The NFL regular season officially starts tomorrow night on NBC as the reigning Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints host last year’s NFC North winners, the Minnesota Vikings, in a rematch from last year’s NFC Championship game. With the season just one day away, it’s time for a comprehensive breakdown of the NFL.
Arizona – In the offseason they lost Kurt Warner, Antrel Rolle, Anquan Boldin and Karlos Dansby. Despite losing Rolle and Dansby, their defense could still be pretty decent. Their offense (and Larry Fitzgerald) takes a huge hit losing Warner and replacing him with Derek Anderson, though. They’ll need to pound the ball with Beanie Wells all year.
Atlanta – This team will score points with the talent that they have, as Matt Ryan looks for a bounce back year. Their defense is a little overrated but adding Dunta Robinson to the secondary will certainly help. They are contenders.
Baltimore – For my money, they are the team to beat in the AFC. Joe Flacco will continue to improve and they now have a ton of weapons on offense. Ray Lewis is getting older and Ed Reed will be out for at least the first six games so that is worrisome, but their defense is seemingly always top notch.
Buffalo – This is obviously a re-building team. Their best strength is at running back with Spiller, Jackson and Lynch. They’ll have to rely on those guys all year and draft a franchise quarterback in next year’s draft.
Carolina – Carolina is in a bit of transition, as well, as Jake Delhomme is no longer with the team and this is John Fox’s last year there. Is Jimmy Clausen the answer at QB? They are set at running back with Williams and Stewart and their defense is pretty good so they will compete.
Chicago – Mike Martz is in town and Cutler should have a bounce back year even though his options are not the greatest. Their defense is getting older and they spent a ton of money on Julius Peppers, who must get double digit sacks. Lovie Smith is certainly on the hot seat.
Cincinnati – The key to their offense will be Cedric Benson and if he can repeat last year’s comeback performance. With the addition of Terrell Owens, the Bengals have weapons on offense but they’ll need Benson to balance it. Will their defense be good again? They’ll need a healthy Antwan Odom rushing the quarterback.
Cleveland – Hopefully Mike Holmgren brings the franchise some much needed stability. Jerome Harrison could be a keeper at running back. Joshua Cribbs is the team’s best player and they need to get him more involved. Can Colt McCoy be a franchise QB?
Dallas – Tony Romo finally got an arm of a monkey off his back as he won a playoff game last year. Can he lead Dallas all of the way? Dallas is always loaded with talent and, if they stay healthy which is always a concern with them, then they will be the favorites in the NFC.
Denver – The Broncos had a bit of a head scratcher of an offseason. In fact, coach McDaniels seems to make a lot of moves that have people wondering what just happened. I could actually see this team being pretty bad.
Detroit – The Lions had another good draft grabbing the best player available in Suh and getting a potential franchise running back in Jahvid Best at the end of the first round. This team is on the up rise and will surprise.
Green Bay – The Packers are another favorite to make the Super Bowl. They’ll certainly outscore a lot of their opponents as Rodgers makes his way up the ladder into becoming a top five Quarterback. Their defense needs to do better in big spots.
Houston – The Texans are a tricky team to say the least. They seem to underachieve each year and it really is tough to pick with them. Robinson is a big loss in the secondary, which is not great. They’ll need to pressure the QB for their defense to hold up. Their offense will be one of the best in the league, of course.
Indianapolis – The Colts are getting older and…what am I saying? It’s all Manning. They’ll be a double digit win team again as long as Manning stays healthy. I wouldn’t call them a favorite, though.
Jacksonville – This team just does not have a lot of talent. Eventually, and obviously unfortunately, their offensive line is going to get both Garrard and Jones-Drew hurt. There’s a good chance the Jaguars will be getting a top three pick in next year’s draft and moving to Los Angeles within a few years.
Kansas City – The addition of Charlie Weis at offensive coordinator will help Matt Cassel. It will be interesting to see how Weis and head coach Todd Haley co-exist. I could see them butting heads early and often. They are very solid at running back. They’ll be competitive and could be a surprise team as long as their defense doesn’t blow games.
Miami – I’m putting it out there: I’m a Dolphins fan. I’m worried about the depth on this team, especially along the offensive line, at linebacker (OLB more so) and in the secondary. The additions of Dansby, Marshall and Nolan at defensive coordinator will only help. They’ll be competitive like the last couple of years but the question will be are they able to squeak out wins, like they weren’t able to last year?
Minnesota – Favre’s hurting, Harvin’s having migraine problems and Sidney Rice is out for at least the first six weeks. Adrian Peterson will obviously need to stay healthy and carry them to some early wins. While the defense is getting older in some spots, they should still be good. If the Vikings can survive a tough early schedule, they should be set for a strong second half run.
New England – When was the last time a Belichick led Patriot team had so many questions entering a season? Wes Welker’s coming off an injury and the secondary has already lost their best cornerback in Leigh Bodden for the season. They have options on offense, including a draft steal with TE Aaron Hernandez. Their defense is getting older and is obviously not what it once was so they’ll need to outscore their opponents.
New Orleans – Will they suffer a Super Bowl hangover? With the amount of partying and celebrating they have done, it could happen. Can Drew Brees break the Madden curse? They should still be a contender but their division has improved so it won’t be as easy.
New York Giants – With the Jets getting most of the headlines, the Giants are flying under the radar. They have quietly built themselves a strong core of wide receivers. Ahmad Bradshaw might need to take over the bulk of the carries as Brandon Jacobs continually gets banged up. Their once dominant offensive line is a question mark, as is their defense, especially at linebacker and in the secondary.
New York Jets – The Jets have been the most hyped team of the offseason and quite possibly ever. They’ll be good but will they be as good as they think they’ll be? They could definitely suffer from overconfidence. Two keys will be Mark Sanchez at quarterback as he deals with a lot of egos and the need for Shonn Greene to handle the majority of carries and stay healthy at running back.
Oakland – They’ll be improved with Campbell at QB and more competitive. Their defense is quietly pretty good. Al Davis surprisingly made a good decision at the draft going with a safe pick at linebacker in Rolando McClain.
Philadelphia – This team will look a lot different without McNabb and Westbrook. Will Kolb handle the pressure in Philadelphia? McNabb was always called out for his play, despite being pretty good for the most part and those fans are not patient. Andy Reid [b]must[/b] balance the offense more and run the ball with McCoy and Weaver.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers need to play at least .500 ball with Roethlisberg injured. The team has continually been stable but this offseason has left them with a lot of question marks going into the season.
San Diego – Merriman ended his holdout late into the offseason and McNeil and Vincent Jackson have not returned. Questions continually swirl around Jackson. This team continually underachieves and if they don’t at least make the Super Bowl this year, Norv Turner needs to go.
San Francisco – The 49ers are on the rise. Alex Smith just needs to be solid as they have good weapons on offense and a solid defense. They should take over a weaker division.
Seattle – They’re improving and had a very good draft. It will be interesting to see how Pete Carroll transitions back to the pro game. If Matt Hasselbeck stays healthy at quarterback, this team could compete for the division.
St. Louis – The Rams made the wrong pick in the draft, in my opinion. Steve Spagnuolo’s forte is defense and he should have went with Suh, as a result. Sam Bradford’s being thrown to the wolves early and it won’t be pretty.
Tampa Bay – Who’s the quarterback? Can Cadillac Williams stay healthy again? The Buccaneers have many more questions than they do answers.
Tennessee – The key to this team is obviously Chris Johnson. Who’s backing him up? Fisher’s a great coach who will need to work with smoke and mirrors to pull out some wins.
Washington – The addition of Shanahan at coach and McNabb at quarterback will only help the offense, although there are not necessarily a lot of options on that side of the ball. This team is middle of the pack as is.
AFC: Jets, Ravens, Colts, Chiefs, Texans, Bengals
NFC: Cowboys, Packers, Falcons, 49ers, Saints, Packers
Ravens over Cowboys