In the insanely early tradition of picking the Super Bowl, I thought I would jump into the mix and give my projections of who will win each division, and the 2009 Super Bowl Champion.
The biggest story in the AFC East this season is the return of QB Tom Brady from knee surgery. Brady was injured in the first game last season.
Projected winner: New England Patriots (13-3 record; No.1 seed)
Winner last season: Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4; Won Super Bowl XLIII)
This division is Pittsburgh’s to lose once again this season. The Steelers re-signed a big piece of their defense in Defensive Player of the Year LB James Harrison. They lost LB Larry Foote to the Detroit Lions.
Projected winner: Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4; No. 2 seed)
Winner last season: Tennessee Titans (13-3; Lost to Baltimore in Divisional Playoff)
Indianapolis looks to avenge its early playoff exit. The Colts come in with a new head coach and new staff. The Colts also lost former No. 1 receiver Marvin Harrison. Although a Texans team could challenge, along with Tennessee.
Projected winner: Indianapolis Colts (12-4; No. 3 seed)
Winner last season: San Diego Chargers (8-8; Lost to Pittsburgh in Divisional Playoff)
This could be the worst division in football. An 8-8 or even a 7-9 record could win this division in 2008.
San Diego looks to win this division again in ’09, but they also hope for the return of LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers will go as far as Phillip Rivers will take them.
Projected winner: San Diego Chargers (9-7; No. 4 seed)
This division could be the strongest in football as well. The Eagles made it to the NFC Championship game, losing to Arizona.
They drafted Jeremy Maclin to help shore up the WR core and traded to get OL Jason Peters from Buffalo to shore up the offensive line.
Projected winner: Philadelphia Eagles (12-4 record; No. 1 seed)
Winner last season: Minnesota Vikings (10-6; Lost to Philadelphia in Wild Card Playoff)
Minnesota could be the team to beat again in 2009, especially if they coerce Brett Favre out of retirement. Adrian Peterson could have a huge season. However, if they do not have consistent QB play, that could spell doom for the Vikings.
Chicago made one of the biggest acquisitions in free agency by trading for QB Jay Cutler. Cutler makes the Bears much improved from 2008; however, the lack of WR will continue to plague them throughout 2009.
Projected winner: Minnesota Vikings (9-7 record; No. 4 seed)
Winner last season: Carolina Panthers (12-4; Lost to Arizona Cardinals in Divisional Playoff)
The Falcons were a surprise team in 2008, grabbing the Wild Card after finishing 4-12 in 2007. Second-year QB Matt Ryan looks to avoid the sophomore slump, and having future hall of fame TE Tony Gonzalez could help with that.
Carolina finished last season on a disappointing note, losing big to Arizona at home in the playoffs. Jake Delhomme and John Fox are both on hot seats if the Panthers fail to make the post-season.
Projected winner: Atlanta Falcons (11-5; No. 2 seed)
Winner last season: Arizona Cardinals (9-7; Lost to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII)
Arizona looks to repeat as division champs for the first time in franchise history. With Kurt Warner coming back, but the future of both Anquan Boldin and Karlos Dansby in jeopardy, this could be a tumultuous season in Arizona.
Remember, only one team has made the post season following the loss of a Super Bowl since 1999 (2006 Seattle Seahawks).
Seattle could fall one of two ways; if they are healthy all season, they could return to the perch of the NFC West. If not this division is wide open.
Projected winner: Seattle Seahawks (10-6; No. 3 seed)
AFC Wild Card
No. 5 seed: Baltimore Ravens
No. 6 seed: Tennessee Titans
NFC Wild Card
No. 5 seed: New York Giants
No. 6 seed: Chicago Bears
Indianapolis vs. New England
Seattle vs. Philadelphia
Super Bowl XLIV
Philadelphia vs. Indianapolis
Colts defeat Eagles to win second Super Bowl in four years.