I'm excited to write yet another NFL Preview. As a warning, my previous picks are not great, by any means. In 2009, I picked San Diego over Green Bay, but both lost in the divisional playoffs; in 2008, I picked Dallas over New England, and neither made the playoffs; in 2007, I picked New England over New Orleans - the Pats at least went undefeated, interestingly, New Orleans did win a couple of years later finally; in 2006, I had Indy over Giants - I actually hit the Colts, and the Giants ended up winning in 2007; in 2005, I had Carolina over Indy, but Indy lost in that crazy game to Pittsburgh, and CAR stumbled in the conference championship; and 2004 is not archived anywhere but I'm sure it was poor.
This year, I feel as though as I have less of an idea of who to pick. I know that Peter King for Sports Illustrated has picked the Steelers to win, so I'm immediately saying that won't happen. I will work my way through the divisions, and see who I'm left with...
AFC East (plays AFC and NFC North)
4-NY Jets - The Jets are absolutely loaded. They added WR Santonio Holmes (available in Week 5) and CB Antonio Cromartie to an already talented team. I still think the biggest question mark is the QB, Mark Sanchez. He played better down the stretch in the playoffs but the expectations are sky-high and I'm not sure if he's up to the challenge.
5-New England - The Pats should be right in the playoffs again. They don't appear dominant defensively or frightening in the running game, but should still be good enough to make the playoffs.
Miami - I really like this team and think they should be fighting for a playoff spot up until the last week. In 2008 they were 11-5 and I think that this team could re-find some of that magic.
Buffalo - They are awful. A complete mess.
AFC North (plays AFC East and NFC South)
1-Baltimore - sadly, this team looks really good. I hate them, but I can't deny the fact that adding WRs Boldin, Donte Stallworth (injured until week 8?), and Houshmandzadeh makes things interesting. I'm not sure why they've added all old and injury-prone WRs but this was a solid team last year... and QB Flacco keeps looking better and better.
Cincy - I don't believe Carson Palmer can continue to stay healthy.
Pittsburgh - It's a messed up season... and plus, the Steelers may take a step back as they reload the talent defensively.
Cleveland - I'm only expecting 4 wins for the season for my Brownies, but 2 of them could come in the first two weeks! (KC, Tampa)
AFC South (plays AFC West and NFC East)
2-Indy - Super Bowl losers tend to be star-crossed the next season... but it's really hard to pick against this juggernaut.
6-Houston - I think this is the year the Texans break into the playoffs! Boy, I'm sick of saying that.
Jacksonville - This is a good team, which could be a darkhorse for the playoffs if things break right.
Tennessee - I've never believed in Vince Young. A lot of changes on defense in two short years make this team nothing like the force they were in 2008.
AFC West (plays AFC South and NFC West)
3-San Diego - they get the division by default! They still are pretty talented.
Oakland - I'm expecting a big improvement from Oakland only because I'm expecting competent QB play from Jason Campbell (in comparison to the performance of former starter QB JaMarcus Russell). Little known fact: Campbell posted a 84.3 and a 86.4 QB rating the last 2 years. In comparison, Russell had a 77.1 and a 50.0 rating the last 2 years. The Raiders supposedly have an above-average defense and if that's true, they should post an amazing improvement from last year's 5-win campaign.
KC - If Cassel plays well, this is another team that could surprise some and get some extra wins in the perceived weak division.
Denver - I hate their coach, they have no idea who their WRs are, the RBs are already injured, and the best defensive player (Dumervil) is out for the season. Plus... they used a 1st-round pick on Tebow, who's not really an NFL QB! It's going to be a long year.
NFC East (plays AFC South and NFC North)
1-Dallas - This team is very talented, as always.
6-Philly - I like Philly. I'm irrationally expecting Kolb to step in and have no problems, even though he's only played 2 games.
Giants - I still think the Giants will be in the playoff race until the end of the season.
Washington - I don't believe that plugging in McNabb will do much for this team.
NFC North (plays AFC East and NFC East - that's brutal!)
3-Green Bay - Great team, brutal schedule.
5-Minnesota - I hate Favre, but the defense is excellent, and should carry them, even with some injures at the WR position.
Chicago - I just don't have faith in Mike Martz succeeding as an offensive coordinator anymore.
Detroit - Detroit should be a lot better, but no better than the other teams in their division. As a Browns fan, this also works for the Lions: it's not about the win total, but whether you are competitive in the games!
NFC South (plays AFC North and NFC West)
2-ATL - RB Michael Turner should be fresh this year after recovering from an ankle injury. In addition, I still like QB Matt Ryan to further develop.
New Orleans - Drew Brees is on the cover of Madden. The curse is inescapable, so I will irrationally not place them in the playoffs.
CAR - Great team, tough division. Plus, it's hard to pick them with the QB position up in the air (Matt Moore is the starter for now, but they may try rookie Jimmy Clausen).
Tampa - No way.
NFC West (plays AFC West and NFC South)
4-San Fran - best of a bad bunch
Arizona - lost too many players from Super Bowl team... and are now starting QB Derek Anderson. Granted, in DA's one successful season on the Browns, he was very effective because Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow allowed DA to throw the ball off-target. If Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston are talented enough, they may allow DA to look decent.
Seattle - Too many changes.... looking forward to the QB Charlie Whitehurst era
Rams - No way.
4-Jets over 5-Pats
3-San Diego over 6-Houston
5-Minnesota over 4-San Fran
3-Green Bay over 6-Philly
1-Baltimore over 4-Jets
3-San Diego over 2-Indy
1-Dallas over 5-Minnesota
2-ATL over 3- Green Bay
1-Baltimore over 3-San Diego
2-ATL over 1-Dallas (gotta pick an upset)
Super Bowl: Baltimore over ATL (this will make me sad if this happens, but I have to pick someone).