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Dolphins (10-6) (Y – Division Champs)
The Scoop: This division is going to be a three-way battle to the finish among the Jets, Patriots, and Dolphins. Each team has a major weakness. The Brady-led Patriots have question marks on defense, while the Dolphins and Jets still don’t know what they have in quarterbacks Chad Henne and Mark Sanchez, respectively. I think Henne is further along than Sanchez and that’s why I have Miami coming out on top. The Bills will be lucky to win four games with holes all over the place.
Ravens (11-5) Y
The Scoop: Another tough division in the AFC comes down to a few key players. I have the Ravens taking the division with the premise that Ed Reed comes back at full strength after his six week stint on the PUP list. The Steelers will be without franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games. If they get off to a rough start they might not be able to recover. The Bengals technically should improve on offense with the addition of Terrell Owens, but the Ocho-Owens combination will prove volatile down the stretch. As for the Browns, their quality of play is still as ugly as those horrific uniforms.
Colts (12-4) Y
The Scoop: As long as Peyton Manning is in a Colts uniform they will continue to be the division favorites. He’s just that good and nobody impacts a game like a superstar quarterback. The Texans are finally ready to make the playoffs. They have a balanced squad and their offense is going to be one of the league’s best. The Titans have a good football team, they’re just not as well rounded as the Texans or Colts. The Jags are going to take a little step back this year.
Chargers (10-6) Y
The Scoop: If the Chargers can get Vincent Jackson back at some point their offense will return to elite status. Minus Jackson they’re still a good football team, but not nearly as dangerous in the deep passing game. The loss of Antonio Cromartie in the secondary is something to keep an eye on as well. The Raiders are better than people think. They have a very solid defense and if they can establish a consistent ground attack they’ll be a much improved group. The Broncos have glaring issues on both sides of the ball. They don’t have any big time weapons on offense and their best defensive player in Elvis Dumervil is out for the year. The Chiefs will take a small step forward this year and could jump the Broncos if their defense comes to play. They have several exciting young players on offense with running back Jamaal Charles and receiver Dwayne Bowe. Quarterback Matt Cassel should have a strong year.
Cowboys (11-5) Y
The Scoop: The division isn’t what it once was. The Eagles finally pushed Donovan McNabb out of town and their fans are going to regret it. Kevin Kolb is going to have some growing pains in his first year as a starter and Philly is going to drop off this year. Instead, McNabb will suit up with the division rival Redskins and will automatically make them better, that is if they can keep him upright with that suspect offensive line. The Giants are a bit of an unknown. They have a quality running game with one of the league’s better quarterbacks. The arrival of Antrel Rolle will certainly upgrade the secondary. The G-Men can make a run at the division with everyone healthy…The Cowboys have the most talent of any team in the league on paper. Can they put it all together for a Super Bowl run?
Packers (12-4) Y
The Scoop: The Packers are the new kings of the NFC North. They boast one of the best quarterbacks in football in Aaron Rodgers. He gives them a good chance at winning every week. Their offensive line should be improved when rookie Bryan Bulaga steps in at some point during the season. The Vikings have some things they have to deal with if they want to return to the NFC Championship. They’re thin at receiver with Sidney Rice out for six weeks and Percy Harvin’s migraine troubles. Will Brett Favre’s 40-year-old body hold up for a grueling 16-game season? The Lions will be the NFL’s most improved team. They will be a joy to watch offensively. The Bears’ defense will improve with Julius Peppers’ arrival. Quarterback Jay Cutler turns over the ball way to much. He has to make better decisions for this team to gain any ground on the Vikings and Packers.
49ers (10-6) Y
The Scoop: Coach Mike Singletary has returned the Niners to prominence. If Alex Smith can become more consistent there’s no telling to how good they can be. Patrick Willis is unquestionably the best middle linebacker in football. The Seahawks are still in a transition year, but could make a nice little playoff push in a weak division. The Cards are sinking fast. Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, and Antrel Rolle are all gone and they’re moving forward with Derek Anderson at the helm. Yikes! The Rams have themselves a future star in Sam Bradford and that alone is reason for optimism. They still are lacking in too many areas to be relevant this year, but their time is coming.
Saints (13-3) Y
The Scoop: The Super Bowl champs are going to be a hell of a team once again. Anything less than the NFC Championship would be a huge disappointment. Matt Ryan and the Falcons are going to be a contender this year. They have all the pieces. Their offense will be as efficient as anyone in league and their D plays fast. The Carolina Panthers are a mystery. They have one of the league’s best rushing attacks, but is Matt Moore a formidable option at quarterback? The Buccaneers will be a contender this year...for the top overall pick next April.
WC: Texans over Chargers, Dolphins over Steelers
Ravens over Texans, Colts over Dolphins
Ravens over Colts
WC: Falcons over Giants, Cowboys over 49ers
Saints over Falcons, Packers over Cowboys
Packers over Saints
Super Bowl: Packers over Ravens
MVP - Aaron Rogers, QB, GB
Offensive Rookie – Ryan Matthews, RB, SD
Defensive Rookie – Rolando McClain, LB, OAK
5 Bold NFL Predictions
1. Brett Favre’s consecutive games streak finally comes to an end.
2. Chris Johnson surpasses 2000 yards rushing for the second straight season.
3. Tim Tebow overtakes Kyle Orton by season’s end.
4. Donovan McNabb goes down with a season ending injury behind a terrible line.
5. Michael Vick will get his shot this year at taking back a starting gig.