Here are my predictions for the AFC for the NFL 2009-2010 season.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: I have the Steelers going 12-4. The Super Bowl champs have an easy schedule with, what I see, only six tough games. I can see them starting as high as 10-0 before they play Baltimore on the road. The Steelers will win the division and if they can make it 13-3 they very well could be the number 1 seed in the playoffs.
2. Baltimore Ravens: Really going out on a limb picking the Ravens to go second in this division...I see the Ravens starting off hot just like the Steelers. Flacco is poised for a great sophmore season, and the Ravens defense is always hungry and eager to create turnovers. Weeks 2, 4, and 6 are on the road against San Diego, New England, and Minnesota respectively so look for those games to be tough for Coach Harbaugh. I think the Ravens are a solid team and they have a good young back in Ray Rice. I have the Ravens going 11-5.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: I absolutely love this team this year. Unfortunately for them, they have a ridiculously hard schedule where they play @ Green Bay, Pittsburgh twice, Baltimore twice, Houston, Chicago, @ Minnesota, and @ San Diego. If they can go 2-7 in those 9 games they have a chance at a 9-7 or 8-8 season. But, I think those losses will add up and kill the chemistry that this team has. I think they have so much talent and are coming close to having the right pieces of the puzzle, but their schedule is too difficult to have a winning season. I have the Bengals at 6-10 this year.
4. Cleveland Browns: Right off the bat I have concerns with this team and their new head coach, Eric Mangini, because five days prior to opening day they STILL haven't named their starting quarterback. I will be surprised if it isn't Brady Quinn, but I just don't like what I see with this team. Jamal Lewis isn't going to give them the ground game they need, and Brady Quinn is a rookie still and needs a year under his belt before I put any trust in him. Looking at their schedule I see eight games that they have a chance at winning. Of those eight, FIVE are on the road. Just like the Bengals, their schedule is too hard and they won't be able to handle it. Browns will win at best 4 games this year, I have them 5-11.
1. New England Patriots: Surprise, surprise. Patriots will go 12-4 this season. I see potential for 13-3, but I think they will lose in week 17 to Houston because they will be resting Brady and Moss. I really love the Patriots vs. Dolphins matchups this season. They get Miami in Foxboro in early November so weather won't be too much of a factor, and then they go south to Miami in December right after an away game in New Orleans. Look out for those two games to play a factor on some of the Patriots players. Still, this is a team built for success. 12-4 for the Pats.
2. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are an exciting team. I really like them this season, I love their coach, Tony Sparano, and I love the tenacity that Joey Porter brings to this defense. Pennington can lead the offense against a tough first three weeks of the season, but after that they have a great opportunity to roll off quite a few W's the rest of the way. Dolphins finish 10-6.
3. Buffalo Bills: The Bills are desperate to make the playoffs. Better luck next year. With a healthy Tom Brady and a solid Dolphins team, the chance for the Bills to make some noise will fall directly on the shoulders of TO...and I don't like that, not one bit. The Bills have a few games on the schedule that they should be able to win, but they aren't a team that plays well on the road so I won't put any trust in them. Bills finish 7-9.
4. New York Jets: It hurts me to write this short prediction for the Jets, being a Sanchez fan myself, but the Jets don't do it for me this year. I really love their defense and I think Rex Ryan will only help make it stronger. But, their offense, starting a rookie quarterback without any true weapons to his right or left scares me. I don't know if this team has enough on the offensive side to make it happen. Sanchez will have to pull off a Matt Ryan type of season if this team has plans to play after January 3rd. Jets go 6-10.
1. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have any easy schedule and a very good team to go with it. Phillip Rivers is an elite quarterback in the NFL and he will be able to put up PRO-BOWL numbers with his Chargers offense. A rookie to watch for this team is OLB Larry English from Northern Illinois. The Chargers run a 3-4 defense and English fits perfectly into their system. Chargers go 12-4.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have a good offense. They, however, don't have a great defense. In order for the Chiefs to make a run at the wild-card this season they must come together on the defensive side of the ball. I think Larry Johnson will put up huge numbers this season and Mark Bradley will add consistency to the wide out group. I just don't see this defense being able to compete in the games against the NFC-East teams. Chiefs could run off 5 in a row at the end of the year to make some noise, but they open up the season with too much coming at them. KC goes 6-10.
3. Denver Broncos: The Broncos had a rough off-season. New coach Josh McDaniels didn't see eye to eye with star quarterback Jay Cutler so they parted ways. Prior to the start of the season star receiver Brandon Marshall flat out doesn't want to play for Denver. I believe something will happen their that sends Marshall packing. That being said, I foresee McDaniels packing before the end of the season. Broncos play Dallas, New England, @ San Diego, @ Baltimore, Pittsburgh, @ Washington, San Diego, New York Giants, @ Kansas City, and @ Indianapolis from Week 4 to Week 14. Good luck coach! Broncos die early, finish 5-11.
4. Oakland Raiders: I would love to see the Raiders have a good season this year, but it's not going to happen. They have a formidable defense, a future-star running back, and a pretty good tight end. What they need is a break out year from JaMarcus Russel and two receivers to have terrific seasons. Is that asking too much? Schedule hurts the Raiders, but maybe they make noise at the end of the season like they did upsetting the Buccaneers last year. Raiders go 4-12.
1. Houston Texans: My Cinderella of the season. The Texans are counting their blessings every day for not drafting Reggie Bush over Mario Williams three years ago. Quarterback Matt Schaub, if he stays healthy, has all of the ability to be a Pro-Bowl quarterback this season. Steve Slaton and Chris Brown make this team extremely dynamic and tough to prepare for. Let's not forget the best receiver in the NFL also is on this team and his name is Andre Johnson. Johnson is a beast, a specimen, and he will have 120+ receptions this season. This team has all the talent to make this their season. Texans win the division and head into the playoffs with a 11-5 record.
2. Indianapolis Colts: The Peyton Manning Colts have their work cut out for them this year. But as usual, they will get it done. Manning & Company always earns their pay on the offensive side of the ball. With Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis stuffing opponents ground games each week, it will be the secondary of the Colts that must step up for this team to have a great season. I think the Colts have one of the worst secondaries in football and at some point during the season they will have to make a move to upgrade that part of their defense. That being said the Colts go 10-6...with caution.
3. Tennessee Titans: They lost Albert Haynesworth, just that defensive tackle that had 8.5 sacks and would stop the run game by himself. Big loss on the D-Line, but they have the bodies to make up for it. I just don't see Kerry Collins having anything like the season he had last year. VY will be the starter at the end of the season and will show he can be the starter for the future for the Titan franchise. Titans go 9-7 and miss the playoffs.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags aren't a good team. They have a solid quarterback in David Garrard, a freak of a running back in Maurice Jones-Drew, but who else do they have. Locker room issues killed this team last season. What is that like this year? Wait and find out after the Jags start off 0-4 and head to Seattle in Week 5. Jags go 4-12.