1. New England — With a renewed focus on "D" and Brandon Lloyd giving Brady the outside speed threat he has long coveted, Pats remain the team to beat in the AFC.
2. Buffalo — Though I still have my doubts about Ryan Fitzpatrick, arguably the most loaded defensive line in football will end Bills' playoff drought.
3. N.Y. Jets — Backing up Sanchez, one of the least efficient NFL starters, with an even less efficient security blanket in Tebow is a recipe for disaster.
1. Baltimore — I'm buying the increased tempo helping the Ravens' offense this season. I also think Baltimore has enough solid depth to withstand Suggs' injury.
2. Pittsburgh — One day, Big Ben's protection won't necessitate him running for his life every week. It just won't be this season. Even so, Roethlisberger and the "D" make this a wild-card team.
3. Cincinnati — I would like the Bengals a lot more if they were in a different division. A.J. Green will quickly blossom into top-five wideout but I worry about this secondary.
4. Cleveland — Like Tannehill, Weeden faces an uphill battle with a lack of pass catchers. While the offense is likely to struggle, this is an underrated "D."
1. Houston — Deep, talented, confident club ready to challenge the Patriots for AFC superiority.
2. Tennessee — Locker will show flashes of being great and the offense will be exciting. But this team is at least a year — and likely another pass rusher — away from playoff contention.
3. Jacksonville — Gabbert will make great strides under Mularkey and Olson but Jaguars' roster still lacks talent of Texans' and Titans'.
4. Indianapolis — This offense could be dangerous if Luck gets adequate protection. The defense, however, is dangrously thin and lacking the right personnel to fit Pagano's scheme.
1. Kansas City — Better health, improved depth gives Chiefs slight edge in NFL's most unpredictable division.
2. San Diego — I was more confident in a big rebound season for Rivers and Bolts before Ryan Mathews and Vincent Brown injuries.
3. Denver — A brutal schedule and leaky "D" will be too much for even a healthy Manning — and who knows if he will be healthy for all 16 games? — to overcome.
4. Oakland — Even with a healthy Darren McFadden, not high on the rebuilding Raiders. On paper, this "D," particularly the LB corps, simply isn't good enough.
1. N.Y. Giants — The Eagles might be more talented, but not by much — and certainly not at head coach or under center.
2. Philadelphia — Despite Michael Vick's fragility, Eagles have too many weapons on both sides of the ball not to make the playoffs.
3. Dallas— Sure, the defense looks much improved, but the injury-riddled offense also appears to be poised to perhaps take a step back.
4. Washington — RG3 will provide plenty of excitement and hope for the future, but the offensive line and safety position will provide headaches.
1. Green Bay — Like the Patriots, the Packers' "D" will be better. Also like the Patriots, the Packers' offense remains virtually unstoppable, making Green Bay the NFC's best.
2. Chicago — Sure, I'm concerned about Urlacher's knee. But, unlike last season, when the "D" was unable to pick up the offense after Cutler and Forté went down, an amped-up offense will do just that, carrying Chicago back to the postseason.
3. Detroit — I'm not sure the rest of the league will be able to stop Stafford-to-Megatron but I'm even less sure Detroit's unimpressive and nicked secondary will be able to stop anyone.
4. Minnesota — I like Christian Ponder's chances of improving in Year Two, but not the Vikings, who have myriad defensive issues and reside in arguably the toughest division in football.
1. New Orleans — Despite all of the adversity, let's not forget what Drew Brees and that offense are capable of, which is masking defensive shortcomings by winning a lot of shootouts.
2. Atlanta — I really wanted to pick the Falcons to break through in a big way this season, but the concerns up front on both sides of the ball are too much to overlook.
3. Carolina — Can the "D" catch up enough to Newton and the high-flying offense? It says here that is more likely to happen in 2013.
4. Tampa Bay — Greg Schiano has this team heading in the right direction. Much like the Panthers, however, the "D" still needs more talent in a division ruled by offense.
1. San Francisco — The "D" has no weaknesses. Alex Smith was given a number of shiny new toys on offense. I'm extremely impressed by the Niners — just not quite as impressed as I am by Rodgers and the Pack.
2. Seattle — I was already excited to watch this young and physical "D." With Russell Wilson under center, I am equally excited to see the Seahawks' offense try and take flight.
3. Arizona — Yes, the Cardinals played great down the stretch, particularly on "D." No, there is not enough talent to compensate for a laughable situation at QB, along the offensive line.
4. St. Louis — Difficult to gauge how good Sam Bradford can be with an offensive line this bad. Bradford and young playmakers on "D" will have to be special to make Rams competitive.
Offensive MVP: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Defensive MVP: 49ers OLB Aldon Smith
Super Bowl XLVII: Packers over Patriots
- Ryan Tannehill
- Ryan Fitzpatrick