I know it's early in the preseason, but it's always fun to try and guess who will succeed and make the playoffs this year. I'll run down each division and then explain my Wild Card picks.
AFC East: New England Patriots. As much as I hate to say it, the Pats are back. Key additions to their defense are equally as important as Brady returning. One thing to watch for is Brady stepping up in the pocket. With his repaired knee going forward first, he may look uncomfortable following through, which could lead to more interceptions. I don't care who you are, ACL repair is serious business.
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only are they the best team in the division, but none of the other teams look like they have the material to challenge them. The Ravens lost key defenders, including defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. The Bengals have too many questions on both sides of the ball. And Cleveland... well Cleveland is a mess. Oh yeah, and the Steelers are the defending champions.
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts. While it'll be a tough battle, I strongly believe the Colts will return to dominance. They finished 12-4 last year, even while struggling with Peyton being injured in the beginning of the season. They do seem to have trouble in the playoffs, so I'm not saying they'll succeed in that respect. The Titans, and possibly the Texans, will give them a run for their money.
AFC West: San Diego Chargers. This is almost a no-brainer. The Broncos are a mess, the Raiders are run poorly, and the Chiefs are too inexperienced. Rivers continues to get better, LT is looking to return to dominance, and Shawn Merriman is back. Enough said.
AFC Wildcards: Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans. I'll admit it, I've jumped on the Houston bandwagon to make the playoffs. If Shaub stays healthy, they've got a very real chance to run deep this year. The Titans should be fine as well, and may even see a little improvement in Vince Young. I don't think losing Haynesworth will be too much of a detriment, because I believe the system made him good, not the other way around. The AFC South is going to be great this year.
NFC East: New York Giants. I'll admit this is 50% because I'm a Giants fan. I do, however, believe that they will have the top defense in the league due to their additions in Canty and Bernard. The Eagles have lost too many defenders in the offseason, and Jim Johnson has passed away. Every year Washington adds the biggest name player to their team, thinking it's fantasy football season, and falls short. Although many people are down on Dallas, I wouldn't count them out to challenge the Giants and Eagles for the division.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers. They could very well have a top 3 offense this year. Many people think their transition to the 3-4 will take a year or so, but they looked spectacular in preseason. If Favre goes to the Vikings, I'd be about 50/50, but I think the Pack has this one.
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons. This is a very tough call, because all four teams could legitimately win. The addition of Gonzalez will help Matt Ryan's short passing game, and hopefully Roddy White will end his holdout. If the Saints defense improves, they could be in this spot. In addition, if Delhomme pushes that playoff loss out of his head, the Panthers could do the same.
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals. I wanted to take the Seahawks as a dark horse here, but I can't do it. Fitzgerald and Boldin are just too good, even if Warner gets hurt. Their defense is underrated too.
NFC Wildcards: Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers. The Panthers defense and run game are enough to at least get them a wild card birth. The Eagles, despite their losses, are dynamic on offense.
Let me know what you think about these rankings! I often get too biased in my predictions, so feel free to let me hear where you think I went wrong! It's my first entry in this blog, so don't be too harsh!