Don't know Pat Shurmur? You might want to if the Browns win.
New England Patriots 12-4. I’m not 100 percent in love with the Chad Ochocinco or Albert Haynesworth(less) moves, especially the latter. With that said, their talent level is like the Yankees, still better than most. They still need a complement WR to Welker, as there is only so much Ochocinco can do. Devin McCourty is the only guy in their secondary you knows brings it each week.
New York Jets (11-5) Had they got Nnamdi Asomugha, I’d be tempted to put them at the top. Even still, they recovered nicely by signing Plaxico Burress to play opposite Santonio Holmes and re-signing Antonio Cromartie after losing out on Asomugha.
Miami Dolphins (6-10) Was prepared to make them 10-6 as the AFC’s version of the Tampa Bay Bucs—the best third-place teams in the conference as a victim of being in the wrong division. Reggie Bush adds flash and sells tickets, but there isn’t enough here on offense.
They’ll have to run every down because Chad Henne is Chad Henne, and backup Matt Moore sucks. If they’d have completed the Kyle Orton trade like they should have, they’d have had something as all he does is win. I hope they get David Garrard, as at least he'd give them a chance each week.
Buffalo Bills (5-11) The NFL’s saddest franchise opposite the Washington Redskins, the Bills actually did sign former Jets KR Brad Smith but had to overpay for him to do it. Someone had to take their money as they had to meet the salary cap floor. What good is a flashy return game if no one is watching them?
They got Nick Barnett from the champion Packers but its basically a lateral move since all he does is replace Paul Posluszny who went to Jacksonville. If they were in the AFC West, I think they could surprise, I just don’t see how here. The way they’ll finally get good is to surprise everyone. We never get to see any of their players so anonymity may be key here. Love Marcell Dareus pick for the future, not now.
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) Re-signed Mewelde Moore, cut Max Starks and Flozell Adams on the offensive line. The rest of the team is deep on both sides of the ball. The model franchise.
Cleveland Browns (10-6). Every year a team or two surprises and I’m picking this to be one. Why? They have a first-year coach in Pat Shurmur who will have no expectations. We’ve seen other first-year coaches have immediate success like Mike Smith in Atlanta and John Harbaugh in Baltimore, so why not here? First-round pick Phil Taylor from Baylor fills a need on the defensive line and Colt McCoy’s continual development will be key. For more, see Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens (8-8) I expect at least one of these loses to come directly at the hands of the Cleveland Browns as a direct beneficiary of their downfall. Did you see what I did there? Now, why am I so down on Baltimore?
They cut Todd Heap who signed with Arizona, Kelly Gregg who went to Kansas City and Willis McGahee who went to Denver and haven’t replaced any of the positions with anyone much less anyone near their levels. When you mix in the age of Ray Lewis and the defense, eventually it has to end much like many are predicting for the Colts and Manning this year.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-11) Drafted Andy Dalton who will add hope and AJ Green who will sell tickets, but if all he does is replace Ochocinco, that's a lateral move. I like the addition of backup QB Bruce Gradkowski, but that’s just what he is—a backup. The team still has massive cash to spend, let's see how they do it. The Bengals lost Jonathan Joseph at CB and didn’t replace him at all.
Houston Texans (9-7) It's now or never with redneck Peyton Manning out for a number of months. Funny thing is, head coach Gary Kubiak likely will win Coach of the Year if they actually win the division and make the playoffs for the 1st time ever, even though he's a terrible coach. I had the Cowtown Colts winning this division, which looks to rival the NFC West in terms of putridity, but then we hear Silver Spoon Manning could be out longer.
Indianapolis Colts (8-8) This team will take a step back and probably lose three of their first four games depending on how much time Manning will miss. However, when he comes back this team is a machine—an over-hyped, annoying, boring, meticulous machine I wish would go away.
I can't stand Peyton and nothing would make me happier if he just went away, but don’t forget something no one is even talking about—he gets Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie back to go with Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, but the damage will be done.
I hope they win just enough to miss the playoffs yet don't lose so bad they get an excellent pick and player; thus when Silver Spoon does come back, they win like the well (Lucas) oiled machine they were.
Tennessee Titans (6-10) Don’t let the record fool you, had they not got QB Matt Hasselbeck, this team’s record would have been even worse. You are looking at one of the worst teams in the league. All they are is Chris Johnson. You stop him, you stop them. Tennessee has so many holes on D, I don’t know where to start. This season is all about grooming Jake Locker for the future, and I don’t like his chances whenever that is.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) Maurice Jones-Drew should be enough to will them to a couple of wins and Luke McCown/Blaine Gabbert aren't going to lose all their starts, but when the team made up some BS to release its starting QB, David Garrard, they essentially threw the season.
Indications are this cash-strapped team released him to save $9M paying him. They really need to be relocated (this is the team that LA needs), having already been granted an extension to sellout their season opener at home (obviously). This is a college market masking as a NFL one. I had them winning the division until the release of Garrard.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) Matt Cassel has a terrible record against teams with a winning record. The key is, he does well against teams he’s supposed to beat. I really like the Gregg and Steve Breston additions to this team as Breston’s the perfect slot guy for a passing team. No one from this division is going to do anything in the playoffs anyway and I refuse to put piss-ant Tim Tebow and the Broncos first because of him nor the Chargers (who choke every year so what choice do I have?).
Oakland Raiders (9-7) Who plays QB for them exactly? Still, this team is improving and don’t be surprised if they knock off the Chiefs and take the division. They are coming close. Losing Asomugha is going to hurt but this division isn’t too hard, and they still have Louis Murphy at WR along with a decent running game and solid D, which keeps teams in games.
San Diego Chargers (7-9) Why so glum? Whose their RB? Darren Sproles (New Orleans) is gone as Ryan Matthews' blanket, who I never thought much of anyway. LB Takeo Spikes is still in the league and he found a home here but he doesn’t add much. Expect the usual 1-3 start followed by six wins the final eight weeks or so (not that it will do any good).
Denver Broncos (4-12) I’m sure Golden Boy Tebow will will them to a few wins (one early, one late) but the fact of the matter is, this team just isn’t very good. I think last year’s 4-win team proved that. Von Miller will help but Marcell Dareus could have helped more. This team still doesn’t have any wide receivers and McGahee blows
Philadelphia Eagles (12-4) Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Steve Smith, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Jason Babin, and Ronnie Brown. Yeah. New rookie kicker Alex Henery replaces the solid veteran David Akers who went to San Francisco.
Despite all the added firepower, the defensive coordinator used to coach offense, so who knows how that will work out? Furthermore, the linebacker corp remains shaky at best. There are actually many reasons to not like this team but ultimately I think talent and depth at key positions (secondary, defensive line) will win out and keep them in games. The cream will rise to the top.
New York Giants (7-9) Kept Ahmad Bradshaw but with so many injuries: First-round pick cornerback Prince Amukamara is done until October, and second-round defensive tackle Marvin Austin and middle linebacker Jonathan Goff are out for the season, along with two other corners. Sixth-round pick Greg Jones is expected to start at middle linebacker (that's how beat up they are).
I had them getting a wild card spot prior to all the injuries, not any more.
Dallas Cowboys[girls] (5-11) Lost Marion Barber and Roy Williams to the Bears, and released Leonard Davis on top of basically having a rookie coach in Jason Garrett who I’ve never been impressed with. Let’s face it, the ‘Girls released a lot of talent and with that, depth, even if it was aging.
Washington Redskins (3-13) They are seriously going to go with Rex Grossman and John Beck at QB? Well, then they deserve their fate. The DL took a hit with the loss of Haynesworth, even if he was overpaid. Once again they sign a bunch of useless junk like they always do in Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth(less)—who shouldn’t even be in the league—as patchwork WR’s. T
The lone good move they did was the Vonnie Holiday for Tim Hightower trade, but behind him they still have no depth at RB. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the NFL’s new worst team. Andrew Luck is going to wish he had a fifth year of eligibility, even though he is exactly what this team needs.
Green Bay Packers (11-5) Everyone keeps saying how they didn’t do much. Well, it's because they didn’t have to. They lost Nick Barnett and Cullen Jenkins to free agency (and lets not forget they just barely made the playoffs to begin with). It's probably a blessing they won the title since its so hard to do in the NFL and likely not going to happen again.
Still, they are deeper than any team in this division, thus why they stay here until someone knocks them off.
Chicago Bears (10-6) I really want to jump the Packers with this team because I like the potential for former Cowgirls bust Roy Williams to resurrect his career here under Mike Martz who he did so well with in Detroit. But better yet, I like the Barber for Chester Taylor upgrade at RB to an already solid D. Olin Kruetz on the line will be missed however.
Detroit Lions (7-9) Everyone wants to jump them in the playoffs but I won’t because, lets face it, they are still the Lions and will find a way to lose starting with their annual Turkey day game. I don’t trust Matthew Stafford’s ability to stay healthy and they haven’t added any key free agents.
Nick Fairley will likely win DROY but so what, the team won’t win. They are now the Raiders of the NFC, not terrible, but also like the Texans, in limbo between bad and good. Ask Houston how long it's possible to stay there.
Los Angeles Vikings (5-11) Lets just start calling them what they are. The Minnesota legislature is too stupid to do the right thing and soon it will cost them their team. I predict a November Art Modell-like announcement. This cloud is only a small reason the team will be distracted right out of the gate all season.The bigger reason is all the teams in the division have passed them talent wise.
Donovan McNabb is a nice band-aid, but all he’s doing is masking a larger problem and that is: The fact this team is rebuilding and moving soon. Four governors couldn’t get a stadium done and soon the league will find out. McNabb for the loss of Sidney Rice is a lateral move. Mix that with the losses of Ray Edwards and Jimmy Kennedy on the D-line and there is only so much fourth-round pick Christian Ballard can do, even if I think he’ll have a good year.
Still need a safety and 3/5 of an offensive line.
Atlanta Falcons (11-5) Lost Michael Jenkins but upgraded in rookie Julio Jones. This team is still a mess defensively (see their whipping of the Packers in the playoffs). Should have drafted secondary in the first round but got cocky on offense with Jones. Ask the 1998 Vikings how the “outscore everyone” plan works. It rarely does. Ray Edwards was a nice find but they still need to completely re-do their secondary to truly be special.
Tampa Bay Bucs (10-6) I think one of their wins will be against the weaker Saints who are one hit from Sproles away from being really thin at RB now that Bush is gone. No impact free agent moves but all they had to do was tinker. The talent is there.
New Orleans Saints (8-8) Team will soon find out how much they miss Reggie Bush, especially if Sproles goes down.
Carolina Panthers (4-12). Team re-signed LB Jon Beason, DE Charles Johnson (10 sacks), and DeAngelo Williams, but I hate that Williams inflated the market for real running backs with talent like Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson who both need new deals soon. What good is re-signing all those players if you are a 2-14 team as this one was last year?
Arizona Cardinals (9-7) The trade of Kevin Kolb and signing of Todd Heap saved this otherwise sad situation. Still thin at WR with the loss of Steve Breston, but still posses good weapons in a weak division.
I hate the Tim Hightower trade as now if Beanie Wells goes down they are a one-dimensional team, but I love the Patrick Peterson pick who will step right in for Rodgers-Cromartie who went to Philly.
St. Louis Rams (8-8) Sam Bradford is exciting and I like the Quentin Mikell pickup. In this division they are set. Not much more to say since the bottom two teams are so much worse and the Cards and Rams should get 2 wins each vs. them.
San Francisco 49ers (6-10) Why did they bring back QB Alex Smith for another wasted season? Their solid defense should keep them in games but I hate the fact they released CB Nate Clements in a move that sends them backwards. Get used to them here.
Seattle Seahawks (4-12) In moves no one can figure out, the Seahawks downgraded at QB with a pair of backups in Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst who we know can’t play. Matt Hasselback was all they had. Sidney Rice? Pfft.
He took the money and ran but he should know first-hand just how awful Jackson is. He was really only good one of his four years and it took Favre to reveal it as Seattle fans will soon find out. Also, releasing Lofa Tatupu was just plain dumb.
Coaches to get fired: Jack Del Rio (Jaguars), Mike Shanahan (Redskins), Norv Turner (Chargers), Marvin Lewis (Bengals—In a move that should have been done last year), Tony Sporano (Dolphins), Pete Carroll (Seahawks—Goes back to college).
OROY: Julio Jones (Falcons—How do you not win it when you have that much talent around you?)
OL’s don’t win awards but I love Mike Pouncey’s fit in Miami who will have a Jake Long-like impact, while Jones will have '98 Randy Moss-like impact.
DROY Nick Fairley, (Lions—Stat padding, team won’t win) with the Cardinals' Patrick Peterson garnering a second-place finish and Marcell Dareus of the Bills' rounding out the top-three vote-getters.
MVP: Tom Brady (New England Patriots).
Coach of the Year Pat Shurmur (Browns)
Opening Byes: (1) New England Patriots (2) Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC Wild Card
(3) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (6) Cleveland Browns
(4) Houston Texans vs (5) New York Jets
AFC Divisional round
(1) New England Patriots vs. (5) New York Jets
(2) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. (3) Kansas City Chiefs
(1) New England Patriots vs (5) New York Jets
AFC Champion: New York Jets
Opening Byes (1) Philadelphia Eagles (2) Atlanta Falcons
NFC Wild Card
(3) Green Bay Packers vs. (6) Chicago Bears
(4) Arizona Cardinals vs. (5) Tampa Bay Bucs
(1) Philadelphia vs. (5) Tampa Bay Bucs
(2) Atlanta Falcons vs. (3) Green Bay Packers
(1) Philadelphia Eagles vs. (3) Green Bay Packers
NFC Champion: Philadelphia Eagles
Super Bowl XLVI: (1) Philadelphia Eagles vs. (5) New York Jets
Super Bowl Champion: Philadelphia Eagles
Philly replaces Boston as the new title town as all their teams minus the Sixers could win the title next year.