After an off-season of discontent, the NFL season is about to get under way. We offer our predictions…
AFC East (Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets)
The Patriots are favourites to take the division again. Adding troublesome duo Ochocinco and Haynesworth who we expect to be valuable assets . The Jets look to Mark Sanchez for a breakout season and recruiting gun-toting jailbird Plaxico Burress will add firepower. Miami will do well to win seven again after failing to lure Kyle Orton from the Broncos and the Bills offer little by way of a threat.
Divisional winners – Patriots; Playoffs – Jets
AFC North (Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals)
Falling at the last hurdle, the Steelers look to make that final step. With “Big Ben” Roethlisberger available from the start and the defense looking solid, the head to heads with the Ravens are the key. The two Ray’s, Rice and Lewis are key and Joe Flacco will need to raise it a level for them to go all the way. The Browns with newly crowned Madden Football cover boy Peyton Hillis will struggle and the Bengals expect too much from Andy Dalton.
Divisional winners – Steelers; Playoffs – Ravens
AFC South (Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans)
With the Colts going into the regular season game without Peyton Manning for the last time in 14 seasons, a problematic season lies ahead for them. Veteran Kerry Collins has been drafted in to cover but they will struggle. The door’s open for the Texans to reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Quarterback Matt Schaub has weapons at his disposal with Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Tennessee will be competent with Matt Hasselbeck and in Chris Johnson have the league’s premier running back. No chance for the Jags here.
Divisional winners – Texans
AFC West (Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers)
The Chargers to take it here. With the best passing QB in the league, Philip Rivers will use Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates whilst the running backs will help out. The Chiefs are second best and Matt Cassel will prove his worth after living in the shadow of Tom Brady whilst a Patriots. The Raiders are light this season to challenge and Tebow/ Orton fuss has clouded their pre-season.
Divisional winners – Chargers
NFC East (Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Washington Redskins)
Eagles might have had a shot with a full preseason but Michael Vick will need to replicate his astounding numbers again (unlikely.) They’ll take the division but will fall short ultimately. The Cowboys will be solid if Romo has a good year and the Giants defense has too many injuries to make a real push. Eli Manning will be looking to cut out his interceptions. The Redskins have too many problems and Grossman is not their answer.
Divisional winners – Eagles
NFC North (Chicago Bears, Detriot Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings)
Packers are there to be shot at but QB Aaron Rodgers is ready for it. With a clean bill of health, they look strong to repeat their success. The Lions will improve and in Matthew Stafford have a real talent. The Bears overachieved last season (many forget that they not the Packers won the division) and Jay Cutler will be under pressure to perform. Vikings have too many issues to compete – McNabb will help out star running back Adrian Peterson but it won’t be enough.
Divisional winners – Packers; Playoffs – Lions
NFC South (Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Most competitive division. Drew Brees will lead his team to the title but the Falcons won’t surrender. Arguably the three best draft selections are here, Alabama’s Julio Jones (Falcons) and Mark Ingram (Saints) will impress and overall no. 1 pick Cam Newton (Panthers) will have to adapt quickly. Bucs quarterback Jason Freeman is our outside bet for the league’s MVP too.
Divisional winners – Saints; Playoffs – Buccaneers
NFC West (Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St Louis Rams)
Weak, weak, weak. Sam Bradford will have a big year and lead his Rams to the title. Kevin Kolb might be the QB the Cardinals need to help out Larry Fitzgerald. The Seahawks and 49ers both have problems. 49ers stick with Alex Smith (we’ll remind them he was their no. 1 pick over some kid called Rodgers!) They will secure the worst record and look to draft Stanford QB and almost certain number 1 draft pick, Andrew Luck next year.
Divisional winners – Rams
By Conan Jal