The NFC seems noticeably stronger than the AFC this year. Only the Vikings, Bucs, and Rams look like possible punching bags in the NFC, while the AFC has a bucketful of laughers — Dolphins, Browns, Titans, Jags, Colts, and maybe the entire AFC West.
Peyton Manning is expected to lift the Broncos out of the muck and trot to the the AFC West title, but that’s a pretty delicate equation, considering his health and age. Every mean hit on Manning will cause the entire Bronco fan base to drop to its knees in prayer. Even the top AFC teams don’t look scary enough to compete with the top five or six NFC teams. The Ravens have lost Terrell Suggs for the year and Ray Lewis is getting close to the line between reputation and liability. Pittsburgh and New England are aging. Only the Texans have the look of possible greatness. Their division should be a cakewalk and they’ll probably get the top seed in the 2012 playoffs.
There appear to be three Tabloid teams this coming year: the Denver Mannings, New Orleans Bounties, and New York Tebows. By tabloid, I mean these teams will be heating up the media geysers throughout the land, spewing hot air hither and yon, whether they deserve to be noticed or not. I didn’t include the Cowboys because they’re here every year, like a plague upon the land.
Teams to watch, initially, in the rising young power category, would be Buffalo, the Bengals, and the Panthers. Miami has a new coach, fresh out of college a la Jim Harbaugh, and a new QB, but the same old GM and owner. They’ll also have to overcome the loss of DC Mike Nolan, who took his complicated, tricky, just good enough to get you beat defense to Atlanta this year — his third job change in the past four years. He will fit right in with the Falcons just good enough to be disappointing team.
The Saints will be an interesting story in the NFC. Nobody knows how they’ll respond to the bounty debacle, Drew Brees still hasn’t signed his tender, and this team absolutely must have home field advantage to have a shot at the Super Bowl. They could be ready for a loud and painful thud this year.
Seattle and Arizona will attempt to ride their defenses into prominence, the Packers will try to wipe the egg off their faces, the Bears will once again believe in Jay Cutler, and the Lions will strive to prove they’re still rising. The Giants will find a way to shoot themselves in the leg — like all New York teams do following a successful season, the Redskins will have more fun losing with RGIII, the Cowboys will continue to be a Married with Children operation, alternately discussing Tony Romo’s HOF credentials and his latest he did what melt down. Beware the Eagles. They will be great a year late or finally get Andy Reid fired.
San Francisco will methodically win games while everyone dissects every aspect of Alex Smith’s game.
And, in the bonus bullshit category, it’s even possible that one or two items posted here will be marginally correct!