Risers and fallers of the AFC

Jadeveon Clowney will play a large role in the Texans' turnaround efforts. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Ah, training camp, where hope springs eternal in the NFL. More than in any other sport, teams can rapidly climb up the standings, or just as rapidly collapse -- thanks to lots of player movement between seasons, lots of variation in player performance, and the small sample size of just 16 games. We've considered all of these things to give you a look at which teams we think are most likely to improve in the 2014 season and which are most likely to decline.


Houston Texans

Houston's rebound potential banks on three factors: Jadeveon Clowney, poor luck in 2013 and a terrific schedule in 2014. As Bill Barnwell pointed out for Grantland, the Texans fared poorly in a number of luck-based statistics in 2013. By point differential, they should've won four games rather than two. They went 2-9 in one-touchdown games. They had a league-worst minus-20 turnover margin -- the last two teams to have a ratio that high, the 2012 Eagles and 2012 Chiefs, finished at plus-14 and plus-19, respectively, the year after. Erase all those Matt Schaub pick-sixes and the Texans might have been pedestrian rather than awful last season. Mix in better luck with an improved pass rush, plus the schedule we have projected as the easiest in the league, and Houston should hover closer to six or seven wins in 2014. Yes, even with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. (The Texans will improve even if Andre Johnson goes elsewhere … technically, 3-13 is an improvement on 2-14, right?)