1. INDIANAPOLIS Colts – The Colts have some question marks with Dwight Freeney and Marvin Harrison returning from injuries but this years team will be better than their 06 squad and they are our pick to win the super bowl.
2. Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys are the most talented team in the NFL. What remains to be seen is whether this team can win when it counts. Look for the Cowboys to use their running game more. Marian Barber and Felix Jones will prove to be one of the leagues most dynamic duo’s. Both backs complement each other very well.
3. New York Giants ‚Äì It‚Äôs always hard not to put the defending champs at #1 for the first week of the season but injuries to their defensive line knock them back to the #3 spot. The Giants aren‚Äôt getting a lot of respect around the league but until they are show us different they remain a super bowl contender.
4. New England Patriots ‚Äì The Patriots took a hit in the off-season with the loss of cornerback Asante Samuel but they still have the most dynamic passing game to go along with the games top front three. The key will be getting Lawrence Maroney more touches. On defense the secondary is a question mark. The addition of rookie Linebacker Jerrod Mayo adds athleticism and speed to a defense that needs to get younger at linebacker.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars ‚Äì The Jaguars front office has given quarterback David Garrard some help with the addition of Joey Porter but they still lack a #1 receiver. On defense the Jags took a hit on the defensive line with Marcus Stroud signing with the Buffalo Bills but the Jaguars have gotten younger and quicker at defensive end with the additions of rookie Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers ‚Äì The Steelers are one of those teams on the cusp of being a super bowl contender. The Steelers are very strong at the skilled positions but have a questionable offensive line and a defensive line that is getting up their in age. If the offensive line comes around the Steelers have the makings of a team that can make a deep run. On defense the team has gotten younger with the additions of LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons which will make up for an inconsistent defensive line. The key to the Steelers season will not be the play of their offensive line but whether Troy Polamalu can stay healthy and return to his pro bowl level.
7. San Diego Chargers ‚Äì The Chargers are as dangerous as any team in the NFL but they have some serious question marks due to the health of LaDainian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman and Antonio Gates. The Chargers have one of the leagues weakest schedules and they will likely finish with 12 + wins but if Antonio Gates can‚Äôt return to his pro bowl level this team won‚Äôt have a shot to unseat the Colts, Jaguars or Patriots in the AFC. The Chargers offense goes through Gates. He causes mismatches all over the field and keeps the opposition from putting 8 men in the box to stop LT.
8. Seattle Seahawks ‚Äì The Seahawks are a forgotten team in the NFC. Matt Hasselbeck is the most underrated quarterback in the league. Their running game is average. They lack that dominant back but Maurice Morris is going to surprise people. Wide Receiver is keeping this team from being a strong super bowl contender. They need a top flight player to go along with Matt Hasselbeck. On defense the Seahawks are very solid and have one of the leagues top linebacker corps.
9. Philadelphia Eagles ‚Äì The Eagles are like the Steelers. They are a good team that has a chance to become an elite team but they could easily finish 8-8, 9-7 this season. The addition of Asante Samuel gives the Eagles a dominant secondary especially if Lito Shepeard shows up this season. If Donavan McNabb can stay healthy the Eagles have a strong chance to claim a wild card berth. The team needs to rely on Brian Westbrook more. The Eagles lack a #1 receiver which is the team‚Äôs major weakness and will hinder the Eagles from taking the next step.
10. Carolina Panthers ‚Äì The Panthers had a disappointing season in 07. If Jake Delhomme stays healthy the Panthers will be right in the thick of things of the mediocre NFC south. The Panthers offensive revolves around wide receiver Steve Smith. The team will miss him for the first two games but they will survive. Jonathan Stewart is going to win the rookie of the year award. He‚Äôs the kind of back the Panthers have needed since losing Stephen Davis. The key to the Panthers season will be Julius Peppers. If Peppers struggles again this season, the Panthers will have a tough time winning the division.
11. New York Jets ‚Äì The Jets spent a lot of money during the off-season. The addition of Brett Favre and Alan Faneca has changed the whole complexion of this franchise. The Jets are ready to win now. The pressure will be on head coach Eric Mangini. There is already talk that the Jets have eyed Bill Cowher as Magini‚Äôs replacement if the Jets don‚Äôt make the playoffs. Brett Favre will make life easier for running back Thomas Jones. Jones struggled last season but look for him to bounce back with the addition of Favre. At wide receiver Jerricho Gotchery has a chance to flourish with Favre at the helm. On defense the Jets are young at the skilled positions. Cornerback Darrell Revis is one of the AFC‚Äôs top cover corners and this is only his 2nd year. The most underrated safety in the game is Kerry Rhodes. He‚Äôs the Jets version of Troy Polamalu
12. Minnesota Vikings ‚Äì Dominant defense, dominant running back, questionable quarterback play. The Vikings have the makings of being a division winner but once again the quarterback play will be the key.
13. New Orleans Saints ‚Äì The Saints are a dangerous team in the NFC and have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. What may hold this team back could be the teams defensive unit. Playing in the NFC the Saints should compete for a division title.
14. Tennessee Titans ‚Äì The Titans are a tough read. Vince Young had horrible numbers last season but he wasn‚Äôt as bad as his numbers may make it out to be. Young finds ways to make plays and most importantly wins game. The Titans don‚Äôt need him to be Tom Brady. They just need him to cut down on the INT‚Äôs and continue to make plays with his legs. The Titans still lack a #1 receiver but adding Tight End Alge Crumpler will help. Despite what others may say the Titans will be in the playoff hunt.
15. Green Bay Packers ‚Äì Aaron Rodgers has the players around him to be successful this season. He‚Äôs never going to be a pro bowl type of player but the Packers have a solid running game and one of the leagues top receiver corps. The defense will be strong again. Whether the Packers return as division champs will depend on the play of Rodgers.
16. Cleveland Browns ‚Äì The Browns have a lot of talent but there just not ready to jump ahead of the Steelers in the AFC north. The quarterback situation will be an issue. The fans are calling for Brady Quinn and he‚Äôs going to have to deal with the pressure of Brady waiting in the wings. The D-line is improved. The team must upgrade their secondary. The Browns are a talented team that will compete for a wild card spot.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ‚Äì The Buccaneers defense will keep them in contention to win the NFC South division. The Buccaneers offense is stagnant and lacks the ability to win games single handily.
18. Buffalo Bills ‚Äì The Bills are an up and coming team but they are at least a year away from competing for a playoff spot.
19. Arizona Cardinals ‚Äì The Cardinals have the talent to compete for the NFC West title. The Cards made the right decision naming Kurt Warner the teams starting quarterback. The defense will be the key. The Cards have improved their front seven but it remains to be seen whether this group can keep teams off the scoreboard.
20. Denver Broncos ‚Äì The Broncos have a potential franchise caliber quarterback in Jay Cutler. Cutler has the Broncos offense moving in the right direction. Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall is going to be among one of the leagues best. The running game is a question mark. Changing running backs every year will backfire on Broncos. The defense is suspect. Champ Bailey and Dre Bly are the NFL‚Äôs best corner combo but the Broncos front seven is nothing to brag about.
21. Houston Texans ‚Äì The Texans went 8-8 last season and there a team on the rise. If Matt Schaub can stay healthy this team will be a tough out. Steve Slanton is a perfect back for the Texans offensive system. It may take him some time but he‚Äôs going to have an impact this season. The Texans have the talent to compete for a wild card berth but with the AFC so deep I don‚Äôt see the Texans improving on their 8-8 record.
22. Detroit Lions ‚Äì the Lions are taking baby steps. Offensively they have a lot of weapons.
23. Washington Redskins ‚Äì The Skins will struggle this season. Jason Campbell is having a tough time adjusting to Jim Zorn‚Äôs offensive system. The defense will have to carry this team to victories early in the season until Campbell finds his comfort zone.
24. Chicago Bears ‚Äì The Bears have quarterback issues and their defense isn‚Äôt what it used to be.
25. Cincinnati Bengals ‚Äì The Bengals had a horrible preseason and it may be a long season for Cincinnati. The team just needs to part ways with Chad Johnson. He‚Äôs a great player but it will be for the best if both sides would move on. Their defense will get a boost with the addition of first round pick Keith Rivers. Rivers is the kind of playmaker the Bengals have lacked.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Troy Smith was early favorite to be the Ravens starting quarterback but with Smith sidelined the Ravens have been forced to start first round pick Joe Flacco. Flacco is not ready for prime time and the Ravens will be lucky to put up 14 points per game. I liked this team a lot more with Troy Smith at the helm. He‚Äôs a playmaker and the veterans were backing him. The Ravens will have to rely on defense to win games and Willis McGahee will have to be the team‚Äôs workhorse. Keep an eye on running back Ray Rice. He averaged 5.6 ypc in the preseason.
27. Oakland Raiders ‚Äì The Raiders are going to be fun to watch with JaMarcus Russell at the helm. I wouldn‚Äôt expect that much out of Darren McFadden right off the bat. He‚Äôs going to be a very good player but it may take him a few weeks to get accustomed to the speed of the NFL. Justin Fargas will take some pressure off of McFadden. The Raiders have some major holes on defense.
28. St. Louis Rams ‚Äì The Rams still have the playmakers at the skilled positions to surprise some people this season.
29. S.F 49er‚Äôs ‚Äì J.T. O‚ÄôSullivan gets the nod over Alex Smith. O‚ÄôSullivan had some strong outings in the preseason but the guy has played for three teams in four years. The 49er‚Äôs will attack teams through the air with Mike Martz running the show. Let‚Äôs just hope Martz finds a way to use Frank Gore because the 49ers offense needs to revolve around Gore not O‚ÄôSullivan.
30. Miami Dolphins – It is obviously a rebuilding year for the Miami Dolphins. Chad Pennington will be a great mentor for Chad Henne and allows Henne the proper time to develop. At running back Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will help the offensive move the chains. The offensive line is a work in progress. Ted Ginn looked very good in the preseason. On defense the Dolphins are young and played well in the pre season. It‚Äôs going to be a long season in Miami but they will get better as the season progresses.
31. KC Chiefs ‚Äì The Chiefs are rebuilding the right way with young players. It will be interesting to see if Larry Johnson can become the running back he use to be.
32. Atlanta Falcons. ‚Äì Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan will be the team‚Äôs starter from day 1. It‚Äôs going to be a long season in Atlanta.