With training camps set to kick off soon, the hype is building momentum on the 2010 season. It's time for an early look at how the teams stack up this year and to make predictions about contenders and pretenders. As with every year, there will be the surprise teams who will blow up the rankings. But in the end look for a lot of the familiar faces to rise to the top.
1. New Orleans Saints
The defending Super Bowl champs have almost the same team as last year, except for some upgrades and additions to the defense like Alex Brown and Patrick Robinson. With that being said, how could they be anywhere else on this list? They're still the favorites to win it all this year.
2. Indianapolis Colts
Like the Saints the Super Bowl runners-up return almost every major contributor from last year. While some in the organization claim there will be a stronger commitment to the run this year (the Colts ranked 32nd in rushing in 2009), don't believe it. The Colts will pass their way deep into the playoffs once again this year.
3. New York Jets
The Jets came within sniffing distance of the Super Bowl last year but came up short against the Colts in the AFC title game. So, they went out this year and picked up some big name additions (LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie) in the hopes of gaining the additional edge to make it to The Big One. The Colts might struggle against this revamped roster.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota's spot here is of course contingent upon Brett Favre's return. Since there is a 99 percent chance that he is coming back, the Vikings will field another Super Bowl contending team in 2010.
5. Dallas Cowboys
With Dez Bryant signed and ready for 2010, the Dallas offensive attack should be fully loaded. Some of that will depend on how much protection Romo gets from his new left tackle Doug Free, but the Super Bowl hype is in full swing for the Cowboys.
6. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers added to their rushing attack in the draft with Ryan Mathews, but will they lose in the passing game with the Vincent Jackson suspension and possible holdout? Even without Jackson, the Chargers will be tough to keep out of the end zone this year.
7. New England Patriots
The Patriots may be on the decline, but they will always be dangerous as long as Tom Brady is at the helm. With a healthy Wes Welker look for the Patriots to get back to their winning ways.
8. Atlanta Falcons
With another year under his belt, Matt Ryan should be ready to put up some big numbers this year. The Falcons picked up some help on defense in the draft, and they will definitely be in the thick of things when the playoffs arrive.
9. Green Bay Packers
Adding some Bryan Bulaga beef to the offensive line should help Aaron Rodgers tremendously this year. The offense will be high-powered, but the Packers had some key losses on the defensive side (Kampman, Jolly).
10. Washington Redskins
No team made a bigger improvement from last year to this year than the Redskins. With Donovan McNabb taking the reigns of Shanahan's heavy-hitting offense, the Skins will put a lot of points on the board this season.
11. San Francisco 49ers
With the additions of Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati in the draft, the 49ers will have a monster offensive line. With an expectedly tough running game and a solid defense led by Patrick Willis, the 49ers should have no trouble winning the NFC West.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals upgraded their receiving corps this offseason through the draft and free agency (Antonio Bryant). If their running game (ala Cedric Benson) can have the success it had last season, this offense will make the Bengals playoff-worthy.
13. Houston Texans
The No. 1 passing offense in the league last year returns for another aerial assault toward the playoffs in 2010. If they can add some balance with their running game and shore up their pass defense, the Texans will be a real threat.
14. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens' offense should be strong this year with the addition of Anquan Boldin, but the defense is a concern. With Ed Reed's status up in the air, and with age creeping in on Ray Lewis, the Baltimore defense may not be good enough to take them very far in 2010.
15. Miami Dolphins
With the high-profile addition of marquee receiver Brandon Marshall and the progression of quarterback Chad Henne, the Dolphins should be able to score some points this year. Their draft was defense-heavy, and the Dolphins could be ready to make some noise in the AFC East.
16. Philadelphia Eagles
The Kevin Kolb era begins in Philadelphia, and no player in the NFC East is under more scrutiny than the new signal-caller. The future of the franchise rests in his hands, and if he fails to deliver, there will be big changes in Philly next year.
17. Tennessee Titans
Their offense is will be more than fine with Vince Young and Chris Johnson running wild, but their defense may be problematic. While they added rookie Derrick Morgan, don't expect Tennessee to stop many offenses this season.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers will be without Ben Roethlisberger during his suspension, and they have already had a big blow to the offensive line with the loss of Willie Colon. Pittsburgh may get on a roll near the end of the year, but the first part of their season will kill their playoff chances.
19. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are minus Kurt Warner, Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, and Anquan Boldin. The Matt Leinart era is about to begin. In other words there are too many uncertainties surrounding Arizona this year to see the team winning very many games.
20. New York Giants
The Giants may be the odd team out in the brutal NFC East this year. Unless the Giants take a big leap forward and improve last year's porous defense, it could be a long season for New York.
21. Oakland Raiders
Oakland made some excellent improvements this offseason, including a major quarterback upgrade in Jason Campbell. Still, the Raiders will need at least one more year before they're ready to contend for a winning record.
22. Chicago Bears
Despite their big free agency splash with Julius Peppers, the Bears are still lacking some key components, especially a No. 1 wide receiver. Don't expect Jay Cutler to improve much over last year's pick festival.
23. Carolina Panthers
Matt Moore is the starting quarterback, but he's still unproven. Steve Smith still doesn't have any help at receiver. The defense has some major holes. John Fox may be elsewhere in 2011.
24. Seattle Seahawks
Pete Carroll made some nice moves in the offseason, but he still has to put all of the pieces together. The key may be Matt Hasselbeck and whether or not he can stay healthy and play like his former Pro Bowl self.
25. Detroit Lions
The Lions made some good strides toward building for the future, especially with the drafting of Ndamukong Suh. It may take them another year of solid drafting to do it, but the Lions will be contenders in 2011.
26. Kansas City Chiefs
After some good additions during the offseason, including Thomas Jones, Eric Berry, Dexter McCluster, and Javier Arenas, the Chiefs might be real rankings-busters this season. With a 4-12 campaign in 2009, they have a lot of room for improvement, but the offense should score a lot more often this year.
27. Cleveland Browns
There aren't many who believe in Jake Delhomme as Cleveland's savior at quarterback, but he's really only a placeholder until rookie Colt McCoy is ready to play. The secondary improved some with the addition of Joe Haden, but the defense still has plenty of problems.
28. Denver Broncos
Tim Tebow? You're kidding…right? With the huge loss of Brandon Marshall, it's hard to imagine this offense being able to generate many points. Josh McDaniels may be a goner after this season's disaster waiting to happen.
29. Buffalo Bills
The Bills still don't have a decent quarterback, and their offensive line has issues. Nice pick-up of C.J. Spiller in the draft, but don't look for the Bills to light up the scoreboard very often.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
No seat is hotter than the one Jack Del Rio is sitting on. With very little (if any) improvement from 2009, the Jaguars will be undergoing a total overhaul in 2011, including the hiring of a new head coach.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs made some good improvements on defense, especially with the third overall pick in the draft, Gerald McCoy. But while Josh Freeman showed some flashes of potential last year, he has plenty of growing pains left before he can lead this team out of the cellar.
32. St. Louis Rams
The Rams are rebuilding, and they have some good pieces, but they are still at the bottom of the league. Sam Bradford has a long road of learning experiences ahead, and he needs some receivers to throw to. The defense won't improve much over last year.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!