With only one game in the books for Week 1 of the 2013-14 NFL season, there is plenty of hype and buzz around a lot of teams, but there are others flying under the radar that are ready to shock the world.
After an opening night thrashing of the Baltimore Ravens, the Denver Broncos proved they are one of the best teams in the NFL with a few hiccups to deal with.
Other than that, the rest of the NFL picture has yet to fully take shape with no more games happening until Sunday, but let's break down where each team ranks going into the season based on expectations, as well as look at some teams that will surprise.
|1||San Francisco 49ers||N/A|
|6||New England Patriots||N/A|
|8||Green Bay Packers||N/A|
|12||New Orleans Saints||N/A|
|13||St. Louis Rams||N/A|
|16||New York Giants||N/A|
|20||Kansas City Chiefs||N/A|
|22||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||N/A|
|25||San Diego Chargers||N/A|
|30||New York Jets||N/A|
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have new life after a 2012-13 campaign that saw them go 2-14 en route to earning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but thanks to a new head coach and talent on offense, things are looking up.
Alex Smith is taking over behind center for Kansas City, and while he isn't a superstar by any stretch, he is an above-average quarterback who takes care of the ball. Helping him out is a solid offensive line that sports the top pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Eric Fisher.
Throw in the fact that Andy Reid knows how to coach a defense with solid talent, and you have a team that will be improved in multiple facets of the game.
Coming out of the AFC West, the Chiefs will have two games apiece against the likes of the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, as well as a favorable schedule that features inept teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns.
The 2013-14 season will leave the Chiefs chasing a playoff berth at worst.
Much of the focus in the NFC North has been on the teams surrounding the Bears, but not the Bears themselves. That's a bit strange considering the improvements this team made during the offseason.
New head coach Marc Trestman has been considered a smart offensive coach in many circles, and that couldn't be better for Jay Cutler and a Bears offense that was horrendous last season. That, along with allowing Cutler to roll out more, should help the Bears QB rekindle his success from his Denver days.
An added weapon on offense includes tight end Martellus Bennett. The usual suspects consisting of receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett, as well as a deep running back pair with Matt Forte and Michael Bush, will provide Cutler with all the support he needs.
One of the biggest issues Chicago had last season was its offensive line. That no longer seems to be an issue on paper after the team brought in left tackle Jermon Bushrod and guard Matt Slauson via free agency, and drafted guard Kyle Long.
Without Lovie Smith roaming the sidelines this season and the subtraction of linebacker Brian Urlacher, there is some concern on defense for the Bears. However, many of the starters on Chicago's defense will return this season and should help the Bears finish with a top-10 defense.
It will be a tough go of it in the highly competitive NFC North, but the Bears have a better all-around team than the rest of the squads in their division, giving them a huge leg up.
Pittsburgh is getting zero respect from experts and football fans alike, leaving the Cincinnati Bengals as the favorite to win the AFC North. The skepticism is warranted after a disappointing 2012-13 season, but there is a strong possibility the Steelers rebound in a big way this season.
Even with nagging injuries, Roethlisberger still put up solid numbers last season. But now that he appears to be feeling great, Big Ben is poised to drop a ton of yards and points on opposing defenses. The loss of Mike Wallace in free agency won't hurt the Steelers as Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will pick up the slack.
Running back Isaac Redman won't light the world on fire, but his 4.2 career yards-per-carry average will be enough to keep the ball moving forward. Up front, the Steelers have talent on their offensive line, but health will be key because there isn't much depth there.
But still, the Steelers will send out a great defense filled with multiple stars who can help make up for anything that the offense may lack—if it even lacks anything at all.
With the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns set for bad seasons, the Steelers' schedule just got a lot easier. Beyond that, matchups with the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills will make the march to a division title that much easier.