In that magical, bewildering time known as the offseason, fans of all 32 NFL teams believe their team is going on the right track. With a heightened sense of hype from the media, that hype turns into expectations.
Without any games being played, some teams have been crowned winners or labeled with less flattering adjectives.
1. New York Jets—The amount of hype the Jets are getting is crossing the line, big time. Ten teams last year had a better record than they did and another four teams had the same record.
They have a second year quarterback who threw 20 interceptions in his rookie season plus they have lost Thomas Jones and Leon Washington.
For the best running team in the NFL, they lost 1,700 rushing yards between these two guys alone.
For Sanchez, the run game was a crutch to hold him up when he wasn't playing well. Without Jones and Washington, he could be walking with a limp.
2. Baltimore Ravens—The tenacious defense of the Baltimore Ravens is getting a bit more cuddly and soft.
The Ravens have lost their starting corner, Dominique Foxworth, for the season due to an ACL tear. Ed Reed is also facing injury to start the season and will likely miss time early.
Their rookies coming in have also not impressed anyone.
Sergio Kindle is out indefinitely with a fractured skull after falling down two flights of stairs. I wish him a speedy recovery, but perhaps his contract should include a "No Stairs" clause.
Terrence Cody came into camp over-weight, unhealthy, and out of shape while failing a physical several times.
Terrel Suggs also reported to training camp out of shape.
Is this the year that the Ravens offense carries the defense?
3. Arizona Cardinals—The Cardinals haven't been getting blown over by hype, but they are definitely a team that has taken a step (or three) backwards.
Matt Leinart is being asked to lead this team, two years after Kurt Warner nearly won them a Super Bow.
Karlos Dansby and Antrelle Rolle have departed for other teams. For a squad that wasn't particularly strong on defense before, these are two guys that were extremely valuable to the ability and progression of the Cardinals defense.
The dynamic duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin is also no more, as Boldin left for Baltimore.
For a team that showed so much promise just two years years ago, the future is not looking very bright for these Cardinals.
4. Dallas Cowboys—It seems like every year, the Dallas Cowboys are picked to compete for the Lombardi Trophy.
With Tony Romo as a starter, they have had success. However, this success has come in the regular season.
Tony Romo as a post-season quarterback has amassed a record of 1-3, which shows exactly why this team is overrated.
Until Dallas shows they can win when the pressure is on, they will be nothing but a "what if" story.
There is nothing wrong with the talent on this team; they might even be the most talented team in the entire NFL. But until that talent rewards them with postseason victories, this team will not live up to its expectations.
1. New England Patriots—I don't really understand this myself. People are seriously doubting the Patriots to do anything this year.
Not only did they win the division last year at 11-5, but Tom Brady is fully healed from his ACL injury.
Wes Welker had a similar knee injury last season, but he is making some good progress on the road to perfect health.
The Patriots didn't have a blockbuster offseason, but they brought back Vince Wilfork, who is the key part of their defense.
There isn't much to say about this team that isn't already known, which is also puzzling considering the expectations (or lack there of) placed on them by the sports world.
2. Cincinnati Bengals—The Bengals surprised many last year, making it to the playoffs where they were beaten by the Jets in the first round.
Their defense played surprisingly well last season, while the offense hit a few bumps in the road.
It is unclear whether Terrell Owens has much left in his tank, but he seems happy to be in Cincinnati. For a guy that used to be considered the worst locker-room cancer in the NFL, it seems to be all fun and games between T.O. and Ochocinco.
As T.O. would say, "Getcha popcorn ready." This will be an exciting team to watch in 2010.
3. Washington Redskins—For a team that went 4-12 in 2009, the 'Skins have a serious chance to compete in the NFC East.
The Cowboys seem to disappear once the post-season hits, the Giants seem to be underachieving, and the Eagles are going all-in with an unproven commodity in Kevin Kolb.
Donovan McNabb is still a great quarterback in this league and, with a guru like Mike Shanahan at head coach, this will finally be an explosive offense.
McNabb has never thrown more than 13 interceptions in a season since he started playing in the NFL, which will help Washington minimize turnovers, which have killed them in the past.
It is safe to say that anything below eight wins would be an extreme disappointment for this team.
4. San Francisco 49ers—In a very weak division, the San Francisco 49ers definitely have the ability to come out on top.
Alex Smith finally performed like a starting quarterback while constantly hitting a reliable target in Vernon Davis. If Smith plays up to his potential, it could result in a big year for guys like Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree.
Mike Singletary seems to have instilled the discipline in this team that it needed, which usually results in on-field success.
The potential of this team is great.
If they perform to those standards, we could see the start of a great team brewing in the NFC.