It is clear by looking at the talent and the matchup records between the two conferences that the AFC is far superior to the NFC. While there are some good teams in the NFC, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, from top to bottom the AFC is far superior. Here's my take on each team in the AFC.
Baltimore Ravens - The ravens defense will remain one of the most dominant in the league and far out preform the unpredictable ravens offense. The loss of Adalius Thomas is bad but the Ravens always seem to find guys to step up for them. Case in point is Dawan Landry, fifith round pick, starts almost the entire year. On offense The pick up of Willis McGahee is an upgrade over Jamal Lewis but he won't be one of the top five rushers in the AFC this year. The biggest question for the Ravens will be the offensive line and Quarterback play. Ogden is on the brink of retirement and hasn't been that good lately, and they lost Mulatalo. I don't know about you but i really wasn't impressed with McNair last year. He had moments but the consistency wasn't there and he tended to falter during big moments. I think my boys from Oregon, Demetrius Williams and Haloti Ngata will both have break out years next year. Ngata is going to be an absolute beast in the future. I see the Ravens winning the division on Defense and being average on offense. They won't got far in the playoffs.
Cinncinati Bengals - The Bengals are essentially the opposite of the Ravens. Very strong on Offense, questionable on defense. Carson Palmer is talking about completing 70% of his passes this year and he's probably capable of that and throwing for over 4000 yards and more than 25 touchdowns. He did it last year coming off an injury but the question is, can the defense get off the field and give Carson and the boys a chance to score. Leon Hall was highly touted his entire career at Michigan but anyone who watched that rose bowl has to question how good he really is. Kenny Irons in the Second? The guy can't stay healthy, kinda like another Bengal third down back, and was a disappointment last year at Auburn. Offensively the Benglas can compete with anyone, if they can put up 28ppg next year they could win the division, but they probably won't get the chance to put that many points on the board because of the Defense and thus will finish second in the division and struggle to gain a wild card spot.
Pittsburgh Steelers - This is a team that no one can figure out. The lose their head coach of 16 years, offensive coordinators, mal content leader on defense. They bring in Tomlin who is a fairly inexperienced guy, but so was Cowher. Theres been a lot of talk about letting Rothlesberger open it up with 4 wides. What has been the identity of this team for the last 50 years. Nasty defense and hard nosed running football. Luckily they retained LeBeau and drafted a couple of stud linebackers, but where will this team go on offense? Roethlisberger at his best was when they were running rampant on people, not throwing the ball all over the place. The Steelers will once again be woefullly inconsistent, mostly from new coaching, and miss the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns - I wish you all could hear me laughing when i think about the Browns. I will admit now that i'm a Brady Quinn hater. He was vastly overrated throughout his college career. Yeah he was great against the military schools and their other weak opponents. But man would that kid fold in the big games. I challenge anyone to find 5 big games that he won during his college career. You have to love the Joe Thomas and Eric Wright picks but they're going to have an impossible time signing Thomas and Quinn, who will both be after top five money. On defense the linebacking core and Sean Jones are damn good, but the rest leaves a lot to be desired. They really over paid for Steinbach and Jamal Lewis is not answer. On top of that the Cowboys have their top five pick next year. Three or four years down the road they may rise to respectability but this is gonna be another tough year.
Indianapolis Colts - Even though the Colts have routinely killed my Broncos i was happy to see Peyton win a Super Bowl. His commercials are classic and we are lucky to be able to watch him as fans. I think the Colts will win their division but will suffer a down year this time around. Peyton will make Anthony Gonzalez look really good this year and Joe Addai will emerge as a top 10 running back in that system. The line is getting a little old but will remain solid. On defense, they're really hard to figure out. If they play like they did for most of the year last year, it could be really tough for them. If they play like they did in the playoffs they could win another Super Bowl. Losing their starting corners can only hurt and Cato June was a bit underrated. I think they'll be better than they were in the regular season but not as good as they were in the playoffs. They're is certainly a possibility for a Super Bowl hangover, and that's probably what will happen.The Colts go to the playoffs but are upset.
Houston Texans - I actually like where the Texans are heading. They were active in the offseason and Kubiak is an up and coming head coach. Of they're six wins last year, they swept the Colts and Jaguars. I know, i was suprised too. Ahman Green, while aging should still be able to produce at least 900 yards and Matt Schaub will at least have confidence going into the season, something that Carr most definitely was lacking. I don't know if the line will be any better but with Andre Johnson out there they have a chance to win a few more games this year if they can be more consistent. They're very young on Defense and should continue to improve. Mario Williams will be better if they're D tackles can be more productive. The texans finish second in the division but miss out on a Wild card spot.
Jacksonville Jaguars - To me this team is another enigma. As a team they are very talented but they can never seem to consistently put it together on offense. This was due mostly to Leftwich not staying healthy, or lying to his coach about his health. Until last year Gerard appeared to be a very capable back up, now we're not so sure. The defense isn't getting any younger but is still very good. It's all going to come down to Leftwich and a budding star in Drew. If they can consistently put it together on offense they could win the division. However a lack of productivity from the wide recievers and Leftwich's eventual injury will doom this team.
Tennessee Titans - You have to love to super star potential of Vince Young. He has all the skills and the the big game magic to make the Titans a contender every year; if they would give him some pieces to work with. How did the titans get better this year? They lost their leading rusher, and both starting wide recievers. They took a stud safety in the draft and are converting him to corner back. Huh? I love Jeff Fischer but i think all the Pac Man stuff has driven him and the organization to insanity. And don't discout his loss as insignifigant. You could argue he won them a few games last year. 4 returns for touchdown is not easily replaced. They had a good draft but once teams figure out VY it's going to be a long year unless he comes up with some amazing magic.
New England Patriots - The patriots have suddenly become the Yankees of the NFL. For the first time in the Belichek era they go out and spend huge dollars and bring in a bunch of high profile players. To me this smacks of desperation to get back to the Super Bowl. But it's so contrary to their philosophy and the manner of business in which they won those three Super Bowls. This is a truly Redskins esque aquistion of talent. Bringing in a bunch of me first guys, albeit very talented. Plus you have too wonder what that monumental collapse in the AFC Championship game last year will do their confidence. Perhaps they have finally been figured out. They should have lost to the chargers too. Even with all their activity this offseason they're are still many questions. As good as Maroney was, he still isn't healthy from that shoulder surgery. Is Randy Moss really the answer? How long will Asante Samuel hold out? How many illegitamate childeren does Tom Brady really have? The defense is getting really old and it showed in that AFC Championship game. The AFC East isn't a very strong division so the Patriots will most likely win it but they will suffer a similar fate as last year and lose in the AFC Championship game.
New York Jets - Personally i was very surprised by the Jets and their playoff birth last year. Pennington held up for the entire year and their defense remarkably solid under Mangini. You have to like them picking up Thomas Jones, and bringing in two very good rookies on the Defense. The offensive line is young and improving. This is a team on the rise. I really liked the boxing stuff they were doing in the offseason. I can see them picking up another win this year and getting to the playoffs as a wild card team this year. I can't wait to see them square off with Patriots.
Buffalo Bills - The Bills are a very young team with a lot of potential but are probably a few years away from competing or getting into the playoffs. You have a young but vastly improved quarterback in JP Losman, Marshawn Lynch is a really talented back who will make an impact his rookie year. Lee Evans is an under rated reciever but can be electric on deep passes. The defense is also young but improving. It's hard to gage how well the Bills will do this year because of how much better the Patriots and Jets have become. The Bills will go as JP Losman goes and have the potential to sneak up on some teams this year. They're schedule isn't ridiculous and they could knock off the Jets for a wild card spot but it's more likely that they'll just miss and ruin some one elses season.
Miami Dolphins - It's funny how last year at this time, Dante Culpepper was coming off an injury but was going to lead the dark horse Dolphins all the way to the super bowl. They once again bring in a Quarterback recovering from an injury in to be the savior. There was a time that Trent Green was a very dangerous QB who led the most potent offense in the league. He was in the peak of his career in his early thirties. Well it is several years later and he's now 37. Green can be a very good quarterback with the best offensive line in football in front of him, like the one in KC over the last few years. Well thats not the case in Miami. Daunte and Joey couldn't stay upright behind it last year and I seriously doubt Trent Green will this year. I applaud the Dolphins for drafting Ginn instead of Quinn. You Tube Ginn and you'll see the kind of player that they got. If he doesn't get hurt in the Championship game, OSU might have won that game. This is going to be a rough one for Miami and their aging defense. Get ready for Cleo Lemon in South Florida.
Denver Broncos - I am biased, and i do bleed orange and blue; but i'm not the only one who thinks the Broncos have a real chance to be good this year. After the Patriots no one has done more than the Broncos to improve their team. First and foremost the aquisition of Travis Henry should pay huge dividends. Since his days in college Henry was predicted to benefit most from a one cut system like the Broncos. He produced 1200 yards behind a suspect o-line in Tenn. He's poised for a very good year for the donks. Javon Walker is a year removed from the knee injury and with Cutler slinging the rock he and Bradon Marshall should be very productive as well. Add Daniel Grahm primarily as a blocking talent and the offense should be much much better this year depending entirely on the progress of Cutler. He is clearly the key to how their season goes. If he has a Philip Rivers type year then the broncos have a legit shot at going deep in the Playoffs, if he has a Ryan Leaf type year, god help all of us. But the most important pickup of the offseason for the Broncos was definitely defensive coordinator Jim Bates. The Broncos D was sturdy for most of the season and would go vanilla and collapse in the fourth quarter at the end of the year. I put this solely on Coyer and his prevent D's. It was maddening last year watching teams march up and down on us. Dre Bly and Champ will be solid and their will be a tremendous competition along the D-Line this year. And mark my words, DJ williams will emerge as a stud middle linebacker under bates. But in the end the entire season will rest on Cutlers arm. If he can be consistent and protect the ball they may win the division and advance deep in the playoffs. If he's brett farve from two years ago, god help us.
San Diego Chargers - As a bronco fan i love what the chargers have done this offseason. Which is not much to make themselves better. They are still the most talented team in the league from top to bottom. When you bring back LT and Merriman you are guaranteed success on both sides of the ball. However, don't underestimate the losses of Schottenheimer, Phillips, and Cameron. There's a reason that Phillips, and Cameron got very high profile head coaching jobs, and Schotenheimer is a future Hall of Famer and probably a coach next year if he wants to be. Norv Turner, he's 58-83 for his career. He's a very good coordinator but not a head coach. I would love to criticize AJ Smith for his Craig Davis pick but he's obviously a schrewd talent evaluator, but awful people person as seen with his lack of contact with the previous coaching staff. While talented, the chargers appear to be a ticking time bomb going forward into this year. LT will undoubtedly have another monster year but the complete overhaul of the coaching staff will result in a disappointing season. San Diego will play a first place schedule this year and will finish second in the AFC West just squeaking into the playoffs or missing them. For more thoughts on the chargers see- http://www.fannation.com/blogs/post/8671
Oakland Raiders - There is no greater delight for a bronco fan than watching the Raiders getting massacred all year long and harrassing their fans at every opportunity. I actually felt sorry for the Raiders at times last year. I couldn't believe it. My hatred wanned because they were so completely awful. There a lot more fun to hate when they are some what competitive. Despite my hatred i have to respect what the Raiders have done this offseason. I really liked their draft. They absolutely made the right choice between Russel and Quinn. It will probably take JaMarcus Russell a while to catch on but i'm sure he will, Michael Bush if healthy would have been a first round pick. The defense was really good last year especially considering how much they were on the field as a result of their offensive woes. I know he's young but Lane Kiffen may be just what that team needed. Remeber that the Emperor, i mean Al Davis, has hired several young coaches along the way and had tremendous success with them. Coaches like, John Madden, Mike Shannahan, and John Gruden. Those are some pretty hefty names. Maybe Davis has pulled so more magic here, Realistically though this team probably won't win more than 6 or 7 games this year, getting swept by most of their division, AFC opponents but squeaking out some wins against the AFC Norse. I see them finishing third in the AFC west ahead of Kansas City but behind the donks and chargers.
Kansas City Chiefs - Oh how the mighty have fallen. Last year many predicted the Chiefs to win the division, this year they'll be lucky to win 6 games. This team has so many issues. To start with who's going to play quarterback? Huard played well last year in but didn't light the world on fire. All indications are that Croyle will be their man. He wasn't really that good at Alabama and he's awfully skinny. Then they lose future HOF guard Will Shields. The line is a mess at best for the chiefs right now and they didn't draft a lineman until the sixth? As physically gifted as Bowe is he has a nasty reputation for drops and i hear he was late for the very first workout with the team and was dropping balls. Then you go to Larry Johnson. To everyone but Chiefs GM Carl Peterson it seems like a complete no-brainer to extend the man who has been your entire offense and lone shinning star for the last two year. He's easily the in the top three for running backs. The Chiefs even have 16.2 million under the cap. Sign the man. Then you move to the denfense where the situation is much more stable but still not good. Law and Surtain are clearly on ther way down. Donnie Edwards was an excellent pick up but the real issue is Jared Allen, he is easily their best defensive player and will be suspended for the first four games. He also needs to be resigned but the chiefs remain reluctant. Then you take Herm Edwards, he is a great speaker and his quotes are priceless but he's a .500 coach over his career. The chiefs are talented but this year will be a rebuilding year and they will struggle to win 6 games.