Most of the national sports media were in a frenzy last weekend about the start of college football and realignment, but not me. Yeah, I watched UCLA's defense get shredded by Houston (- is it obvious to only me that Brehaut is clearly our best game QB?). Yeah, I'm following the realignment news as Oklahoma and Texas may make the move to the Pac-16 (and Cowherd believes that UCLA football would get left behind permanently in an arms race of funds that we can't afford). But college football won't mean much to me until they have a legitimate way to determine a champion, namely a playoff. (Perhaps forming the four 16-team superconferences will resolve this for us. However, college bball will get run over in this football moneygrab.) Anyway, NFL is where its at. These are my season predictions.
AFC East - Champ: Patriots
Though Brady and Belicheat haven't done well in the playoffs since that epic 2007 failure, they still managed to win 14 games last season, including the last 8. Brady even ran away with the MVP. Rex Ryan can guarantee all the championships he wants, but I have a hard time seeing how a Sanchez-led team can beat out Brady's. Miami has no faith in Henne and I have none in Reggie Bushleague. As for Buffalo, Fitzpatrick, Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson make decent fantasy players at times. But it probably won't be enough to finish out of the AFC East cellar.
AFC North - Champ: Steelers
The Steelers D allowed the least amount of points in the regular season last year. With Big Ben at the helm, they should have more than enough offense to win the division again. Though Cleveland should be better, the Ravens will again claim 2nd place. Cincinnati might have the difficult decision of picking Andrew Luck next year or staying with Andy Dalton.
AFC South - Champ: Titans
Let me just say I have no clue how this division will play out. I'm going to guess that even if Peyton comes back just a few games into the season, he won't be himself for a few months at least. There are even rumors that he might not be himself ever again. Since his football intelligence is his most outstanding attribute, I think he can once more be successful even with weakened physical tools, but at the very least it will take him some time to adjust. Last season, the Colts weren't even really that dominant, so without a full-strength Peyton? In the meantime, the Texans could easily become the class of the division, but against my better judgement, I'm going to guess that the Titans will surprise everyone and eek out enough wins to take the division. The Jags may regret cutting their starting QB and essentially giving up just days before their first game when the division crown is so attainable.
AFC West - Champs: Chargers
The Chargers' missing the playoffs last year was a special teams-caused anomaly. They will be back to 11 or 12 wins. The Chiefs will finish 2nd and the Raiders and Broncos can battle it out for last. If Tebow plays eventually, then I'll say Broncos finish 3rd.
Wildcards: Jets, Chiefs
NFC East - Champs: Eagles
If Michael Vick is the same player as last year, the Eagles should have no problem. However, Andy Reid needs to bring in Ricky Henderson to give Vick some in-depth training on sliding. I like Dallas under Jason Garrett to finish above the Giants this season. New found discipline should help all that talent achieve more than they have before. The Giants seem to be set for a down year while the Redskins are always set for a down year.
NFC North - Champs: Packers
Hard to believe that the Packers weren't even division champs last season. This year, they will be the force-to-be-reckoned-with all season. I'm not sure how the Bears managed to win 11 last year, but I think they get beat out by the Lions for runner-up. A healthy Stafford and a tough D-line will finally help Detroit start to forget the Matt Millen days. Am I really predicting that Adrian Peterson will be on a last place team? I guess I am.
NFC South - Champs: Saints
I'm still shocked by Matt Ryan's success but I'm predicting that Brees and the Saints will be supremely motivated by the upstart Falcons and regain the divisional crown. The Bucs might be young and promising, but the Falcons have already arrived and will grab the first wildcard spot. Carolina will let it become the Cam Newton show to the tune of 3 wins.
NFC West - Champs: Rams
Last season I predicted that the Rams would be the worst team in the league. That's how quickly you can turn it around in the NFL. With a solid draft, a solid coach and solid personnel moves, you can be relevant within a couple years. Though they fell 1 game short last season to the hated Pete Carrolls, Sam Bradford and company will be one year better. The jury is out on Kevin Kolb but I think he'll just be mediocre this first year. So lets say the Cardinals finish 2nd, 49ers 3rd, and Seahawks 4th.
Wildcards: Falcons, Cowboys
AFC Championship game: Chargers over Steelers
NFC Championship game: Saints over Eagles
Superbowl: Saints over Chargers
I didn't take the Packers because its hard to win two in a row these days. And I'm not sold on Reid and Vick in the playoffs. So I'm going to say Brees wins his 2nd to seal his legacy.