Well, after all that time spent telling who I think will get a lot better and who I think will plummet, I should tell you how I think each division will turn out. I don’t predict the playoffs because in my mind they’re too unpredictable, but I’ll take a shot at who makes it to the dance.
The AFC still looks like the stronger conference for the 2010 season. With teams like the Patriots getting Tom Brady back, the Steelers still looking strong, the Colts with a healthy Peyton to start the year and the Chargers looking better than ever.
Patriots (13-3) – They have one of the easiest schedules in the league, one of the best QB’s in the league returning and even added to their defense with some veteran corners and a pass-rusher in Derek Burgess.
Dolphins (10-6) – They won’t surprise as many people as they did last year, but it’s easy to ride a decent defense and mistake-free offense to a play-off spot.
Bills (7-9) – They’ve done enough to improve the offense, but they still have terrible defense.
Jets (4-12) – They have no proven QB, and they lost the Man-genius. I like Rex Ryan as a defensive coordinator and love Bart Scott as a linebacker, but that offense looks sad. Call it a rebuilding year.
Steelers (12-4) – They’ve got the talent and didn’t lose anyone significant (apologies to Nate Washington). It’s still their division.
Ravens (9-7) – I outlined my reasons for their slide in my NFL Preview Part I
Bengals (7-9) – The offense gets Carson Palmer back but loses TJ Houshmandzadeh, the defense looks respectable but count me as someone who doesn’t believe Chad Ochocinco can bounce back.
Browns (6-10) – They have to be better than last year now that they have a respectable coach, but it’s not like they added any talent. I think a few wins better than last year sets them up for a leap next year.
Colts (11-5) – Having Peyton Manning healthy for the pre-season should help them get out to their typical fast start. Donald Brown adds backfield depth and it’s the first year in several that they haven’t lost a starting linebacker. Anthony Gonzalez will be a better starter than Marvin Harrison was the last 2 years, and this comes from a guy who worships the ground Marvelous Marv walks on. Barely edge out the Jags based on division record.
Jags (11-5) – This team was just hit by too many injuries last year. Torry Holt is a massive upgrade at receiver and they drafted some monstrous O-line help. David Garrard is still way better than most people realize.
Texans (9-7) – This offense could be in the top 5 for scoring if Matt Schaub stays healthy. Unfortunately that’s like saying Rick Pitino would be a great role model if he hadn’t slept with that waitress.
Titans (7-9) – They just lost too much when Albert Haynesworth signed with the ‘Skins. And please don’t tell me that Kerry Collins is going to stay healthy all season. I’m sure Jeff Fisher will prove me wrong since he’s one of the 2 or 3 best coaches in the NFL, but he better hope LenDale White’s love affair with Mexican Champagne isn’t rekindled.
Chargers (12-4) – They play in a terrible division, their passing game is unbelievable and they just got Shawne Merriman back from injury. I just hope they can shake a case of Norv Nerves in the 4th quarter.
Chiefs (7-9) – The Chiefs are not good, but they’re good enough for 2nd place in a terrible division and they just might surprise a few people.
Broncos (4-12) – please see the NFL Preview Part I, I can only rant incoherently about this topic once. And since then, Brandon Marshall has gone back on the crazy pills.
Raiders (1-15) – It says something when a team is so bad that a I had to scrounge for a winnable game on their schedule. Al Davis should change his motto to “Just Draft Baby!”, except he’s not even good at that.
The NFC seems to be filled with teams that are solid, but not spectacular. Everyone has one big flaw, it just depends who can patch it up or hide it the best. I could realistically see any team from the NFC East, the Bear or Packers or even the Seahawks making it to the Superbowl.
Redskins (10-6) – This could be the tightest division in football with it all coming down to division record. I believe that Jason Campbell will be better with a year in Jim Zorn’s system and the defense takes a leap with ‘Big Al’ Haynesworth.
Giants (9-7) – The Giants are a good team, but play in a brutal division and have lost a few cogs. See the full explanation in Part 1 of the preview.
Eagles (9-7) – The offense should be better with the addition of Jason Peters at left tackle and LeSean McCoy to spell Brian Westbrook and hopefully keep him healthy. And don’t forget Mike Vick, as if the media actually would let you. Unfortunately, the defense lost an all-time great coordinator in Jim Johnson. The team is talking a good game about his replacement, but don’t believe it. Johnson was one-of-a-kind.
Cowboys (8-8) – they should have a respectable season, but not in this division.
Bears (11-5) – The addition of Cutler puts them over the top, but it will be another close division.
Packers (10-6) – Aaron Rodgers 2nd season will be a dream compared to last year. If Ryan Grant can bounce back and the 3-4 brings a little more stability against the run, they could snag a wild card spot. They were the best defense at shutting down #1 WR’s last year.
Vikings (8-8) – Favre isn’t THAT good. He threw way too many interceptions last year and faded down the stretch. On top of that, both the Williams’ at DT are out the first 4 games, which means the stout run defense will be lacking early in the season.
Lions (2-14) – At least I have them improving by 2 wins, they should be happy about that.
Falcons (10-6) – They have a harder schedule than last year but they’ve added Tony Gonzalez to creative coordinator Mike Mularkey’s offense. They were great against the blitz with a rookie at QB and added Mike Peterson and “Country Strong” Peria Jerry to the defense.
Panthers (9-7) – I’m not buying the DeAngelo Williams resurgence. He’s been mediocre for a few years and I think defenses will figure him out. He’ll still be good, but the Panthers will have to rely on Delhomme more, not a good sign.
Saints (8-8) – Best offense in the league but still a terrible defense. They haven’t done much to change it, although I do like Gregg Williams as a coordinator.
Bucs (4-12) – I like Derek Ward, but he’s not enough to turn this team around. It’s rebuilding time in Tampa.
Seahawks (10-6) – They have my endorsement for the biggest leap this year. Let’s just hope none of the coaches anger Houshmandzadeh by giving him a bad review after watching game film, he’s a tad sensitive.
Cardinals (9-7) – They lost both coordinators in the offseason, which means new systems to get used to, but they still have amazing offensive talent.
Rams (5-11) – They invested in O-line at the draft and coach Steve Spagnuolo pulled off some defensive wizardy with the Giants. That’s good, because the Rams need the help.
49ers (3-13) – They just have too far to go to be competitive, but have good building blocks in Patrick Willis, Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree. Coach Singletary will have a tough time showing his trademark toughness on defense if they don’t get some bulk on the defensive line though.
Next up, NFL Preview Part 4 – some tips for your fantasy draft
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