Its that time of year where the amount of news coming out of the NFL is so slow the only thing worth talking about is predictions for next season.
1. Philadelphia Eagles: A lot of people are behind this pick, but the reason I make it is because I respect the hell out of Reid and really liked the football this team played down the stretch last year. If they can translate that play to a consistent level in 2012 I don't see why they shouldn't make a deep playoff run.
2. New York Giants: I loved the way the Giants played in the postseason last year (how could you not?), but the reason I don't think they'll win the division is looking at how they played in the regular season. Let's not forget this team was a couple plays from being out of the playoffs, and for much of the regular season they were nothing without Manning. Speaking of Eli, I loved his play in 2012 and he sure as hell backed up his elite predicition from the summer, but looking at his career as a whole the only thing that has held him back is consistency. Last year was honestly the first season where he was consistently elite, and I think its fair to question whether he can do the same next year.
3. Washington Redskins: I think Shanny's coaching for his job, and he'll keep it with some improvement in a close-to-if-not .500 season. He's finally got a QB who fits his system and with a decent D and classic Shanny run game, I like where this team is going.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Every year this team says they'll get over the hump, but I just don't see it. I can't really pick apart their roster because they look good on paper and I love Rob Ryan, but I just can't buy into this team after seeing them choke and play below expectations each year. I have a feeling they go sub .500 and they'll look for a replacement for Romo early in the draft.
1. Green Bay Packers: When you have a top 3 QB (if he's not the best in the league), its hard to bet against them in the reguar season. I like what they did for their D in the draft and they'll need it to improve in order to go deep in the playoffs.
2. Chicago Bears: Before Cutler went down, this team was a 1B to the Packers 1A. I really like the idea of Cutler and Marshall back together and in an O that won't put too much pressure on a shaky line. This pick hinges on a non-holdout from Forte, but I think the Bears know they need him too much to let this drag on.
3. Detroit Lions: I hate to put a team this good this low in their division, but IMO, this is the best division in football, so a 3rd place finish doesn't mean no playoffs for them. I think they'll be around 10 wins but I'm really scared of their secondary and the lack of health in their backfield.
4. Minnesota Vikings: No shock here. Ponder's still developing, Harvin's a headcase, and who knows how good AP will be even if he comes back early in the year. Add in a mediocre D in a grueling division and this doesn't look pretty for a sub par team.
1. Atlanta Falcons: This is one of the more underrated teams in the league. They don't have many glaring weaknesses and are just an overall good team. I think Ryan needs to take another step for this team to make noise in the playoffs, but he's a hardworker with a good head on his shoulders so I wouldn't bet against him.
2. Carolina Panthers: I'm not making this pick so much because I like the Panthers as much as I doubt the rest of this division, which I'll get into later. The key for this team is the defense and while the Kuechly pick will help I don't think it gets them over the hump to the upper echilon of the NFL. I expect a near .500 record.
3. New Orleans Saints: You gotta feel bad for their fans. Things are not looking good. They made some nice FA moves for the D but with the Brees holdout and the Bounty scandal I think this team takes a nose dive.
4. Tampa Bay Bucs: I love the Schiano hire as an NJ native, but this is more then a one year thing. the 10 win season was clearly a fluke and I think this team is a couple years of good coaching/drafting from being a good team.
1. San Fransisco 49ers: Hard not to pick them, the rest of the division is not up to snuff. I don't expect Smith to make great improvements but the rest of this team is good enough to carry this team back to the playoffs.
2. Seattle Seahawks: The D is good as is Lynch, but again this comes to the QB's. I think its pretty telling that Philbin wasn't gung-ho on signing Flynn, Russell Wilson is probably a couple years from making an impact in this league (if he can actually make one), and Tavaris Jackson just sucks. But this team's good enough to stave off the bottom half of this division.
3. St. Louis Rams: Hard to bet against Fisher. I was never a big fan of his in Tennesee but he never really had awful teams there. They made some strides in the draft but this OL is still in shambles and the D has some ways to go, as well as essentially nothing at WR.
4. Arizona Cardinals: Hard to get excited about either Kolb or Skelton. The D played well down the stretch but they're counting on a lot of question marks for it. OL is just awful and that will hinder their already mediocre QB play.
1. New England Patriots: I predicted the Jets would win last year and now I look stupid. I won't make the same mistake of betting against BB and Brady. I like the D's chances for improvement this year as well, and despite a questionable backfield this is an elite team.
2. Buffalo Bills: This is becoming a popular pick, but for good reason. Their success hinges on Fitzpatrick but I still like the squad they have around him.
3. New York Jets: So you come off of a dissapointing season where you miss the playoffs and your biggest move is trading for a backup QB? The D should still be good but I think it may begin to regress, and the O should continue to be average even with Sparano.
4. Miami Dolphins: Things just aren't looking good for this team. The Hard Knocks, Ochocinco, and Tannehill pick just scream publicity and no substance. If Philbin is successful in this league it will be in a couple years from now.
1. Cincinatti Bengals: Looking at the 3 teams from this division that made the playoffs, this is the only team I think is clearly on the rise. I'm looking forward to Dalton and Green in year two as well as the D, but I'm not a fan of the Law Firm as a go to back. He's a good short-yardage guy but by no means should he be a lead back.
2. Baltimore Ravens: The Suggs loss will hurt, and so should the Rice holdout. Even if they get that fixed, Ray Ray and Reed are only getting older and I don't think the rest of the D (besides Ngata) is talented enough to make up for their likely regression. Still despite the bad I think this is a playoff team.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mendy won't be 100% early in the season and I think it may be a tall order to count on 2 rookies on the OL, even though they are pretty talented. On the other side of the ball, the D is getting very old and I don't know if they can continue to be elite. I'm not predicting a horrible season but I honestly think this team will have trouble getting in the playoffs.
4. Cleveland Browns: No brainer here. T-Rich should make an immediate impact and I think Weeden will be an immediate imrovement over McCoy, but this team has so many holes around them its hard to see them climbing out of the cellar of a tough division.
1. Houston Texans: People worry about the loss of Williams, but he was barely a part of their best season in franchise history. Schaub should be good to go, and if he is this team is just too good for the rest of the division.
2. Tennesee Titans: One of the leagues more underrated teams, while they're not elite they have a pretty solid roster. I think either Locker or Hasselbeck should be good enough to be a 9 win team, but I don't think they have the roster/talent the Texans have, even if CJ comes back to form.
3. Indianapolis Colts: Not predicting much from this team, but they should be better then the Jags. I think Luck will be better early off then people think and should be good enough to improve this team from its horrid 11 campaign.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: The only thing to write home about with this team wants a new contract and it doesn't seem the team wants to budge. Henne nor Gabbert excite me and I think the statistical finish of the D was a fluke.
1. Denver Broncos: Who did you expect me to pick? PM at 90% is still a top 10 QB in this league and the D should continue to improve despite yet another new coordinator.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty scared of this squad. On paper I think they have a better roster then my Broncos but I think a sub par Cassell will keep them in second in this division. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if this race comes down to the last week between the 2.
3. San Diego Chargers: I think Rivers should improve, but losing Jackson will hurt and I just don;t like this D overall. Couple that with them having no legitimate options in case Matthews goes down and I have trouble seeing them in the playoffs. I think an 8-8 finish is a best case scenario.
4. Oakland Raiders: I love Dennis Allen, and I think he can be good in Oakland, but not right now. Al Davis' horrible GM-ing caught up to this team and they did the best they could to get out of salary cap hell. It'll be a couple years and a couple high draft picks before this team contends for anything.