Just for fun, here are my very brief predictions for the NFL this year:
First Place - New York Giants
Second Place - Philadelphia Eagles
Third Place - Dallas Cowboys
Fourth Place - Washington Redskins
I know, I know. Sorry. But I see the Redskins as a 7-9 team. With a whole lot of things going just right it's not hard to picture them finishing higher up in the standings, but there's just too many things that need to fall into place. I am inclined to set my expectations relatively low and be pleasantly surprised if proven wrong.
As for the others: Dallas gets downgraded because the fragile offensive line is already faltering. Also I just hate them. I have to imagine Kevin Kolb will be solid because the Eagles have a history of knowing what they're doing... but there still must be a learning curve and they appear to be rebuilding their defense, so I can't put them in the top spot. The Giants now have probably the most reliable quarterback situation in the division, and I have a feeling that their defensive line will bounce back from a down year.
1st Place - Green Bay Packers
2nd Place - Minnesota Vikings
3rd Place - Detroit Lions
4th Place - Chicago Bears
The surprise here is obviously Detroit making it out of the cellar. But you can't upgrade a defensive line that significantly (Ndamokung Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and NT Corey Williams) without seeing good results. I put that defensive front up against a terrible Chicago offensive line and smell an upset.
1st Place - New Orleans Saints
2nd Place - Atlanta Falcons
3rd Place - Carolina Panthers
4th Place - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Saints defense has to regress some because you can't live and die by the big play like they did last year. And a lot of people are expecting a solid season out of Atlanta. But Drew Brees really is that good, and I have a hard time imagining the Saints would slip too much.
1st Place - San Francisco 49ers
2nd Place - Arizona Cardinals
3rd Place - St. Louis Rams
4th Place - Seattle Seahawks
I love that the 49ers dropped two first round picks into the offensive line. And Michael Crabtree was very good last year as a rookie who missed out on training camp... with a real offseason under his belt he could be scary. And the defense was already there. Even marginally competent quarterback play makes the Niners a very intriguing team, especially in such a weak division.
1st Place - Miami Dolphins
2nd Place - New England Patriots
3rd Place - New York Jets
4th Place - Buffalo Bills
Okay, if I had money riding on this I would not be making this prediction. But I'm just having a little fun with this post so what the hell. You have to like the Dolphins solid offensive line, and they had enough confidence in Chad Henne to not address QB in the offseason. the addition of Brandon Marshall could turn this into a pretty good offense. And I like their linebackers, with Cameron Wake and the addion of Karlos Dansby inside. And picking the Patriots to win the division would just be boring and conventional. So why not make a suprising pick?
I was on the Jets bandwagon until recently. But Mark Sanchez just looks really, really bad - maybe bad enough to hold back an otherwise very solid team.
1st Place - Baltimore Ravens
2nd Place - Pittsburgh Steelers
3rd Place - Cincinnati Bengals
4th Place - Cleveland Browns
I felt better about the Ravens when they still had Ed Reed and Donte Stallworth, but I believe in Joe Flacco, the Ravens running game, and their consistently excellent front seven (especially if Terrell Suggs returns to form). This is a team that I love watching on a purely aesthetic level.
1st Place - Indianapolis Colts
2nd Place - Houston Texans
3rd Place - Tennessee Titans
4th Place - Jacksonville Jaguars
I have nothing against Peyton Manning and the Colts, but just to make this division interesting for once I'd love for Houston to finally take that next step. I don't think it's widely appreciated that they've been pretty good the last few years simply because they have the great misfortune of playing in a division with Peyton Manning. But the defense just isn't yet on a level to pose a significant challenge to the Colts.
1st Place - San Diego Chargers
2nd Place - Oakland Raiders
3rd Place - Denver Broncos
4th Place - Kansas City Chiefs
The AFC West is why I hate the new four-team divisions. Oakland's second place prediction is partly due to the upgrade that Jason Campbell represents at quarterback, but also due to the seeming collapse of Denver.