We know, we’re a day late with this. But we promise last night’s game between the Saints and Vikings did nothing to change our outlook on 2010. We’ve taken some time to think about all 32 NFL teams and where we think they’ll finish the year. We also weigh in on who will take home the hardware and who goes home empty-handed. Today, we bring you our predictions for the AFC. Check back tomorrow for the NFC, along with our picks to win the Super Bowl and individual award-winners. Without further ado, here are our AFC predictions for the 2010 NFL season:
1. New England Patriots: The Pats have a young defense with a lot of question marks, but I think they’ll be back this year. Tom Brady has a fresh contract, Randy Moss is playing for a contract, and Bill Belichick has been down for too long.
2. New York Jets: Their defense is obviously very good, but Mark Sanchez will hold them back.
3. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins will be a very good team with their new acquisitions and will even compete for a playoff spot in a tough division.
4. Buffalo Bills: Trent Edwards? Trend Edwards. Yuck.
1. Baltimore Ravens: The offense the Ravens have this year can certainly match their staunch defense.
2. Cincinnati Bengals: I just don’t see their defense being able to replicate last year’s success.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: They’ll need Ben Roethlisberger to return in top form and their defense to play at an elite level if they want to make the playoffs out of a very competitive division. Too many ifs.
4. Cleveland Browns: They should finally be competitive, they just don’t have enough talent.
1. Indianapolis Colts: They are the champs and will be the champs until proven otherwise. Not much has changed for one of the most consistent teams in football.
2. Houston Texans: The Texans have been a growing team and have tons of breakout potential headed into 2010. Look for them to reach double-digit wins.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Improvement along the defensive line will help all aspects of the team.
4. Tennessee Titans: The CJ28 train can only take the Titans so far. Their defense isn’t good enough to keep them out of the cellar.
1. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have way too much talent to be challenged in this division.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: They finally have plenty of good players and should be able to put it together.
3. Oakland Raiders: They have play-makers and finally a capable quarterback in Jason Campbell. That being said, it’s still Oakland.
4. Denver Broncos: Simply put, there’s nothing on their team that impresses me.
Wild Card Winners: Houston Texans and New York Jets
AFC Championship Game: New England Patriots over San Diego Chargers
1. New England Patriots: Tom Brady has to feel good about being the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback and having spent a full off-season not worrying about rehabbing his knee. Randy Moss is playing for one final huge contract. Nobody is really picking them to go deep into the postseason, and that’s how they’ve always preferred it.
2. New York Jets: A lot of people pick them to win the Super Bowl. Actually, I might just be listening to Rex Ryan too much. The Jets took a lot of people by surprise last season. They won’t be catching anyone sleeping in 2010.
3. Miami Dolphins: Made plenty of key acquisitions in the off-season (Karlos Dansby, Brandon Marshall), and Chad Henne looks like he could become a great NFL starter. However, he’ll need more time and that could cause Marshall to check out early.
4. Buffalo Bills: I don’t really feel the need to defend this one. Bad team in what could be the best division in football.
1. Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco is ready to take the next step as he’s been given a great target in Anquan Boldin. Ray Rice has quickly emerged as one of the best backs in the league. Their defense, while aging, is still very good and very experienced.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers: With Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension reduced to four games, Pittsburgh needs to go 2-2 while he’s gone — assuming he gets the nod when he returns. They’ve lost Santonio Holmes, but Mike Wallace has plenty of potential and they haven’t lost much since winning the Super Bowl two years ago.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Overachieved a bit in 2009, especially on defense. Terrell Owens is a big name, but I’m not convinced he’s a game-changer anymore. Carson Palmer could end up frustrated with Batman and Robin.
4. Cleveland Browns: Have a few good players but are still very far away. Jake Delhomme won’t get it done and I don’t think there’s an awful lot of trust in Eric Mangini amongst the players.
1. Indianapolis Colts: They always dominate the regular season and there’s no reason to think this year should be any different.
2. Houston Texans: Houston has been quietly improving each year. Matt Schaub is still underrated for some reason. Andre Johnson is hands down the best receiver in the league. Arian Foster is primed for a breakout year.
3. Tennessee Titans: They’ll pound the ball with Chris Johnson once again, which will work if he remains healthy. Vince Young showed some promise last year and they could go 8-8 if he continues to improve.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: David Garrard is not very good. With the excpetion of MJD, neither is their team. I think they take a step back in 2010.
1. San Diego Chargers: Could be the safest bet to win their division in all of football. They have all the weapons, but can they put it together in the postseason? They can, and will, in the regular season.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: They’ve drafted well and made some good moves over the past couple of seasons. If Matt Cassel can earn his paycheck, the Chiefs finally have a chance to be good.
3. Denver Broncos: A lot of question marks going into their season. Knowshown Moreno is an injury concern. Brandon Marshall is gone and they don’t have a No. 1 receiving threat to replace him. How will Tim Tebow fit into the equation?
4. Oakland Raiders: Say what you will, but Jason Campbell just does not make that much of a difference.
Wild Card Winners: New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC Championship Game: Baltimore Ravens over Indianapolis Colts
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