Last season was pivotal in the history of the NFL. 3 rookie QBs played like 6th year starters. Defenses couldn’t stop the read option. 6 defensive starters on the same team were suspended for PEDs. The game’s two premier linebackers played their final games. Will the season be topped? Is it be possible? Who’s going to win?

AFC West: Denver Broncos: Everyone saw the Peyton Manning show on Thursday. If he keeps playing like that, nobody will stop him. Considering the AFC West is the second worst conference in the league, the Broncos won’t have any  snatching up a playoff spot.

AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals: The AFC North used to be the toughest conference in the league. Now? Every team is mediocre, but the Bengals are the least mediocre of the bunch. The defense is one of the NFL’s best, and with Geno Atkins and James Harrison in the middle, teams will have loads of trouble moving the ball.

Offensively, the Bengals aren’t nearly as sound. No one in their right mind will tell you that Andy Dalton is anything more than an OK QB, but the other offensive weapons are off the charts. AJ Green is the second best receiver in the NFL, and tight ends Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert give Cincy 2011 New England-esque options. Benjarvus Green-Ellis will share the workload in the run game with rookie Giovani Bernard, who has looked like a stud in Hard Knocks. There are definitely holes in this team–most notably at QB and head coach–but in a diluted AFC North a tough defense could be enough to win.

AFC South: Houston Texans: The Texans Super Bowl window is closing, and it’s closing fast. Arian Foster is banged up. So is Andre Johnson. Matt Schaub has never become the franchise QB the Texans expected and needed, and JJ Watt could be suspended for PEDs any second. Things don’t look promising for the Texans, but in a diluted AFC South, experience and talent—no matter how old—is enough.

AFC East: New England Patriots: The AFC North and South are bad, but they don’t come near the horrendous AFC East. The Jets and Bills are disasters. The Dolphins have an Aggie starting at QB. The Patriots have Brady and Bellichek, who by themselves could win any conference in the NFL, let alone the worst.

NFC West: San Francisco 49ers: They won the NFC last season, and they also won this year’s offseason. Problems in the secondary? Enter Nnamdi Asomugha to shore that up. Weak offensive weapons? Enter Anquan Boldin to snag Colin Kaepernick’s passes. Defenses had no answer for Kaepernick in his debut season last year, and opposing offenses had trouble moving the ball against Patrick Willis and the ‘9ers defense as well. They will only be improved this season, and that is a scary thought for other NFC teams.

NFC South: New Orleans Saints: The Saints took a step backwards in 2012 without their head coach, but Sean Payton is back, along with the possibility of a Super Bowl. With Peyton, the Saints offense has been in the top-5 in total yards all but 1 of the past 5 years[1] Expect the Saints to want revenge against the rest of the league for the “Bountygate” suspensions and play even better than they should. As my crazy, delusional high school football coach always says, “a hungry team is more dangerous than a talented team.”

 NFC North: Green Bay Packers: The NFC North is a lot like the AFC North. Every team is competitive, but no one stands out. The Packers, though, have the best chance to. Aaron Rodgers is obviously remarkable, and this year the Packers might have a running game thanks to rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. The biggest question mark for Green Bay is the offensive line that allowed the second most sacks in the league last season with 51. If Aaron Rogers can stay healthy—which is a big if—the Packers won’t have problems winning this conference. If does get hurt, though, this conference could get much more interesting.

 NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles: The NFL has never seen anything like the offense that Chip Kelly is going to run, and that unknown is every bit as lethal as talent. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson have much more talent then RG3, but RG3 ran the read option. Defenses had never seen it before and couldn’t stop it, so RG3 snatched the Rookie of the Year award. The Eagles will be this year’s RG3. Nobody knows how to defend them. They are never going to huddle and they’re going to be a pain in the butt to to prepare for every week. They may not be able to sustain any kind of success after this season when teams have film on them, but right now, no one knows how quickly these Eagles will fly.

Super Bowl: New Orleans Saints over Denver Broncos: This game comes down to a whole team trying to prove something versus a player trying to prove something. I’ve said it before, and I will say it 100,000 more times: a team playing for something more than a trophy is close to impossible to defesat. These Saints are playing for their reputations. They’re playing for revenge. That’s a heckuva lot more harmful than Peyton Manning’s arm.

Will last year be topped? Probably not. But it’s the NFL nonetheless, and there aren’t many things more entertaining and comforting as a Sunday full of football. Will Peyton keep setting records? Who is going to be Brady’s new favorite target? What are the Eagles going to look like? The only way to find out is to sit back, consume 7 hours of the Red Zone channel, and digest.

 

 


[1] The year they missed the top 5, 2010, the Saints had the 6th best offense, only 85 yards from the 5th place New York Giants. In ’08, ’09, and ’11 New Orleans had the top offense in the league, and last season, even without Payton, the Saints offense was number 2 in the league.

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