I'm not a genius. I'm not any kind of psychic. Without being one of those two things, there's a good chance I'm not going to get much of this right. Basically, I do it for fun.
The bottom line is that there is little way of knowing what will happen. I read theories that half the teams from 2007 will repeat as playoff teams. I think that's sound. I don't have a 50/50 turnover from last year, but I'm pretty close.
Here is my shot at the final division standings:
Comment -->The Browns will be an improved team overall, but they take a step back in the standings because they simply won't be as fortunate. Their secondary is still a problem, too. Pittsburgh will be the weakest division winner in the AFC, probably a 9-7/10-6 team as a ceiling. I just don't see Cincinnati or Cleveland mounting a serious challenge.
1. New England
2. N.Y. Jets
Comment -->The Patriots are still the top dog. No doubt in my mind about that. Tom Brady will be fine, and his supporting cast is simply the best in the league. However, Brett Favre and the Jets will put up a fight. I will go out on a limb and say the gap between the Pats and Jets will be less than that between the Jets and Bills. Buffalo and Miami will both be improved, but in Buffalo's case, the record won't show the improvement (similar to Cleveland).
Comment -->I think you'll see the guard change here, if only temporarily. Two things scare me about this Colts team. The first is the stunning lack of depth (as evidenced by their woeful special teams). The second is the speed at which Jacksonville has risen to a similar level as Indianapolis. They're in need of more week-to-week consistency, and that's about the only thing keeping them from being a heavy favorite. Houston will continue to show improvement, and they may challenge the Jets and Bengals for the last playoff spot.
1. San Diego
4. Kansas City
Comment -->Look for the Chargers to make their best run this year. The team is stacked, and even if Shawne Merriman can't stay healthy, they have the skill all over the field to beat anyone in the AFC. Denver is the closest thing they'll have to a challenger, but I don't take that team seriously. There are simply too many fatal flaws.
1. Green Bay
Comment -->ESPN's Bill Simmons says the Packers win this division by three games. I see that, but I'm not so confident as to predict it. The Packers are good enough to win 10-12 games, even without Favre and with Aaron Rodgers. But the Vikings are a very good team around an average quarterback. We've seen that done before. It all depends on the defense being dominant instead of hit-and-miss, and that's something we just don't see enough of from the Vikings.
3. N.Y. Giants
Comment -->While the Giants are defending champs, and the Eagles have the best quarterback in the division, the Cowboys have the best and most well-balanced team. That is what it will take for them to win this division. The Redskins will struggle under a new coach, and the Eagles will just miss out on a division title because of questions surrounding Donovan McNabb.
2. New Orleans
3. Tampa Bay
Comment -->While the Saints still have defensive questions, Carolina appears to have the least-flawed team in the division. They are okay on defense, and will be even more than that if Julius Peppers rebounds with a big season. Jake Delhomme is healthy, and that's good for them. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers need help all over the offense, and the Falcons have a rookie quarterback.
3. St. Louis
4. San Francisco
Comment -->Ouch. Seattle wins hands-down, despite having a team that probably wouldn't make the playoffs in the AFC. Arizona is this close, again. San Francisco is a mess, but I've heard of stranger things than J.T. O'Sullivan coming out of nowhere to be a solid quarterback.
AFC: N.Y. Jets, Indianapolis
NFC: Minnesota, Philadelphia
Conference championship games
AFC: San Diego over New England
NFC: Green Bay over Dallas
San Diego over Green Bay