As I look into my crystal ball.......
1) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS--I know, I hate to say it but they are the beast of the east. If Brady stays healthy, they could win 14 or more games. They have an amazingly easy schedule.
2) NEW YORK JETS--The Jets would have a shot at 1st place if they switched schedules with the Cheatriots, I mean the Patriots. Rex will have them fired up and they always play well on the road in the playoffs anyway (except the first half of the AFC championship in the Burgh last year).
3) MIAMI DOLPHINS--Does it really matter if it is the Bills or Fins here? Both have tough schedules but Miami was much better defensively last year.
4) BUFFALO BILLS--They gave away their best playmaker (Lee Evans) for a little more than a nerf football. Another season without the playoffs in Buffalo.
1) PITTSBURGH STEELERS--What a boring off-season it was for the defending AFC champs. First it was the lockout, then a boring training camp and no surprises when cuts were made. The Steelers are effectively going into the 2011 season with the same lineup as the 2010 season. 2010 turned out pretty well, except for the last game of the year. We will see if our boys can avoid their 3rd post-Superbowl letdown in 6yrs.
2) BALTIMORE RAVENS--Right now, I don't see Joe Flacco winning big games. Every game against the Steelers is a big game and Joe can't beat them Steelers. When will that defense get too old to stop anyone (you could say the same about the Steelers)? Maybe this year.
3) CLEVELAND BROWNS--Colt McCoy played well last year and after watching him play at the University of Texas, you know he has an insatiable drive to win. They could possibly win the first 6 games of the season (Cincy, @ Indy, Miami, Tenn, @Oakland, Seattle). All those games are winnable. Will they win them? I doubt it, but they will be competitive.
4) CINCINNATI BENGALS--Their franchise QB would rather retire than play for them and their top RB just spent 5 days in jail. Typical Bungles. They low balled their 2nd best CB and he left town so they signed a guy who didn't play up to his mega contract in San Fran to take his place. Typical Bungles.
1) HOUSTON TEXANS--It amazes me that the unemployment rate stays above 9% and yet Gary Kubiak still has a job. Many have said it before, but this is the year.
2) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS--I am not confident in this pick since it looks like Peyton Manning will miss most or all of the season. But looking at the schedules for Jax and Tenn, I think the Colts still have more talent and will win more games. And Kerry Collins is a good QB.
3) TENNESSEE TITANS--They have a much better QB situation than the Jags right now and the NFL is a QB driven league.
4) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS--The Jags just cut their starting QB and word is, the veterans on the team have lost a lot of trust in Jack Del Rio. Now, I used to like Jack but I am starting to think that he is either a puppet for an incompetent owner or he really is that big of a douchebag.
1) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS--Last year, the Bolts had the #1 offense and #1 defense in the league during the regular season and they barely won 9 games. They have a new special teams coach who is guaranteed to keep them from giving away games on punt and kick returns.
2) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS--Somehow, they won the division last year with a defense that couldn't stop a sloth. Their offense carried them week after week. The running game should be strong but they wasted their 1st round pick on Jonathan Baldwin who injured his thumb when Thomas Jones jacked him up. Word around the locker room is that Baldwin is a diva and the veterans don't care for his attitude. Bowe and Breaston will have to pick up the slack until Baldwin buys in.
3) OAKLAND RAIDERS--I'm only putting the Raiders here because they went undefeated in the division last year. In fact, they are the only team in NFL history to sweep their divisional games and not make the playoffs.
4) DENVER BRONCOS--Not even Jesus could make them a playoff team.......oh wait, he already plays for the Broncos (Tim Tebow). They have some very good talent (Knowshon, Brandon Lloyd, Dumervil, Von Miller, Champ) but until they prove they can play Orange Crush defense again, I can't put them near the top of the division.
1) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES--This isn't because Vince Young is on the team or that he called the Eagles the "Dream Team". They have the most talent of any team in the division and they SHOULD win the division.
2) NEW YORK GIANTS--Before the last couple of weeks, the Giants were expected to give the dream team a run for their money. But with several injuries and the fact that the offensive line is in the midst of a makeover, I can't make a case for them to be #1 in this division.
3) DALLAS COWBOYS--This will make most Steeler fans sick that I didn't pick the Cowpunks last in their division (and that could still happen). I picked them 3rd because again, the NFL is a QB driven league and Tony Romo is a better QB than Rex Grossman.
4) WASHINGTON REDSKINS--Yeah, I saw how good they looked against the Steelers in the preseason. But preseason means NOTHING! This team always finds a way to disappoint. Why should this year be any different?
1) GREEN BAY PACKERS--The defending champs. It doesn't feel good saying that but they are the champs. They have a strong defense, a solid running game and one of the top 5 QB's in the game. Can't say they won't win the division again.
2) CHICAGO BEARS--The came thisclose to beating the Pack in the NFC championship game last year. They still have one of the most physical defenses in the league but the real question is, can their offensive line protect Jay Cutler? They added Marion Barber to the backfield and if he has anything left in the tank, he will be an excellent addition when they need his physical running style in December.
3) DETROIT LIONS--Yeah, I said it. The Lions are going to get out of the basement and be competitive this year. They can't unseat the Pack or Bears for 1 and 2 in the division (unless a rash of injuries decimates one of those squads) but they can be competitive if Stafford can play 16 games.
4) MINNESOTA VIKINGS--They allowed one of their top playmakers to go to Seattle (no, I'm not talking about Tarvaris Jackson). They still have a solid defense and AP in the backfield. Some are saying that Kyle Rudolph will be a star for this team.....but he's listed as #2 on the depth chart at TE. Maybe next year, Vikes.
1) ATLANTA FALCONS--In a way, I can't believe I'm saying this but the birds will win the division. They look strong on offense and solid on defense. The reason why I am picking them is that I feel they have the best defense in the division....and defense wins championships.
2) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS--They can put up points with the best of them. Now, they have Darren Sproles who could set speed records on the Superdome turf. The only problem? They have a high stakes gambling defense. If they don't force some turnovers, the scoreboard will be lit up all day.
3) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS--The Bucs are an up-and-coming team. Josh Freeman is a fearless leader who wills his team to come from behind on a regular basis. Their only problem is, they are in the strongest division in the league (unless you want to consider the NFC north the strongest). They will have a shot at the division title next year.
4) CAROLINA PANTHERS--Last place couldn't happen to a nicer (bitter) guy, Jerry Richardson. His treatment of the team and coaching staff last year impacted the NFL labor talks and formed the new agreement (guaranteed money, salary cap requirements). His derogatory comments about the players at the talks were arrogant and condescending. The only way this gets better is if they lose all 16 games.
1) ST. LOUIS RAMS--Ok, like winning the NFC west shouldn't even be recognized. It's like asking who won the District of Columbia during the last Presidential election. The other, somewhat, logical pick here is the Cardinals but they don't play defense. Gotta play some defense to win your division. Spags will have the Rams playing some defense.
2) ARIZONA CARDINALS--Is Kevin Kolb the second coming.......of Kurt Warner? Could be, time will tell. It's time for Beanie Wells to either make a name for himself or become another Ohio State has-been (or in his case is it a never-was?).
3) SAN FRANCISCO 49ers--They will never be relevant as long as they are owned and run by the York family.
4) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS--Aren't they still crying about Superbowl XL? One last time, this is a QB driven league and they have: Charlie Whitehurst, Tarvaris Jackson and Josh Portis (from California PA) on the roster at QB. I rest my case.
Playoffs: wildcard teams: Ravens, Jets, Buccaneers, Saints
Conference Champions: Steelers, Packers
Super Bowl Champion: Steelers
Photo courtesy of thebitchywaiter.blogspot.com