Okay, I admit it, I should've done this at the end of August, like last year. But I swear, I won't let the Colts impressive debut alter my prognostications. (ed. yeah right)
So without further ado, let me boldly go where, uh, only about 10,000 other Internet talking-heads have gone before:
AFC North: Wow is this a tough division to pick. The Ravens were tough as hell last year and now they've got a good young(er) back in Willis McGahee rather than the Jamal Lewis who rapidly transformed from thundering to plodding.
1. Baltimore Ravens - the addition of McGahee does it for me. I usually would shy from picking a team to repeat with competition like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, but a running game will give the Ravens that extra-win somewhere that puts them over the top.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers - neck-and-neck with Cincy, but I think the O might open up a bit.
3. Cincinnati Bengals - more like a 2a pick. QB Carson Palmer enters that oft cited "2nd year" back from a Torn-ACL. He alone could trash my entire prediction for this division because he is clearly the best QB in the AFC North (which is usually a pretty good barometer for who has the best team as well)
4. Cleveland Browns - over/under on the beginning of the Brady Quinn era: Week 7. Over/under on the # of wins for the Brownies: 5.
AFC East. The class of the division remains the Pats (though the sheen has come off a little in the past couple of weeks, with injuries/suspensions to Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison and their best CB Asante Samuel just now reporting to the team (and accepting his franchise designation)
1. New England Patriots - Brady got some scary weapons now. Lots of pressure on Laurence Maroney, but he look good. If he gets injured....well that's an argument that can put on a LOT of teams. The defensive holes could hurt them early, but unless the NY Jets streak out of the gate and the Pats stumble badly, they should have more than enough to win the AFC East tiara.
2. NY Jets - the Man-genius will be the primary competition for the Belichick-led Patriots. Thomas Jones gives the Jets a great option at RB. I don't think the Patriots are used to the Jets actually having a reliable running game the past couple of years (when Curtis Martin was in his last year and then gone in '06). They'll have one this year.
3. Buffalo - the J.P. Losman-Lee Evans combo won't be enough to get this team over the top. Huge turnover on D leaves a lot of questions. No answers yet. Wouldn't completely surprise me to see the Bills do really well, also wouldn't surprise me to see them founder
4. Miami Dolphins - No O-line and stauesque QB in Trent Green. Affording your QB less protection than what some of the girls wear down on the strip spells bad news for Miami.
NFC South - Defending Champs should rule the roost (see I told you)
1. Indianapolis Colts - swear this has nothing to do with their dismantling of the Saints on opening night. They just have too much for their division rivals. Period.
2. Houston Texans - ok, I will take a wild stab and say the Texans' gamble on Matt Schaub pays off. The guy knows the system the team uses and maybe Ahman Green will be the Texans' uncaped crusader for one season. That's the hope in Houston. It won't be enough to make the playoffs, but it could be enough to make some noise that Houston doesn't totally suck.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - maybe Garrard will be "the man" down in J-town. Maybe the Jags won't recover from the release of Byron Leftwich. I'm down on the Jags because they can't seem to stop the internal roiling that seems to sabotage their season each year. Moreover, Garrard is just the 4th best QB in the division.
4. Tennessee Titans - an odd placement, I know, considering the Titans "remember us, we're still in the NFL" run last year. But jettisoning nearly every weapon Vince Young relied on last year (with the exception of TE Ben Scaife) just doesn't seem like a formula for success in 2007. If some weapons emerge, this pick will look foolish, cause Vince Young is just electric.
AFC West - aiya, San Diego, Denver and uh...oh my the other two should be bad.
1. San Diego - Going with talent alone on this one folks. LT, Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates? An orangutan could coax a 9-10 win season of this squad. They could roll out a wax figure of coach Norv Turner and be just as effective (come to think of it...)
2. Denver Broncos - Travis Henry is next-in-line to get the Shanahan-system-can-make-a-1,000-yard-rusher out-of-anyone. Thing is, Henry is already a damn fine back. He could become a monster in Denver....yea! I got him on one of my fantasy teams
3. Oakland Raiders - from bottom of the scrapheap to what? Mild, somewhat respectability? Perhaps. I just think any team with a defense as good as the Raiders should be somewhat decent. Is McNown the answer? Dunno, I expect Culpepper and his deep-ball ability to take over at some point.
4. Kansas City Chiefs - odd place for the Chiefs, but I just don't trust this team on either side of the ball. O-line is deteriorating and even with Larry Johnson, who is arguably a top 3 back in the league, it hard to see him dominating in a 3-yards and a cloud-of-dust offense. And who is going to be throwing the ball to new WR Dwayne Bowe? K.C. may make me pay for this lack of faith, but that's how I see it right now.