1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Begin the season on top until knocked off their throne.
2. New England Patriots
First 11-5 team in a long time not to make playoffs, should be back in charge with Brady healthy.
3. New York Giants
Had some injuries that hurt them down the stretch in 2008 but defense and run game should be strong again.
4. Tennessee Titans
Best team in the NFL in the regular season. They lost Haynesworth but still have a solid defense with a strong run game.
5. Indianapolis Colts
Lost their head coach, offensive coordinator, and long-time leading receiver. But they still have Manning.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Should be one of the favorites this year with their defense, Brian Westbrook, and Donovan McNabb.
7. Carolina Panthers
Physical team that will run the ball down the throats of many defenses and always has the threat of Steve Smith outside.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Should have the final piece of the puzzle solved with Favre, but they have to show it on the field.
9. San Diego Chargers
Have been one of the most talented teams in the league for many years but can’t get over that playoff hurdle.
10. Baltimore Ravens
Lost their defensive coordinator but will stick to the formula that has given them success.
11. Arizona Cardinals
Out to prove that last year was no miracle, but I’m not convinced that they’re a legitimate playoff team.
12. Atlanta Falcons
Another team that still has some convincing to do. Is Matt Ryan the real deal? Is Michael Turner, for that matter? Show me.
13. Chicago Bears
Have new defensive coaches in place and a solid quarterback.
14. Green Bay Packers
Lost a lot of games last year by 4 points or less and want to prove that the NFC North is a 3-team race and not just 2.
15. New Orleans Saints
Always have had an explosive offense but now have upgraded their defense and should make a run at the NFC South crown.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Loss of T.O. will temper their explosiveness but could be better off in long run.
17. Miami Dolphins
Success from gimmick offenses rarely last, so I need to see continued success before I’m a believer.
18. Houston Texans
They’ve had the unfortunate task of trying to make the playoffs in a tough division and conference, but could sneak in this year with a high-powered offense and improving defense.
19. Seattle Seahawks
We could see a resurgence with a healthy Matt Hasselbeck and the addition of rookie linebacker Aaron Curry and wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
20. Washington Redskins
Signed Haynesworth in the off-season but still have a lot of problems. Need to rely on their run game an awful lot.
21. Buffalo Bills
Can Edwards get the ball to Owens enough to keep him satisfied? Better yet, can that bad offensive line keep Edwards standing upright?
22. Cincinnati Bengals
A healthy Carson Palmer should make the Bengals much better this season. Was Cedric Benson’s late season success for real?
23. New York Jets
They’ll punch you in the mouth this year under new coach Rex Ryan, but lack an awful lot of talent.
24. San Francisco 49ers
Can Mike Singletary finally make this team respectable? He can teach them how to play, but he can’t improve their quarterback position.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars flopped last year after a great 2007 campaign. Which team is the real Jaguars team? Until they prove otherwise, I have to think the 2008 team.
26. Denver Broncos
Kyle Orton should keep the team afloat given his tendency not to force turnovers, but he’s clearly a step down from Cutler and will not help this team into the playoffs. Defense is still a problem.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This certainly isn’t the Buccaneers of old. Age and a new coaching staff will make Tampa Bay struggle.
28. Kansas City Chiefs
I don’t think Todd Haley is going to be a good head coach but he should infuse some excitement into a young offense that showed great promise last year.
29. Cleveland Browns
I don’t see this team heading anywhere but down. As the old saying goes, when you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.
30. St. Louis Rams
The Rams should make some positive strides this year but they’re still missing a lot of pieces from becoming a contending team.
31. Oakland Raiders
Are they really moving in the right direction? Tried to trade for Richard Seymour and he wouldn’t show up. They have a few young playmakers on offense, though.
32. Detroit Lions
They have to start off on the bottom because they didn’t win a game last year, but I don’t think they’ll be the worst team in the league this year after a major change in culture up there.
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- Bears defense plays with a purpose against Lions
- Alshon Jeffery and the long ball take back seat to Eddie Royal’s short game
- Jordan Howard flashes potential -- and shades of Matt Forte
- Kevin White’s arrow pointing up despite injury
- Bears Quarterback Controversy? It’s Jay Cutler’s job
- Bears sign former Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell
- Bears promote QB Matt Barkley from the practice squad
- Bears taking step backward to take two steps forward?
- Robbie Gould missed, but rightfully gone