At one time the NFC East WAS the SEC of the NFL. Today, that title can only belong to the NFC West, at one time the Big East (known now as the American Conference), of the NFL. But enough of the comparisons. Seattle and San Francisco have been the two powerhouses in the NFL since Week 10 of last season, and they nearly met in the NFC Championship Game. This off-season, each team attempted to one up the other, in a quest for one thing, the NFC West Championship.
1: Seattle Seahawks: Arguably the best defense in the NFC if not in the NFL. The Seahawks also have a legitimate running attack to combine with a dangerous passing game with or without Percy Harvin.
2: San Francisco 49ers: If all the pieces were in place this team would be ahead of their NFC West rivals. The defense is dangerous, if Colin Kaepernick can repeat his season from last year, this team is playoff bound.
3: Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons boast one of the best air attacks in the game today. If the defense can match the offense’s firepower, then this team is going to be dangerous.
4: Houston Texans: Houston has looked dominant in their areas of strength this pre-season. If only the passing game can keep it together for seventeen plus weeks, then they have the most complete team in the AFC.
5: Green Bay Packers: Green Bay is going to be scary. With a running game to match it’s already great passing attack, the scoreboard is going to light up Lambeau Field.
6: New England Patriots: The Patriots need to protect Tom Brady better. Other than that, they won’t be getting demolished 40-9 on anyone’s basis. It’ll be the other way around come Week One. You mark my words.
7: Denver: Denver will be ranked higher once their injury crisis ends and when Von Miller gets back from suspension. But, they need to rely on the offense until then. Peyton Manning has done this before.
8: Indianapolis: Andrew Luck has had one of the better pre-seasons than most quarterbacks in the NFL. His line is still lax in protection but at least he’s not running for his life every time, literally, every time, he drops back.
9: Cincinnati: The Bengals are ranked in the top ten at the beginning of the season for the first time in a long time. Now, the challenge is to hold onto their ranking and/or improve it.
10: Dallas: Call me insane, but this is the most talent the Cowboys have had since 2007. Now, they just have to learn to play all the way through. I can see an NFC East title and be unsurprised.
11: Washington: This is a team that can run, throw, and play defense. They may have the most talent in the NFC East.
12: Chicago: Jay Cutler has a chance to really shine in Marc Trestman’s offense. If he’s going to make it happen, now is a good time.
13: Baltimore: Baltimore is probably the most unpredictable team in the league. This can go in one of two ways.
14: Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh looks weakened but never count out the Mike Tomlin-Ben Roethlisberger duo. Only Brady-Belichick can compare.
15: New York Giants: The NFL’s least flashiest talented team by far. Can they do what they do best? Barely make it into the post-season then come out on top?
16: Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City has a whole new sense of optimism going into 2013, and a little bit of luck, as Denver has been ailing this pre-season.
17: New Orleans Saints: Can the Saints rebound from 2012? They have the offense but can the defense match?
18: St. Louis Rams: The Rams could potentially win any division in the NFC, except the one that they play in.
19: Miami Dolphins: They haven’t shown too much in the pre-season. They have the tools, and the potential, and they’re playing in the right division (minus New England).
20: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs have all of the tools on defense to be a contender. Now, Josh Freeman has to prove his worth.
21: Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder has to show more in 2013 if the Vikings expect to repeat a playoff run.
22: Tennessee Titans: Look, the Titans have a good line, a good running game, and a solid defense. Jake Locker needs to start proving himself now.
23: San Diego Chargers: San Diego has a weaker roster. Other than Phillip Rivers, who is probably in his final year in San Diego, who else really stands out. The good news is that at least this bland roster has some potential and talent to win a few games.
24: Detroit Lions: The Lions are in a decent position. They have the talent to beat Green Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago. If there is one team that can potentially take a division, steal a division, it’s Detroit. I look to move them up sooner rather than later.
25: Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton is a great quarterback and the defense has a legit play maker in Luke Kuechly. Now they just need to find some people to throw to.
26: Arizona Cardinals: Arizona would have surprise team potential. This team boasts a solid defense and a better air attack than in 2012. The problem? They are the least talented team overall in the NFC West.
27: Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have this problem. They have a coach who is better suited for college than the NFL. Why is this? Kelly is a system guy. He changes his system at will with the talent that he has. Not a smart thing to do in the NFL. Again, you get away with this kind of stuff in college.
28: Cleveland Browns: The Browns are not in a good situation. What appeared to be a team turning the corner has translated into your every day Cleveland luck. They looked good at times, but this team has been decimated by injuries and inconsistency.
29: Buffalo Bills: The Bills have dropped more and more and more this preseason. After starting off with a ton of hope, they are now down to their third string, and undrafted rookie starting quarterback in Jeff Tuel. Not the greatest situation.
30: New York Jets: The Jets quarterback situation is a mess. Neither Mark Sanchez nor Geno Smith have shown much at all. Will Rex Ryan remain coach by the bye week?
31: Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags move up the list only because the Raiders would be given a spread of +14 (check credibility) when they play them this season. The only plus for the Jags is that the defense looks almost halfway decent.
32: Oakland Raiders: Not only do the Raiders resemble an expansion franchise, they get to choose between Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn to take the reins at quarterback. Combine with an injury prone running back and a troubled number one receiver, this is a disaster waiting to happen.
Bottom Five Team With Potential to Skyrocket: Cleveland- The Browns looked good at times, but in Week Three, when you see the starters the most, they failed miserably against a mediocre Indianapolis Colts defense. But, the Browns have the talent on defense and in the running attack to turn it around. Brandon Weeden has looked good at times too.
Top Five Team to Potentially Downfall: Houston Texans- The Texans have all of the talent on the planet, but the have been the Dallas Cowboys of the AFC the previous two seasons, losing in December and getting knocked out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round each time. If Houston gets off to a slow start, this means a sub .500 record for a team that looked like a Super Bowl contender just one year ago.
AFC Sleeper: Pittsburgh- I can’t believe that people have them missing out on the playoffs. You have one of the better quarterback-coach tandems in the league. With this recipe, they’re a contender despite any situation.
NFC Sleeper: Tampa Bay- The Bucs are a complete team. They have a defense, they have a running game, they have receivers, and they have a quarterback who has potential. If the Bucs win 10 plus games in 2013, I’ll be the least bit surprised.