it's fun for him. He's a [funny] guy, he likes to play around. He has fun with it, so I'm all for it."

Worth and value are two different things that don't always match up in the NFL.

For the past three seasons, the Texans have gotten an incredible bargain on superstar defensive end J.J. Watt. They rectified that Monday night, agreeing to a six-year extension that means instead of $1.9 million this season, Watt will get more than $30 million when he signs his contract on Tuesday.

His total guaranteed money -- which, according to reports, fully kicks in if he's on the roster in 2016 -- is $51.8 million, the highest guarantee for any defensive player.

He's worth it because of his value to the Texans' defense.

Watt has never missed a game in the NFL, but he doesn't play every snap. The statistical difference with Watt on the field versus with Watt off it is dramatic.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, with Watt on the field teams average 4.1 yards per rush and have a Total QBR of 47.2. Without him, both of those numbers rise, to 4.4 yards per rush and a Total QBR of 57.2.

As for sacks? With Watt on the field, the Texans' sack percentage jumps from 4.0 without him to 7.1 with him.

Since 2011, when the Texans drafted him 11th overall, Watt has disrupted more drop-backs than any other player. The plays that count among disrupted drop-backs are sacks, passes defensed, batted balls and interceptions. Watt has 62.5 during the past three seasons, topping Jared Allen (56.5), Richard Sherman (49) and Joe Haden (48).

It's a function of Watt's belief that he's never truly beaten. When another player might consider a play finished, Watt often figures out how to make the most of it.

Houston Texans game predictions

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
video Houston Texans reporter Tania Ganguli makes her game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: Washington Redskins

Washington safety Brandon Meriweather will be suspended for this game, aiding the Texans' offense, which will still be figuring itself out at this point. Defensively, I like Houston's chances against Washington's offense, led by a quarterback still learning to play in the pocket. Prediction: Win

Week 2: at Oakland Raiders

The Texans will face ghosts of quarterbacks past this week, playing a team that has former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and the younger brother of former Texans quarterback David Carr. The younger Carr, Derek, was declared the Raiders' starter in the preseason. He's still learning, though, and the Texans will prevail here to repeat last season's 2-0 start. Prediction: Win

Week 3: at New York Giants

After a 2-0 start that leads to positive vibes throughout NRG Park, the Texans stumble during their next road trip. This year, though, a more mentally tough team won't crumble after its first loss. Prediction: Loss

Week 4: Buffalo Bills

Texans coach Bill O'Brien's best friend, Bills head coach Doug Marrone, comes to town. So does DeAndre Hopkins' former teammate, Sammy Watkins. As dynamic as Watkins is, the Bills' quarterback situation will make things difficult on him. And the Texans' pass rush will make things difficult on his quarterback. Prediction: Win

Week 5: at Dallas Cowboys

These games are a rare intrastate treat. The Cowboys' defensive line struggled in the preseason, which will make things easier on the Texans' offense. Running back Arian Foster will have a nice day, provided he's still healthy. Prediction: Win

Week 6: Indianapolis Colts

A 4-1 start has visions of a worst-to-first transition dancing through Texans fans' collective heads. Now, though, the team hits a tough stretch. This game is a Thursday night game. The Indianapolis Colts are still the best team in the division and will show it in Houston. Prediction: Loss

Week 7: at Pittsburgh Steelers

Any discipline for running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, stemming from the pair's marijuana arrest, will be long gone by now. This one will be within the Texans' grasp, but they won't get there. Prediction: Loss

Week 8: at Tennessee Titans

I do think Houston will field a better team than Tennessee, but this third road trip in four weeks will be tough on the Texans. They'll drop to 0-2 in the division and an even record here. Prediction: Loss

Week 9: Philadelphia Eagles

The Texans face the NFC East and this is that division's best team. The Eagles' defense will be terrific against the Texans, and despite their offensive issues, they'll take this one. Prediction: Loss

Week 11: at Cleveland Browns

There will be a subset of Texans fans who will feel conflicted today if Johnny Manziel has won the Browns' starting quarterback job by now. If he has, the Texans' defense will feast on him. Prediction: Win

Week 12: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are strong in a lot of places. Their defensive line is fantastic, highlighted by tackle Geno Atkins. Quarterback Andy Dalton is serviceable and helped immensely by the guy he throws to, A.J. Green. This is one of the Texans' toughest opponents this year. Prediction: Loss

Week 13: Tennessee Titans

This time the Texans will show that they are in fact a better team. They'll beat Tennessee to split with them and notch their first divisional win. Now comes the bulk of Houston's divisional schedule. Prediction: Win

Week 14: at Jacksonville Jaguars

Having come together nicely over the past two months, the Texans' offense shows hope for the future late in the season. They'll follow their first divisional win with their second, this one on the road. Prediction: Win

Week 15: at Indianapolis Colts

The divisional winning streak stops here. The Colts win this game and continue their reign. Prediction: Loss

Week 16: Baltimore Ravens

Finally we get to the Gary Kubiak revenge game. Kubiak and his sidekick, former Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, return to Houston to face a team that fired them. While criticized for being predictable and boring in his play calling in Houston, Kubiak's offense is considered diverse in Baltimore. Prediction: Loss

Week 17: Jacksonville Jaguars

O'Brien will call on the Texans' sense of pride here. With a 7-8 record, the Texans aren't likely to be in playoff contention, but they'll want to finish the season well. While the Jaguars have improved all season, the Texans have, too. Prediction: Win

Predicted Record: 8-8

Indianapolis Colts game predictions

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
video Indianapolis Colts reporter Mike Wells makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: at Denver Broncos

The Colts are facing Peyton Manning at the wrong time. The Broncos were embarrassed in the Super Bowl last season and after the Colts beat Manning in Week 7. Expect the Broncos to score a lot of points in this one.
Prediction: Loss

Week 2: Philadelphia Eagles

The Colts could use suspended linebacker Robert Mathis and his 19.5 sacks against Chip Kelly's offense. It's the home opener for the Colts, and they aren't going to lose on national television in back-to-back weeks. Prediction: Win

Week 3: at Jacksonville Jaguars

Gus Bradley and the Jaguars are slowly heading in the right direction. The gap between the two teams is still too large, as Andrew Luck moves to 3-0 against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Prediction: Win

Week 4: Tennessee Titans

The Colts went into the season wondering how they would play without Mathis during his four-game suspension. They wrap up the stretch by beating the Titans to go 3-1 without their defensive leader. Prediction: Win

Week 5: Baltimore Ravens

Mathis shows little sign of rust in his first game of the season, and the Colts feed off his energy to avenge their 2012 playoff loss to the Ravens.
Prediction: Win

Week 6: at Houston Texans

The Colts are the better team, but the short turnaround -- a Thursday night game -- and having to play on the road catches up with them, as they lose their first game in the AFC South. Prediction: Loss

Week 7: Cincinnati Bengals

The Colts are still stinging over the overturned fourth-down play that was a momentum shift last season in Cincinnati. Luck still hasn't dropped back-to-back games in the NFL. Prediction: Win

Week 8: at Pittsburgh Steelers

History is not on the Colts' side in playing at Pittsburgh. Indianapolis is 1-9 in its past 10 regular-season games there. They move to 1-10 after this one. Prediction: Loss

Week 9: at New York Giants

The Colts lost to a Manning earlier in the season. They're not going to lose to both Mannings in the same season. The defense takes advantage of Eli's poor accuracy to force several turnovers. Prediction: Win

Week 11: New England Patriots

Patriots coach Bill Belichick continues to own Luck, as the quarterback moves to 0-3 against New England in his young career. Prediction: Loss

Week 12: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Colts get their first look at the Jaguars' new franchise quarterback, Blake Bortles. They send the No. 3 pick in the draft back to Jacksonville with another loss. Prediction: Win

Week 13: Washington Redskins

Luck and Robert Griffin III, the top two picks in the 2012 draft, face off for the first time in their career. Luck shows once again why the Colts made the right decision in selecting him with the No. 1 pick. Prediction: Win

Week 14: at Cleveland Browns

Rob Chudzinski, the Colts' assistant to head coach Chuck Pagano, puts on his offensive hat and gives offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton some special plays to run against the team that fired him after only one season as head coach. Prediction: Win

Week 15: Houston Texans

The Colts avenge their early-season loss to the Texans by jumping on their AFC South counterparts early and never letting up. Prediction: Win

Week 16: at Dallas Cowboys

Luck is known for his fourth-quarter heroics, but Tony Romo is the one who leads Dallas from behind in the final quarter in this one. Prediction: Loss

Week 17: at Tennessee Titans

With weather conditions limiting the passing game, running back Trent Richardson ends the regular season with his best rushing game of the season, giving the Colts hope that he'll be able to produce in the playoffs. Prediction: Win

Predicted Record: 11-5

INDIANAPOLIS -- Think back to the 2013 Week 7 matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos and a few things probably come to mind.

Peyton Manning going against his former team for the first time. Andrew Luck facing the player he replaced at quarterback. Jim Irsay and Manning. Robert Mathis' strip sack of Manning. Reggie Wayne's season coming to an end because of a torn ACL in the fourth quarter.

But there was something else that happened in that game. It didn't seem as big of a deal as the things listed above, but it ended up impacting the Colts' defense the rest of the season.

Cornerback Greg Toler injured his hamstring on the first series of third quarter.

"I remember that play like yesterday,” Toler said. "It's not easy to forget.”

Toler was defending Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas when he his leg went underneath his body after he and Thomas got tangled up on a play.

Toler continued to play only to end up realizing he had to head to the sideline when he tried to defend receiver Eric Decker.

"I tried to defend him but I couldn't get up in him like I really wanted to," Toler said.

Toler missed seven weeks and returned briefly only to end up having to be shut down for the season after re-injuring his hamstring against Kansas City in the playoffs.

The secondary wasn't the same after Toler went down. It was like Toler took the group's aggressiveness with him. He has been the healthiest of the group so far this season, as he attempts to play in all 16 games for the first time in his six-year career.

"It was one of those that just happened and ended up costing me half a season last year,” Toler said. "I'm healthy and I'm ready to roll.”
video Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: at Philadelphia Eagles

This is the first test for the rebuilt defensive line. The group better be in shape because it's tough to handle the Eagles' ridiculous offensive pace. More importantly, will the Jaguars have the center and right guard spots figured out by then? Prediction: Loss

Week 2: at Washington Redskins

Forget worrying about RG III. The player the Jaguars need to stop in this game is Jordan Reed. Tight ends pretty much had their way with the Jaguars in 2013 and Reed has the potential to be one of the league's better players at that spot. Prediction: Win

Week 3: Indianapolis Colts

In four games against the Jaguars, Andrew Luck has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,079 yards and six TDs with three interceptions. He has thrown for fewer than 250 yards only once. This is where the improved pass rush needs to make its money. Prediction: Loss

Week 4: at San Diego Chargers

The Jaguars have not had much success on the West Coast. They are 2-9 all time in games played in the Pacific Time Zone, and haven't won a game in that time zone since a 13-6 victory over Oakland in 2004. Couple that with the Chargers being the third playoff team the Jaguars will play in the first four weeks. Prediction: Loss

Week 5: Pittsburgh Steelers

Might this be Big Ben versus Big Blake? The Jaguars are committed to Chad Henne as the starter, but if the team struggles in the first month and Blake Bortles continues to develop, this would be a logical point to insert Bortles into the starting lineup. Prediction: Loss

Week 6: at Tennessee Titans

Ken Whisenhunt helped Philip Rivers and Kurt Warner reclaim their mojo, but the problem in Tennessee is that Jake Locker never had any mojo to begin with. Even if Whisenhunt is able to work some magic with Locker, the one thing he can't do is keep him from getting hurt. Prediction: Win

Week 7: Cleveland Browns

The Browns do have a talented roster, but the Jaguars won this game in Cleveland last year and they're a better team in 2014. Maybe they'll be better at defending tight ends at this point, too. Prediction: Win

Week 8: Miami Dolphins

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill seems to be on a lot of "breakout players" lists. If that turns out to be the case, the Dolphins should be a playoff team. Prediction: Loss

Week 9: at Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals may be the most balanced team -- offensively and defensively -- the Jaguars will face this season. It'll be interesting to see if and how much Andy Dalton is energized by the club's confidence in him after the contract extension. Prediction: Loss

Week 10: Dallas Cowboys

It's hard to get a read on the Cowboys. They're no doubt loaded with talent on offense and Tony Romo is one of the league's top quarterbacks. And yet, somehow, things never seem to be quite in sync and there always seems to be some kind of distraction going on. But when that offense is rolling ... Prediction: Loss

Week 12: at Indianapolis Colts

Last season was the first since 2010 that the Jaguars didn't win a game in Indianapolis, but last year's loss came at the end of the season when the team was down nine starters or key players. The Jaguars have gone 3-1 after their bye the past four seasons. This also could be a good time for the Bortles era to begin. Prediction: Loss

Week 13: New York Giants

This is one of the swing games on the schedule, along with the Pittsburgh and Dallas games -- games the Jaguars could win if everything falls into place. It also depends on whether Eli Manning will be in the midst of leading the NFL in interceptions again. Prediction: Loss

Week 14: Houston Texans

It has been evident in the preseason that the Texans have more issues than just starting quarterback play. J.J. Watt is going to line up in different spots and it'll be interesting to watch his battles with left tackle Luke Joeckel, who was drafted in part to deal with the Texans defensive end for the next 10 years. Prediction: Win

Week 15: at Baltimore Ravens

This may be an important game in the wild-card playoff race -- for the Ravens. The Jaguars could get a chance to play spoiler. After winning in their first four trips to Baltimore, the Jaguars have lost their past five. Prediction: Loss

Week 16: Tennessee Titans

The Jaguars should have swept the Titans in 2013, but the roster was depleted by injuries at the end of the season. They should be able to get it done this season. Prediction: Win

Week 17: at Houston Texans

The Jaguars did sweep the Texans in 2013 and they'll be improved enough in 2014 to do it again, even if Bortles is on the field. Prediction: Win

Predicted Record: 6-10

Tennessee Titans game predictions

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
video Tennessee Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: at Kansas City Chiefs

Tempting to pick a surprise win. But the combination of rowdy, unfriendly Arrowhead Stadium and the defensive concerns through the preseason prevent it. Prediction: Loss

Week 2: Dallas Cowboys

The Titans have a quality offensive line and quality weapons. Both will rule the day against a Cowboys defense that could be horrifically bad. Prediction: Win

Week 3: at Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are a totally different defensive challenge than the Cowboys, even minus Mike Zimmer. I see Cincy giving the Titans headaches on both sides of the ball. Prediction: Loss

Week 4: at Indianapolis Colts

No Robert Mathis will help the Titans keep it close. But this doesn't wind up being the game against the Colts that the Titans win. Prediction: Loss

Week 5: Cleveland Browns

Could this be Johnny Manziel's first game as the Browns' starter? They'll be coming off their bye week. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton should be able to confuse his old team. Prediction: Win

Week 6: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are better than people are willing to believe. Will it be showing up six weeks into the season? I think so. Prediction: Loss

Week 7: at Washington Redskins

Ken Whisenhunt wins the battle with Jay Gruden, another coach at the helm of his team for the first year. Prediction: Win

Week 8: Houston Texans

The Titans watched Ryan Fitzpatrick throw untimely interceptions for them in 2013. In the first matchup of 2014, they collect those from him to their benefit. Prediction: Win

Week 10: at Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens haven't replenished so much that they match the Super Bowl team of two years ago. But they are better overall than the Titans and should beat them in Baltimore. Prediction: Loss

Week 11: Pittsburgh Steelers

As the Steelers' offensive line coach, Mike Munchak returns to face the team he coached the past three seasons. A big draw at LP Field brings disappointment for the home fans. Prediction: Loss

Week 12: at Philadelphia Eagles

I am completely on board with what Chip Kelly and the Eagles are doing. The Titans fall to one of the NFL's best teams in their worst game of the season. Prediction: Loss

Week 13: at Houston Texans

J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney cause the Titans fits up front and terrorize Jake Locker (or his fill-in), and Fitzpatrick plays a better game than in the first matchup, with a couple of key scrambles. Prediction: Loss

Week 14: New York Giants

At this stage of the season, the Giants have found their footing. The offense dinks and dunks a lot, but does it effectively and consistently. Prediction: Loss

Week 15: New York Jets

Chris Johnson's homecoming. The Titans will be hell-bent on stopping him; he will be hell-bent on having a big day. He may find yards, but the Titans should find a way in this one. Prediction: Win

Week 16: at Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee avenges the earlier home loss to the Jaguars by beating them on the road. Prediction: Win

Week 17: Indianapolis Colts

The game doesn't mean much to the Colts, who have already clinched the AFC South and don't have any room to gain or lose playoff positioning. The Titans are overdue to beat Indy and finally do. Three victories in a row create an upbeat lead-in to the offseason. Prediction: Win

Predicted Record: 7-9

HOUSTON -- J.J. Watt is the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. He'll make $16.6 million a year with an extension that locks him in with the Houston Texans through the 2021 season, and he's earned every penny.

The agreement on the six-year deal could pay him $100 million, league sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. It includes $51.8 million guaranteed, the most for a defensive player in NFL history.

Watt and the Texans reached a deal before anything ever got ugly, before real concerns about his worth and value to the Texans arose. Watt expressed some frustrations publicly last month, but maintained that nothing had reached the point to which he would have to get involved in his negotiations. The player getting involved could have meant a holdout, one during which Watt would have had more leverage than any non-quarterback in the NFL.

He's earned this with a 2012 campaign (20.5 sacks) that made him the defensive player of the year. He's earned it with a 2013 season that was just as dominant, if not one that included the same numbers (10.5 sacks). He's earned it by being exactly the player off the field that the Texans want representing them.

Some think the Texans held all the leverage here. They had Watt for another two years on his rookie contract and could have franchised him for two more, trapping him in Houston for four seasons of underpaid labor.

The reality is Watt had leverage he never used. He never had to.

Had he held out, the Texans would have caved. Watt isn't replaceable. In that way, he is more like an elite quarterback than any other player. He's an elite pass-rusher, who changes the way opponents operate. He has been the most dominant player at his position for two seasons, and by far the most dominant player on the Texans' roster for that long. The Texans would not have risked going into the 2014 season -- or any season for that matter -- without arguably the league's best defensive player.

Over and over again, Watt has said he hopes he gets to stay in Houston for a very long time.

The clock resets with this deal -- it will tick for six extra years.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. –- Asked about adding veterans for depth, Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt talked of youth.

"This league has become about rookies playing, they have to play early, that's an important piece of it," he said at his Monday press conference. "So you always want to try to get your rookies ready to play. ... You will at some point have to start young players."

[+] EnlargeTaylor Lewan
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyTitans No. 1 pick Taylor Lewan will be the primary backup at both tackle and guard.
But the Titans will start the season with Michael Roos as their left tackle and Michael Oher as their right tackle. I have no dispute with Taylor Lewan being behind them. And I understand the Titans using the 11th pick in the draft on him.

I wouldn't necessarily tout how rookies need to play early as I prepared not to play him, however.

Whisenhunt reiterated that Lewan is "a good young player." The rookie is the Titans' primary backup at both tackle and guard.

"There will be some roles for us where he can play," Whisenhunt said. "I think both of our (starting) tackles had good camps and played well. And I think Taylor played a number of position because we obviously felt like he was going to have a hard time unseating them, so we wanted to prepare him to play guard or either tackle. I feel like we got that done.

"He played a lot of snaps. He's improving. I feel like he did a lot of good things, did some dumb things, which you expect from young players. If you told me Taylor had to play tomorrow, I'd be comfortable with that."

Second-round running back Bishop Sankey and fourth-round defensive lineman DaQuan Jones will get some work as part of rotations at their positions.

The Titans didn't have a third-round pick.

Fourth-round defensive back Marqueston Huff and fifth-round inside linebacker Avery Williamson figure to be just special teamers this year barring injuries in front of them.

And sixth-round quarterback Zach Mettenberger won't play if things go according to the Titans plan.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike Adams heard the rumblings about his future with the Denver Broncos at the end of last season.

The safety tried to stay optimistic by maintaining communication with the coaching staff and working out at the Broncos' facility. But the reality was the Broncos were going in a different direction at safety.

“After the Super Bowl there was more talk about how bad the defense played. How we need a safety. We need linemen, we need this and we need that,” the safety said. “It kind of trickled down. Once [the media] get hold to it, that thing spreads like wildfire and usually it’s the truth and that’s what happened.”

Adams will be back in the starting lineup in Denver on Sunday, but this time as the starting safety for the Indianapolis Colts when they face the Broncos.

The Colts spent the entire offseason looking for a starting safety after Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco in March. Indianapolis, obviously not feeling comfortable with the personnel it had at the position, signed Adams in the middle of June to compete with Colt Anderson, Sergio Brown and Delano Howell for the starting spot alongside of LaRon Landry.

Howell looked like he was the front-runner most of the offseason until the Colts signed Adams. A neck injury took Howell out of the competition and eventually landed him on injured reserve, which ended his season for the second straight year. The 33-year-old Adams beat out Brown and Anderson for the job.

Adams, who spent the past two seasons with Denver, will spend the week leading up to the game answering questions from his coaches, teammates and the media on how to figure out future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.

“I don’t snitch,” Adams said, jokingly. “Just doing what you do. Basically Peyton Manning, he’s a smart guy. He changes up every week and I know that, the Colts know that. Obviously the Colts got the formula. They beat [the Broncos] last year. They’re not asking me for too much information; personnel, how guys are. Basic stuff like that.”