Preseason Predictions

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AFC East:

Patriots

Jets (Wild Card)

Bills

Dolphins

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The Patriots will run away with this division.

As Will pointed out last week, the Pats’ schedule is as lax as the gentle folk who patrol the amphitheater. They also upgraded their defense through the draft and added a much needed isolation receiver in Brandon Lloyd. Oh, and they were already 13-3 last year.

Tim Tebow replaces Mark Sanchez after a slow start and the Jets will make the playoffs. For the second straight season, the credit wrongfully goes to Tebow instead of the defense and softer competition in the latter half of the season.

The Bills are relevant but still a few pieces away from contention and Miami will battle admirably for next year’s No. 1 overall pick.

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AFC North:

Ravens

Bengals (Wild Card)

Steelers

Browns

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The tail end of a historic defense and the beginnings of legitimate offense will carry Baltimore to a Super Bowl championship.

Cincinnati will shake up the AFC North hierarchy and edge Pittsburgh, who can’t overcome a makeshift offensive line and lackluster running game.

Big Ben is playing hurt for much of the season and it shows in his performance. The Browns have a losing season, but an encouraging one, and enter 2013 with some hope.

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AFC South

Texans

Colts

Titans

Jaguars

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Houston wrapped up the division handily and won the franchise’s first playoff game. Andrew Luck bested Peyton Manning’s rookie campaign and the Colts veterans, specifically Reggie Wayne and the pass-rush, still had some left in the tank.

Chris Johnson rebounds from 2011 but doesn’t sniff his gaudy 2009 performance. If the Titans outperform this ranking, it comes on the back of their young but talented passing attack. The Jaguars remain the Jaguars.

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AFC West:

Broncos

Chiefs

Chargers

Raiders

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I’ve learned to not bet against Peyton Manning; the Colts dropped eight wins from 2010 to 2011. If the supporting cast can keep up with Peyton’s demands, this is the team to beat.

If you were to place a bag over the Chief’s head (quarterback), their other assets are certainly worth a long look, and could eventually persuade me to take a plunge. San Diego needed to fire Norv Turner two years ago; that’s all I have to say about them.

A lot has to go right for the Raiders to contend. Carson Palmer completing passing to the same colored jersey and Darren McFadden staying healthy are both key and iffy, but there’s talent here.

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NFC East:

Eagles

Giants (Wild Card)

Cowboys

Redskins

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The Eagles are a boom-or-bust team, but I don’t envy teams that play them when they’re clicking. The addition of DeMeco Ryans will be huge for a defense lacking in the linebacking core last season.

Philly represented the NFC in the Super Bowl while last year’s representatives sneak into the last playoff spot. If the Cowboys were healthy, I’d still probably prefer the Eagles and Giants, but it’d be a lot closer. Robert Griffin III will change the culture in Washington; every team in this division could win eight games.

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NFC North:

Packers

Bears (Wild Card)

Lions

Vikings

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Adding Brandon Marshall was the best move of the off season. Cutler and Marshall were extremely productive together as up-and-coming players in Denver and should be able to improve on that with added experience.

Even so, the Packers are still the cream of the crop in the North. The offense will once again be great and the defense should rebound to some degree.

I normally root for the Lions but something tells me not to this year. The lack of maturity and struggles against top teams last season turn me off. The Vikings will at least entertain despite being a not-so-good team.

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NFC South:

Falcons

Saints

Panthers

Buccaneers

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Atlanta is stacked offensively and still boasts a solid defense. If they miss the playoffs without suffering significant injuries, it’s on Matt Ryan.

 I feel the loss of Sean Payton is being overlooked as he both designed and brought in the correct players for a great offensive scheme. The receiving core lacks depth as well and the Saints narrowly missed the playoffs.

Cam Newton is great once again, but the Panthers are still a year from serious contention. The upgrades around Josh Freeman should elevate his game to a young Joe Flacco level.

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NFC West:

49ers

Seahawks

Cardinals

Rams

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I think the 49ers will come back to earth a bit, but there’s a lot to be said for having the best defense in football.

Seattle is an interesting team. With the addition of Russell Wilson, I like them better than San Fran offensively, but their defense doesn’t match up.

Arizona, please get Larry Fitzgerald a quarterback. They should have one-upped the Redskins’ offer for RG3. Another wasted talent is Steven Jackson. Will the lack of team success keep him from the Hall of Fame?