1. New England — Closed out preseason by losing three in a row. I doubt they lose two in a row in the regular season.
2. Buffalo — Gotta like the bold signing of Mario Williams. Time to make a move up in the standings, even though they went 0-4 in the preseason.
3. N.Y. Jets — I have very little faith in the offense under Mark Sanchez, and Tim Tebow’s not the answer either. By the way: Jets were 0-4 in the preseason.
4. Miami — What’s with this division? Another 0-4 exhibition season from another AFC East team.
1. Baltimore — It’s hard not to like what John Harbaugh has done in his four seasons: 44-20 regular-season record with at least one playoff win in each season.
2. Pittsburgh — Club may be aging in some spots, but it’s hard to bet against Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau and Ben Roethlisberger making it back to the postseason.
3. Cincinnati — Good enough to qualify for a second-straight wild-card berth? History suggests they aren’t. In nine seasons at the helm, Marvin Lewis has never had back-to-back winning seasons.
4. Cleveland — Everybody’s coaching and playing for their jobs with a new owner on his way in.
1. Houston — Despite loss of Mario Williams, the Texans’ defense led the AFC with 17 sacks in the preseason.
2. Tennessee — Excited to watch Jake Locker, but his inevitable low points will keep this team out of the postseason.
3. Jacksonville — Playing hardball with Maurice Jones-Drew was the right long-term strategy for the franchise. But it could cost them in the short term.
4. Indianapolis — Andrew Luck is ready to be an NFL starter, but not ready to win many games in 2012 with this rebuilding team.
1. Denver — Peyton Manning’s return won’t be without its hiccups, but he plays well enough to power Broncos to second-straight division title.
2. Kansas City — A lot of people believe this is a sleeper team. Me? Not yet.
3. San Diego — I may be in the minority, but have always been a fan of Norv Turner. However, if he doesn’t get his team into playoffs this year, his dismissal would be justified.
4. Oakland — Raiders fans don’t strike me as patient, but they’re going to need to be as Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen make over this franchise.
1. N.Y. Giants — It all came together at the right time last season. They followed up their last Super Bowl championship with a 12-4 record and division title. Will do it again.
2. Philadelphia — One of two teams to finish preseason 4-0, the Eagles will carry over some of that success to the regular season and then the postseason, as a wild card.
3. Dallas — Something tells me that Jason Garrett will be feeling the heat if the Cowboys don’t finish significantly higher in the standings.
4. Washington — Selection of RG3 probably bought Father and Son Shanahan duo another year.
1. Green Bay — There’s no slowing down this offense. Must improve significantly on defense, or they’ll be winning a lot of 35-27 games.
2. Chicago — If the O-line comes together, the offense has a chance to become explosive. But the defense might begin to show its age.
3. Detroit — The offseason distractions can’t help but take a toll, no? I forecast a small step back in 2012.
4. Minnesota — Too much to overcome in a supercompetitive division. At least the Vikings fans can look forward to getting a new stadium.
1. New Orleans — With a supersized chip on their shoulder, the Saints won’t miss a beat without Sean Payton.
2. Atlanta — Roddy White-Julio Jones combo will be fun to watch.
3. Carolina — Cam Newton won’t be smiling when the Panthers fail to crack .500 in 2012.
4. Tampa Bay — Wonder if Raheem Morris was steamed that the team went on offseason spending spree after he was fired.
1. San Francisco — Will they come falling back to earth after shocking turnaround last season? I don’t think so.
2. Seattle — Surprising fact: No team scored more points (122) or allowed fewer points (44) in the 2012 preseason. And they went 4-0.
3. Arizona — QB mess could have Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves feeling the heat in the not-too-distant future.
4. St. Louis — Like the Jeff Fisher hiring, but he hasn’t won a playoff game since 2003 season. It will be a few more seasons before he wins one in St. Louis, too.
Offensive MVP: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Defensive MVP: Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Super Bowl XLVII: Packers over Patriots
- Mario Williams