1. New Orleans Saints Just too many losses going on down in the Bayou to put the Saints in the ‘probably’ column. Between Bounty Gate, their wide receivers getting picked over, Carl Nicks going to the Bucs, Head Coach Sean Payton being sent to an island and the ongoing Drew Brees mess; it’s very hard to see this team being a contender this year.
2. Denver Broncos Look, genuflecting aside, Tebow was good for Denver in all the ways that Peyton Manning will not be. Two seasons ago, the Bronco’s defense was the worst in the NFL. It wasn’t inspirational leadership that made them amazing: it was because an Option offense eats the clock, and the defense plays significantly less over the course of a season. Further, Manning is 36 years old, making him the second oldest starting quarterback in the League (Matt Hasselbeck will probably beat out Jake Locker in Tennessee), and Manning just happens to be coming off a second neck surgery. With no legitimate receiving corps, this could end very badly for GM John Elway.
3. New York Giants Weird, right? But think about it; the G-Men only won nine games last season, and they played the NFC West who isn’t exactly a powerhouse division. This year they have the toughest schedule in the NFL and dive into the AFC North. Further, with Dallas and Philly hungry and bitter over last year’s showings coupled against the departure of Mario Manningham, it’s not inconceivable at all that the fire burns out for New York this year.
4. Detroit Lions The NFC North is slowly wrestling the title of “toughest division in the NFL” away from its AFC counterpart. Consequently, it would appear that the Lions have usurped the bad boy crown from Cincinnati as it seems like half their starting line up got wrap sheets this off-season. Regardless, Green Bay is head-and-shoulders ahead of Detroit and that means the best case scenario is a fight for a Wild Card birth against a very electrified Chicago Bears. In all likelihood, that will be too much.
5. Baltimore Ravens Age and injury make a uniquely horrible combination. Mix in bitterness from a quarterback who has led his team to multiple play-off runs throughout his rookie contract not being offered an extension before his final year, and you’ve got yourself a dangerously overrated team littered with intangibles. Oh yeah, and their schedule is tough as nails.
6. Atlanta Falcons If Cincinnati is the question mark to go back, then Atlanta is my question mark not to. However, this may be one of those seasons where 6.14 rounds up. The NFC South is wide open with the Saints fall from grace, and the Falcons do look poised to pick up the slack. They’d have to win the division though; Wild Cards will likely go to the NFC North and East this year. With the Bucs and the Panthers coming up, there’s at least a little doubt that the Falcons aren’t making that next step this year.