1. New England Patriots – AFC North No surprise here. The offensive line is rock solid, and with a newly stocked roster of wide receivers to compliment their fierce tight end duo, Tom Brady will barely notice that the only proven name in the backfield will be veteran Joseph Addai. Tim Tebow and Mario Williams aren’t going to be enough juice to end the Brady-Bellichick Era this year…even if they were on the same team.
2. San Francisco 49ers – NFC West After recently inking first round pick AJ Jenkins to a four year deal, San Fran isn’t going anywhere unless Alex Smith does a complete one-eighty and implodes during the season. Regardless, with Aldon Smith anchoring that defense, Head Coach Jim Harbaugh might still be able to make a run at the post season no matter what happens on offense considering the relative talent in his division.
3. Green Bay Packers – NFC North Aaron Rogers is just going to keep getting better. Its hard to argue this isn’t the team to beat this season, and with a huge chip on their shoulder from last season, both in terms of almost being prefect and then being bounced prematurely from the play-offs, the Pack is looking ahead with something to prove.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers – AFC North Ben Roethlisberger isn’t going to change his style of play – that’s the sound byte current in the Steel City after suggestions to the contrary began to resurface recently. Thanks toPittsburgh’s two beefy upgrades at to their offensive line, the Steelers have an incredibly young and incredibly tough wall around their signal caller, which, despite losses in the off-season, will be enough to keep black and gold on top of the AFC North.
5. Houston Texans – AFC South With regards to the Texans, its less about how monstrous their defense is or now much better a big-name encrusted offense will be with Matt Schwab back and more about how bad their division is. Jacksonville is projected to be one of the worst in the NFL next year. The Titans could be surprising, but they really didn’t get as much done this off-season as many in Nashville may have wanted. As for the Colts? Not this year, Mr. Luck.
6. Cincinnati Bengals – AFC North Wild Card While many are suggesting that the Bengals schedule will prevent them from another play-off year, the fact of the matter is that its only going from .493 to .500 in terms of difficulty. Youth and inexperience is going to be a larger negative, but with a wholly revamped locker room and a home run off-season in free agency and with the Draft, the usual writing-off of the Cardiac Cats may be something that folks hold off on for the time being.