As a fan of football, I have learned that it is never too early to speculate. With this speculation comes great debate, which is where you, the reader, enter the fray. After I have made my picks, I will leave it up to you to challenge my opinions and make picks of your own.
For each conference, I will pick a pool of teams that I think can at least challenge for a playoff spot. After that, I will select two from each conference that are my picks to have the best chance of reaching the Super Bowl.
Teams not listed are still in deep rebuilding mode and will likely not be in playoff contention.
AFC Power Index
1. Indianapolis Colts—History shows that it is very tough to appear in two consecutive Super Bowls.
2. San Diego Chargers—With a new lead runner in Ryan Matthews, how potent is this Chargers offense?
3. Baltimore Ravens—With injuries already appearing on defense, the offense may have to put up some pretty good numbers.
4. New York Jets—Is Shonn Greene up to the task of being a featured running back?
5. Cincinnati Bengals—Will TO make much of a difference to Carson Palmer and the Bengals offense?
6. Miami Dolphins—Can Chad Henne perform under pressure?
7. New England Patriots—Young players need to step up to salvage an aging team.
8. Pittsburgh Steeler—Can the Steelers hold on for at least four and at most six games while Roethlisberger is suspended?
9. Houston Texans—Eight years removed from an expansion franchise, the Texans are beginning to get the pieces in place to compete in the AFC South.
10. Tennessee Titans—Vince Young needs to prove he can be a solid quarterback while Chris Johnson remains the focal point of the Titans offense.
NFC Power Index
1. New Orleans Saints—Defending Super Bowl Champions.
2. Dallas Cowboys – Will Tony Romo ever be able to piece together a solid string of starts in the playoffs?
3. Green Bay Packers—Aaron Rodgers is an outstanding quarterback and this team should be able to ride his arm deep into the playoffs.
4. Minnesota Vikings—With Brett Favre, this team has serious playoff expectations. Without him, the offense will have to rely on Adrian Peterson.
5. Atlanta Falcons—If Matt Ryan shows he is an elite quarterback, this team will turn from good to great.
6. San Francisco 49ers—Alex Smith finally started playing like a former first-round pick last season; can he start playing like a former No. 1 pick?
7. Philadelphia Eagles—Kevin Kolb is being asked to start for the first time in his career. That could be good or bad, we just don’t know yet.
8. Chicago Bears—Da Bears weren't as efficient with Aaron Cutler’s erratic arm. However, he started showing poise late in the season.
9. New York Giants—This has been a solid team for the past decade, but they can’t seem to piece together a complete season.
10. Washington Redskins—Could be a darkhorse team in the NFC. Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan could be the people to turn this franchise around.
11. Carolina Panthers—Quality team with questions at quarterback. This team is headed in the right direction.
12. Arizona Cardinals—Losing Anquan Boldin, Kurt Warner, Antrel Rolle, and Karlos Dansby creates too big a hole from which to escape.
AFC Playoff Picture
As long as Peyton Manning is the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, they will have a chance to go to the Super Bowl. They will have a target on their backs this season. However, this isn’t a team that should suffer a Super Bowl hangover.
The first spot in the AFC goes to these Colts, who always find a way to win.
The next spot will be a fight between three teams.
The New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, and San Diego Chargers will all be great teams this season. That being said, the Jets have a second-year quarterback who is still unproven and the Ravens are already facing injuries on their tenacious, yet aging defense.
With the addition of Ryan Matthews to the Chargers, this offensive juggernaut has the chance to be even better, which is why I think they will go deep into the playoffs.
That is the final decision.
My two predictions to be in the AFC Championship game are the Indianapolis Colts and the San Diego Chargers.
NFC Playoff Picture
While I love what the New Orleans Saints have done with their franchise, I don’t see them having quite the season they did last year. They are still a great team, but the other teams in the NFC are too good for the Saints to repeat.
My first pick goes to the Green Bay Packers.
After being groomed to replace the legendary (and still indecisive) Favre, Rodgers came in and did what he was supposed to do. After a tough playoff loss last year, the Packers will be hungrier than ever to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Favre will find it hard to produce the same statistics that he did last season; that is, if he comes back. Last season was arguably his best year as a professional quarterback, as Minnesota surprisingly let Favre air it out often.
Though in a past article I have said the Dallas Cowboys are overrated, on paper they are a powerhouse. This is the year that Tony Romo can change his image to that of a winner, rather than a player who only leads his team to a disappointing postseason.
Let’s hope they move far into the playoffs because Dez Bryant would be a terrible host during a Super Bowl party.
My decision in the NFC is also final: the two teams who will be in the NFC Championship game are the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys.
Super Bowl Decision
From four teams down to two. The postseason should be a wild show with all of the great teams entering the 2010 NFL season.
From the AFC, I have to go with the San Diego Chargers.
Their offense is too high-powered to compete with, no matter which defense they are facing. If they don’t put up 450+ points this year, it will be disappointing.
As for the NFC, the Green Bay Packers are simply too good.
With a solid defense and a potent offense, they are extremely well-rounded and disciplined.
This will also be an extremely exciting game between the Chargers and Packers, as it will likely turn into an offensive showing.
Agree with me? Let me know!
Disagree? I would like to see your picks for each conference.