I know that this means nothing, but this is how I see things at the moment.
1.) Seattle- This team is scary. They have a star at QB, who, even though he passed for fewer yards than most others, had the 4th best passer rating, the 8th best QBR, the 8th best completion percentage, the 4th highest YPA, and was tied for the 9th most TD passes, if you include running TDs, he was 6th in the league. Add that to the running of Marshawn Lynch, who was third in the league in rushing, and had 1000 yards after contact according to PFF, and continuity with the wide receivers ( who even without Percy Harvin are a good group), and this is an explosive offense. The defense was 1st in scoring last season with all but two starters returning, and though there are still questions at those spots (starting 3-tech and SAM) there seems to be a good plan in place. The change at DC shouldn’t be too much of a concern seeing as this defense is Pete Carroll’s baby.
2.) Denver- The offense is just too good to put any lower, Peyton and company can throw with the best of them, and Hillman and Ball are looking really good in camp. There are some concerns with the offensive line, but Peyton is the best QB in the world other than Aaron Rogers to compensate for that. And the defense is no slouch either. Bailey is still a really good corner, he just has great technique, and when Vonn Miller comes back that'll still be one of the best defenses in the league.
3.) Atlanta- I’m not the biggest fan of how the Falcons play football. I don’t like pass dependent teams, I don’t like when the offense has to carry a team. But damn if the Falcons aren’t good at it. Julio and Roddy are the best WR tandem in the league, and Tony Gonzales is one of, if not the, best TE in NFL history, and he is just so smart. Matt Ryan is one of the better QBs in the league, and even if he’s not one of the top 5, he’s good enough to take advantage of the best weapons in the NFL. Steven Jackson isn’t the answer at running back, but he’s better than Turner.
4.) San Francisco- Collin Kaepernick is one of the most physically talented players in the NFL. Even if he doesn’t like being called it, he is a freak athlete, but he can also read a defense very well. That said, he struggled against better defenses, and his running is overrated, take away the Packers game and he averages 29 YPG on the ground. If he still had Crabtree the 49ers would be in competition with the Seahawks and Broncos for the #1 spot; since he’s gone and there are injuries to 3 other receivers on the roster they aren’t. But the running game and defense are too good to be placed any lower.
5.) Green Bay- Aaron Rogers. That is all…but seriously he’s the best QB in the league, and he’s got receivers to take advantage of that fact. The defense is also better than advertised, Casey Heyward had a great year last year, and Datone Jones is going to be a beast next to Clay Matthews.
6.) Houston- Give Arian Foster a break. Seriously Kubiak, Arian Foster has been worked to death. But he’s gotten results. Matt Schaub is good enough to get the ball to Andre Johnson, and DeAndre Hopkins is a guy that I really like. Houston has one of the two best offensive lines in football, whether they’re the best or the second best line depends on who you talk to. Oh! And they have some guy on defense named Watt that I’ve heard is pretty good.
7.) Baltimore- Lewis and Reed are gone, but they weren’t the players that they used to be. The Ravens improved on a defense that really stepped up during the playoffs. The offense still has Ray Rice, who I was surprised to find out is only 26. Torrey Smith is one of the better deep-threats in the NFL and Flacco had an amazing playoff run. If Flacco shows that he deserves that contract, this team could land in the playoffs again.
8.) New England- The good news? Tom Brady is good for at least 10 wins by himself. The “Guy in the Hoodie” is still scary. But they are missing the top 5 targets from last year. That really does not bode well for a team that really likes to throw the ball so much.
9.) Cincinatti- AJ Green is a beast. Now Andy Dalton needs to find someone else to get the ball to occasionally. AJ should still get most of the targets, but there needs to be someone else that Andy can do to if AJ is covered, which shouldn’t happen too often. The defense can rush the passer. The linebackers are good. The secondary has questions, but that shouldn’t be a huge problem in in AFC North.
10.) And the final of the top 10…the New Orleans Saints- The offense was so good last year, but the defense was worse than any in NFL history, the fact that they went 7-9 really speaks to just how good Drew Brees is. And even if the Defense is just below average they should still be able to outscore the opponents. They won’t win the superbowl, but they should still make the playoffs.
11.) Chicago- Even if Urlacher left there is not much of a hole there. The Bears quickly acquired in the draft two of my favorite players, Khaseem Greene, and John Bostic. Both could start and do very well. Greene especially brings all of the intangibles that you look for in a linebacker, and definitely could do a very good job in Urlacher’s stead since he played safty earlier in his career. Other than those two there are some dominant linemen, and some of the most disruptive corners in the league. On offense the Bears are looking to Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall in the passing game, with Matt Forte in the run game. They also drafted Kyle Long, who, while a bit of a reach, should solidify one of the guard spots while newly acquired Bushrod takes over the left side of the line.
12.) Indianapolis- Andrew Luck is a stud. There’s no way around that. And the Colts will need him to show that to be contenders. The offensive line has questions, and so does the defense, but the passing game and the return game are in very good shape for the upcoming season.
13.) Washington- RG3 needs to learn a new style of play. He can do that, but it’s going to take time. The running game is there, the front 7 is there, but the secondary and the passing game still need to be proven. This should be the first time in a long time that the NFC East has a repeat champion.
14.) Pittsburg- The Steelers have fallen on hard times. Big Ben hasn’t been healthy since the last time they went to the Super bowl, and two of the best players that they had on offense are gone. Couple that with the aging defense, and that’s not a good sign in the hyper-competitive AFC North. But Mike Tomlin is still there and he’s one of the best coaches in the league.
15.) New York- Not the Jets, they suck. The Giants have lots of questions. Will David Wilson be able to carry the load? Will the pass rush get back to it’s former self? Will the offensive line get some continuity? And last, but not least: will Eli Manning learn to play football before the 4th quarter and December? Some of these will happen, others won’t.
16.) St. Louis- The rams are in a very strong division. They had the best record in the NFC West for in-division matchups. Don’t expect that to continue. But the Rams do have explosive players in the passing game, and Sam Bradford was the #1 pick for a reason. The defense is nasty and they should get plenty of pass rush again. They led the league in sacks last year, and there is no reason not to expect a repeat. But there is some concern on the running game, there’s no clear primary back, and Jake Long needs to stay healthy for his signing to be considered a success.
16.) Minnesota- If Adrian Peterson can keep doing what he does, this team will win some games. Christian Ponder has been given all the tools, but he needs to prove that he can make things happen with the play-action that we all know that EVERYONE will bite on.
17.) Dallas- Tony Romo gets a bad rap. He does all that he can…and gets all the blame. I’m not saying that some of it doesn’t fall on him, but his O-line sucked, and he had no running game. The INTs? That’s on him though.
19.) Here’s the sleeper, Buffalo- If they start Manuel you’ll see some read-options I guarantee that much, that should open up some of the passing lanes that rookies usually need. With CJ Spiller coming out of the backfield, and Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, and Da’Rick Rogers (I have no idea how he went undrafted) out wide and in the slot, that’s a very good set of receivers to throw to. You’ve also got a good backfield and O-line. With a solid D-line and linebackers, they are my sleeper to win the AFC East.
20.) Miami- Tannehill has more weapons, now he has to use them. Wallace can burn people, but he needs to catch the ball better. And Lamar Miller is explosive, but can he be consistent? The defense has Cameron Wake, who’s one of the best pass rushers in the league, and Dion Jordan as explosive as they come off the edge. Brent Grimes is one of the better corners in the league, a good signing.
21.) Tampa Bay- They have a running game, and they have a good receiver, but they need better play from the QB. They were really good against the run, but now they’re missing two of the line men that made them that way. The secondary is much improved with Revis Island now a must-see for opposing #1 receivers and Dashon Goldson at safety.
22.) Carolina- Poor Cam Newton. He’s got more natural talent than any other QB in the league, but he’s got no one to throw the ball to. For the Panthers to be successful someone other than Cam Newton has to be the team’s leading rusher. Cam can do good things with his legs, but that shouldn’t be the focus of the running game. On defense the front 7 looks good on paper, but the secondary just looks bad. You’ve got pass rushers and run stoppers, but so did the Buccaneers, their secondary sucked to high heaven and they had the worst pass defense in the NFL. You can’t have that in the NFC South, too many good passers and pass catchers.
23.) Kansas City- Andy Reid and Alex Smith should be better than the mess that the Cheifs had last year, but Andy needs to run the ball more than he likes to. That is the strength of this ball club, not the passing game. On defense there is promise, but they need to deliver. The game against Indianapolis really shows what this team needs, they won every battle, except the turnover battle. They ran for 352 yards…and lost the game.
24.) Arizona Cardinals- They needed a QB and an O-line. They got both. Larry Fitzgerald is still one of the best WRs in the game, and second-year WR Michael Floyd is looking to be good this year. That said two running backs are injured at this point, and they were the top 2 on the depth chart. The defense also lost more than half of the starters from last year, and there is a change of defensive coordinators.
25.) San Diego- Phillip Rivers needs protection, but he was considered elite at one point for a reason. Antonio Gates is still a top TE at this point, but that’s where the good news ends on offense. The O-line is a mess and Ryan Matthews can’t stay healthy. It’s just not fair.
26.) Tennessee- Jake Locker can run the read option and is very accurate on the run compared to most other QBs In the league. Chris Johnson is still one of the fastest players on the field at any point in time. But they were the worst defense in the league when it came to points, that’s right, worse than the Saints. That is NEVER a good thing.
27.) Cleveland- They have all the pieces, except at QB. Brandon Weeden should not have been drafted in the first round. He’s 29, soon to be 30. Richardson should be good, and the defense looks solid, but that QB…yikes.
28.) Detroit, I said when I talked about Atlanta that I don’t like pass-dependent offenses, well this is worse. Not only is the QB not as good as Atlanta’s, but there is only one reliable target. Yes that’s the best WR in the game, yes they signed Reggie Bush, but I’ll believe that there’s improvement when I see it.
29.) Philadelphia- Before Maclin’s injury they would have been higher, before Cooper they would have been higher (locker room issues can affect team performance), there are just too many unknown about this team. The good news is that Shady McCoy is going to get the ball more.
You know these three.
30.) Jacksonville- I know that they suck. But they have one of the better defensive coaches, and one of the best running backs in the NFL. With an improved O-line and MJD back the Jaguars should win…something at some point.
31.) New York- The QBs suck, the RBs suck, the WRs suck, and TEs suck, and the O-line has some questions too. But the defense is good enough to win 1 game at least.
32.) Oakland- Matt Flynn can’t catch a break can he? First he’s added to the team that also happens to draft one of the best young QBs in NFL history, and then he goes to Oakland. Where they have a bad O-line, a running back playing out-of-scheme, and the best WR just left for (and got injured in) Indianapolis. They have some promising talent on defense, but just not enough to win many games. And he’s on another team with a mid-round QB named Wilson.
Tell me what you think, what I got wrong, and if I’m missing any info on injuries and player acquisitions.