1. New England Patriots- Previous ranking: (1)
What we like: The best quarterback in the game is back healthy and motivated, as well as the most lethal set of offensive weapons in the NFL. The defense has been upgraded through the draft and free agency and there really are very few holes or questions.
What we don’t like: The punter isn’t great, but the Pats shouldn’t be punting often.
Record range: If everything goes well, 16-0 is a possibility. If Brady gets hurt, they’ll still win 10 or more games. Our guess: 14-2.
2. Philadelphia Eagles- Previous ranking: (2)
What we like: The best set of weapons McNabb has ever had.
What we don’t like: Right side of the offensive line and linebackers.
Record range: If everything goes well, 12-4. If there are injuries to McNabb, they could miss the playoffs. Our guess: 11-5.
3. San Diego Chargers- Previous ranking: (3)
What we like: Rivers, a healthy O-line, and a healthy pass rush.
What we don’t like: L.T. is past his prime and we’re not sure if Sproles can handle the bulk of the carries if Tomlinson goes down.
Record range: Upside is 14-2, downside is 10-6. Our guess: 12-4.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers- Previous ranking: (5)
What we like: One of the most gutsiest QB’s in the game and the league’s best defense.
What we don’t like: Offensive line and a potential Super Bowl hangover
Record range: Upside is 12-4, downside is 10-6. Our guess: 11-5.
5. New York Giants- Previous ranking: (4)
What we like: Great coaching, a great rushing attack, and a fierce pass rush.
What we don’t like: Questions at WR that must be answered by young players.
Record range: If the WR’s are good, 13-3, if they aren’t, 10-6. Our guess: 11-5.
6. Minnesota Vikings- Previous ranking: (11)
What we like: The best RB in the game and the best defensive line.
What we don’t like: Favre could be a little rusty missing all the OTA’s, and the TE position is a little weak.
Record range: They could easily win 13 games. If Favre doesn’t sign, they could miss the playoffs entirely. Our guess: 11-5
7. Indianapolis Colts- Previous ranking: (8)
What we like: A seemingly improved rushing attack and a healthy Bob Sanders and Peyton Manning to start the season.
What we don’t like: Coaching changes and an older core of stars that could fall off any time.
Record range: They’ve won 12 or more games for six straight years, why can’t they make it seven? If Manning gets hurt this is probably a six win team. Our guess: 10-6.
8. Houston Texans- Previous ranking: (7)
What we like: The league’s third-best offense in-tact from a year ago, and one of the best front-seven’s in the league on paper.
What we don’t like: The secondary has questions, and the health of Matt Schaub is always a concern.
Record range: They are talented enough to win 12 games, but if Schaub goes down for an extended period of time, it’s probably another 8-8 year. Our guess: 10-6.
9. Chicago Bears- Previous ranking: (6)
What we like: Finally, the Bears have a big-time QB to go along with Matt Forte.
What we don’t like: An aging defense that in previous years has been more bark than bite.
Record range: If the defense returns to ’06 form, they could win 12 games. They could also miss the playoffs. Our guess: 11-5.
10. Tennessee Titans- Previous ranking: (10)
What we like: An improved set of weapons for Kerry Collins to throw to, as well as the best offensive line in the game. Great RB’s too.
What we don’t like: A potential distraction with Vince Young and a possible fall-off with their pass rush.
Record range: The defending AFC South champs could win 12 games. If Collins gets hurt or is ineffective, they could be a .500 team. Our guess: 10-6.
11. New Orleans Saints- Previous ranking: (12)
What we like: Drew Brees, who makes all his WR’s better than they are, and an improved secondary.
What we don’t like: the linebackers are average and there’s no short-yardage back.
Record range: This team could win 12 games with a little luck. If Brees gets hurt, it gets ugly. Our guess: 11-5.
12. Seattle Seahawks- Previous ranking (21)
What we like: A great defense and a very good home field advantage. Add in a motivated Matt Hasselbeck and T. J. Houshmandzadeh and this could be an excellent team.
What we don’t like: The running back situation is dicey, and the offensive line needs to stay healthy.
Record range: If everything goes well, this could be an 11 or 12 win team. If Hasselbeck gets hurt, another terrible season is possible. Our guess: 10-6.
13. Buffalo Bills- Previous ranking: (9)
What we like: A great set of weapons for Trent Edwards to throw to, and a very underrated coach.
What we don’t like: The offensive line and the defensive line.
Record range: If the Bills can protect Edwards, they can win double-digit games. If the lines aren’t good, this is a .500 team. Our guess: 10-6.
14. Carolina Panthers- Previous ranking: (13)
What we like: A fantastic ground game and a motivated Julius Peppers.
What we don’t like: John Fox has never had two winning seasons in a row, and we’re not convinced that Delhomme can still get it done.
Record range: They have 11 or 12 win potential. Our guess: 9-7.
15. Cincinnati Bengals- Previous ranking: (16)
What we like: A team with great offensive weapons and a chip on their shoulders.
What we don’t like: The running back position and the pass rush.
Record range: This team could be the surprise of the NFL. If Carson is hurt again, they will lose double-digit games. Our guess: 9-7.
16. Baltimore Ravens- Previous ranking: (17)
What we like: Good, young QB, nice set of RB’s, and an impact player on all three levels of the defense.
What we don’t like: The cornerback position, the WR’s don’t scare anyone, and the loss of Rex Ryan.
Record range: Baltimore overachieved a bit last year and this year will be tough for them to replicate with an improved Bengals team inside the division. They could be a wildcard with 10 wins, or finish 7-9. Our guess: 8-8.
17. Atlanta Falcons- Previous ranking: (15)
What we like: Great young quarterback and an excellent rushing attack.
What we don’t like: The schedule gets much tougher and their secondary is suspect.
Record range: Many people think this team will win the division, but it won’t be that easy. Our guess: 8-8.
18. Arizona Cardinals- Previous ranking: (14)
What we like: The best WR in the game in Larry Fitzgerald and one of the best QB’s in Kurt Warner. Chris “Beanie” Wells should help last season’s 32nd ranked rushing attack, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could be the best corner in the NFC in 2009.
What we don’t like: Everyone wants to get paid following a Super Bowl and there are some potential cracks in team chemistry. Defense will miss Antonio Smith and the offense will miss Todd Haley.
Record range: They’re obviously talented, but we believe they will fall the way of most Super Bowl losers and miss the playoffs. They have 10-6 potential, but we think far less of them. Our guess: 7-9.
19. Dallas Cowboys- Previous ranking: (23)
What we like: A great one-two punch in the backfield in Marion Barber and Felix Jones, and the best OLB/DE in the game in DeMarcus Ware. The secondary should be much improved.
What we don’t like: Wade Phillips isn’t a leader and owner Jerry Jones meddles too much down the stretch. Is Romo for real?
Record range: Another team with 12 win talent, but will probably fall plenty short of that number. Our guess: 8-8.
20. Miami Dolphins- Previous ranking: (19)
What we like: Great coaching, a nice young defensive nucleus, and one of the best safety tandems in the NFL.
What we don’t like: A budding quarterback controversy and a murderers row schedule.
Record range: We just don’t see the Dolphins returning to double-digit victories. Our guess: 6-10.
21. Green Bay Packers- Previous ranking: (18)
What we like: Good young quarterback, great set of WR’s, and an improving offensive line.
What we don’t like: Aging secondary, switching of defensive philosophies, and some impending contract situations.
Record range: They are a good team with 10-win potential if everything goes right. We don’t believe everything will go right. Our guess: 7-9.
22. Kansas City Chiefs- Previous ranking: (20)
What we like: Todd Haley will get the most out of that offense, and we love Dwayne Bowe. Lots of young players with potential on that defense, and they play in a soft division.
What we don’t like: Offensive line issues, no more go-to-guy in Tony Gonzalez, and the secondary is questionable.
Record range: Will probably finish with an inflated record due to their schedule. Our guess: 8-8.
23. New York Jets- Previous ranking: (22)
What we like: Leadership at the top with Rex Ryan, and one of the very best secondary’s in the game. Very good offensive line, and nice weapons in the backfield.
What we don’t like: Rookie quarterback, wide receivers, and defensive line other than Kris Jenkins.
Record range: This could be an eight or nine win team if Sanchez plays well. We don’t see him playing all that well right away. Our guess: 7-9.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars- Previous ranking: (23)
What we like: Maurice Jones-Drew, Torry Holt, and a much improved offensive line.
What we don’t like: Chemistry issues still are lingering and the defensive line is a major question mark. Which way is Reggie Nelson’s career going to go?
Record range: The Jaguars will be better this year, but they play in a very difficult division. Neither 9-7 nor 4-12 would be very much of a surprise. Our guess: 6-10.
25. Oakland Raiders- Previous ranking: (27)
What we like: Very good talent on defense, including the game’s best corner in Nnamdi Asomugha.
What we don’t like: Pretty much everything on offense and the losing culture that has manifested.
Record range: This is a team with eight or nine win talent. That said…Our guess: 6-10.
26. Cleveland Browns- Previous ranking: (26)
What we like: Very good offensive line and what could be a good QB in Brady Quinn. Shaun Rogers is still dominant.
What we don’t like: Will Braylon Edwards be able to catch the forward pass? They will struggle running the football with Jamal Lewis.
Record range: They are clearly the least talented team in their division. Our guess: 4-12.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Previous ranking: (31)
What we like: Pretty good targets in Kellen Winslow and Antonio Bryant, and they have some good quarterback depth. Barrett Ruud is very good.
What we don’t like: Defense seems to be in transition and probably aren’t quite ready to play at a very high level. The loss of Monte Kiffin will hurt as well. Good quarterback depth usually means that there isn’t a legit starter.
Record range: Tough division plus a transition year doesn’t equate to many wins. Our guess: 5-11.
28. Washington Redskins- Previous ranking: (30)
What we like: Jason Campbell is better than many think, and the defense should be respectable. Chris Cooley is an elite tight end.
What we don’t like: The front office trying to replace Campbell all offseason and the lack of reliable targets for him to throw to.
Record range: Tough schedule, plus poor leadership at the top should make for major changes at the capital following the regular season. Our guess: 5-11.
29. Detroit Lions- Previous ranking: (32)
What we like: The Lions have a strong head coach and they finally seem to have a plan. They should be able to score points with “Megatron,” Northcutt, Bryant, and Kevin Smith.
What we don’t like: A rookie QB may win the starting job and the secondary is still bad.
Record range: This year they will be better (mainly because the opposite just isn’t possible). Our guess: 4-12.
30. San Francisco 49ers- Previous ranking: (25)
What we like: Frank Gore and a young, improving offensive line.
What we don’t like: One of the worst quarterback situations in years. Head coach could be deemed insane.
Record range: They play in a soft division, so that should help. Our guess: 6-10.
31. Denver Broncos- Previous ranking: (29)
What we like: Ryan Clady, Knowshon Moreno, and they play in the AFC West.
What we don’t like: Virtually everything else.
Record range: Even a weak division won’t help this mess of a team. Six victories would shock us. Our guess: 3-13.
32. St. Louis Rams- Previous ranking: (28)
What we like: Steven Jackson, and a healthy Marc Bulger.
What we don’t like: The fact that Bulger probably won’t be healthy for long and just about everything on defense.
Record range: Anything more than five wins would be a shocker, and a record matching the Lions a year ago is possible. Our guess: 2-14.