1. New England Patriots — Despite all the noise coming out of New Jersey, the Patriots are ready for a bounce-back year. Tom Brady has Wes Welker back healthy and they’ll find a way to win 13 games and stand atop the East.
2. New York Jets — Too much chatter for a team with a second-year QB. The Jets can run and they can defend but teams will scheme for that and force Mark Sanchez to beat them. He’ll struggle at times and it will cost the Jets wins.
3. Miami Dolphins — They do everything OK and nothing great. Can they slip in the back door as a wild-card? Maybe.
4. Buffalo Bills — Love the Bills defence but their offence is absolutely awful. No name is one thing, no talent is another. The Bills will struggle to win games.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers — Look for a big return of the Steelers defence keyed by the health of safety Troy Polamalu. Missing Ben Roethlisberger for the opening four games will hurt, but adversity might make the Steelers something special this season.
2. Baltimore Ravens — The Ravens will score points this year but allowmore due to an old and banged up defence. Once teams figure out they can score and keep the Ravens offence off the field, it’ll be tough times in Charm City
3. Cincinnati Bengals — Marvin Lewis is a brave man, but a little humility in regard to his people management skills could have prevented the meltdown that is coming fast. Ocho Idiot is one thing, but TO and Pacman makes this team too crazy to believe in. This isn’t a Cincy version of The Longest Yard — it’s the NFL and egos running amok doesn’t work.
4. Cleveland Browns — It will take Mike Holmgren a little longer to salvage this wreck. They will start fast and then lose six or seven in a row, costing Eric Mangini his job.
1. Indianapolis Colts — Injuries to the offensive line will hamper the Colts early. A healthy Bob Sanders gives their defence a major boost. They won’t go 14-0 to start the season but it’ll be close.
2. Tennessee Titans — Last year’s horrendous start gave Jeff Fisher a chance to see if Vince Young was ready. He is. They can run the ball as well as anyone in the NFL. Watch out for the Titans, they might be this year’s super sleeper.
3. Houston Texans — Lots of talent and an elite passing but no ground attack. Young quarterbacks like Matt Schaub need a rushing game to lean on once in a while and to help eat clock. The Texans could make a push but they won’t knock off the Colts.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars — Among the NFL’s worst teams, the Jags just can’t compete in their own division. David Garrard is not an elite quarterback.
There’s lots of youth in Jacksonville and they could blossom, but not this year.
1. San Diego Chargers — Norv Turner finally gets it done as a head coach this year and will lead the Chargers to the Super Bowl. Philip Rivers was an MVP candidate last year and he’ll be better this season. The Chargers are solid in all areas and are the hungriest of the elite teams in the AFC.
2. Oakland Raiders— The Raiders will be improved this season with Jason Campbell at quarterback. This club can play defence and has a decent run game. The Raiders need to win some games early to convince people they are a playoff club as coach Tom Cable has suggested.
3. Kansas City Chiefs — The Chiefs should be a little better than last season but that’s not saying much. Todd Haley is not a good coach but the Chiefs have improved their talent base.
4. Denver Broncos — All this club seems to do is say goodbye to talented players, such as they did this off-season with Brandon Marshall. Josh McDaniels rolls around like he’s Bill Belichick.
He’s not. The Broncos will have trouble winning five games.