1. New England Patriots- The Patriots enter this year as the team to beat. The Steelers winning the Super Bowl has no bearing on this year. Tom Brady coming back does, however. In his limited preseason action, Tom Brady looked like the quarterback we all knew he was going to look like. A minor shoulder injury sent Patriot fans into a frenzy, but Tom Brady is 100%. Randy Moss and Wes Welker will have Pro Bowl years again, and the running game will just be another wrinkle in the Pats dynamic offense. The defense has accomplished what they wanted to do. They have gotten younger and faster. The trade of Seymour was shocking and saddening, but Jarvis Green could start on most NFL teams. Not to mention, Derrick Burgess could see some time at defensive end. The parts are in place for another Super Bowl title, and anything short of that would be a disappointment for Bill Belichick.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers looked solid all preseason, and haven't made any moves since the draft. This is a team bringing back 21 of 22 starters that won the Super Bowl. A repeat is very possible, as they have one of the easiest schedules in the league. A major key to their success will be there run game, as they can't rely on that offensive line to protect Big Ben. Rashard Mendenhall will be healthy this year, and will have to step up to take pressure off of fast Willie Parker. The Steelers are focused, and know they are more than likely going to have to go through New England to repeat as Super Bowl champs.
3. Minnesota Vikings- This team is scary good. Adrian Peterson is virtually unstoppable, and their receiving core just got even faster with the addition of speedster Percy Harvin. Brett Favre isn't the Brett Favre of old, but he will still put up great numbers in an exceptionally explosive offense. The defense is top 5 as well, with the best defensive line in football that includes the William's Wall and Jared Allen. The linebacking core is young and fast, and Antione Winfield is the best tackling corner in the league. The Vikes are the team to beat in the NFC, and should represent their conference in the Super Bowl.
4. San Diego Chargers- The Chargers seem to be entirely overhyped, but I think they will perform up to these lofty standards this year. LT has declared his is back and ready wreck havoc on the league again, and Phillip Rivers is becoming a premier quarterback in this league. The receiving core is extremely deep, with weapons such as Buster Davis, Chris Chambers, and Vincent Jackson. Plus, they have All Pro tight end Antonio Gates. The defense is pretty good too, even though Shawne Merriman may be facing a suspension. This team will breeze through the AFC West, and only time will tell if they will perform in the playoffs.
5. Philadelphia Eagles- This team continues to drop in my eyes. First, they have all the loses on the defensive side of the ball. Now, they have the Michael Vick factor. Fans are going to want to see him on the field, but that means yanking Donovan McNabb off of the field for 10-12 plays a game. McNabb is the franchise, and should be taking every single snap behind center. If Vick comes in, he will disrupt the flow of Donovan McNabb, and the offense will struggle. However, as I said before, I love what they did in the draft. They have a ton of talent, and should battle it out with Minnesota for a birth in the Super Bowl.
6. Baltimore Ravens- Joe Flacco is the real deal. He will not experience a sophomore slump, and I think the Ravens will fall just short of taking down the Steelers in the North, but will still snatch a Wild Card spot. Their defense will still be nasty, even though they lost Bart Scott. Derrick Mason is a great number one option, as he is a tough, wily veteran who makes Flacco's job easy. The running game also simplifies Flacco's job, and they have three capable running backs in McGahee, Ray Rice, and McClain. A repeat appearence in the AFC championship game is a possibility.
7. Green Bay Packers- This team is my big mover. I have been so impressed with Aaron Rodgers this preseason, and they have a ton of weapons. Greg Jennings is one of the best young wideouts in the game, and Donald Driver is that consistent possession receiver that always makes big plays. Aaron Rodgers is a great young quarterback, and he will make this offense nearly unstoppable. Plus, the defense has been upgraded through the draft. BJ Raji, AJ Hawk, and the corner duo of Al Harris and Charles Woodson spearhead this young, fast defense. The Pack suffered numerous injuries last year on defense, and all those players are healthy. The Pack could win the NFC North, but it is going to be a dogfight.
8. Tennessee Titans- This team just finds ways to win. They aren't going to dazzle you, and really their only star on offense is Chris Johnson. Kerry Collins IS just a game manager, but the offensive line is so solid that they allow him all day to throw. They rely on the run game, and now that LenDale White has given up the Patron, he is slimmer and can handle a bigger load. The defense is nasty like the Ravens, and they too rely on defense and the running game. The Titans should win a tough AFC South, as they are best coached team in that division.
9. Indianapolis Colts- This team is my big faller. I just don't see it happening this year for Peyton and crew. They just don't have enough offensive weapons to hang with the Pats or the Chargers, or to go up against the ferocious defenses of the Steelers, Ravens, or Titans. Their defense is pretty bad, and their All Pro safety is always injured. Peyton Manning's consectutive playoff appearences may end this year if a surprise team comes out of nowhere and steals the last Wild Card spot. The loss of Tony Dungy really hurts this team, as well.
10. Arizona Cardinals- Maybe the only offense in the NFL on par with the New England Patriots. Larry Fitzgerald is an absolute freak, and Anquan Boldin could be most teams' number one option. Kurt Warner can still get the job done, and Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells give the Cards a formidable young, one-two punch at tailback. The defense is led by Darnell Dockett at defensive tackle and Adrian Wilson at safety. I don't think this team will make it back to the Super Bowl, and I really wouldn't be shocked to see the Seattle Seahawks win this division. However, as of now the Cards proved themselves, and on paper look like the best team in the NFC West.