Houston Texans (12-4). The Texans are stacked from top to bottom. They are just as a force on defense as they are on offense. Their offense is led by stud RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson, two of the more unstoppable offense players in the league. Foster gashed even the strongest run defenses (see the games vs. my Steelers and Ravens last season). They are led by a highly underrated but solid QB Matt Schaub. Their top-five defense returns most of its starters sans Mario Williams (now a Buffalo Bill). If Houston was not so banged up on offense, they would have won the Super Bowl. Yeah I said it. Houston is that solid. This division race should be over by Week 9.
Tennessee Titans (9-7). The rest of this division is so mediocre, that I am tempted to lump them together with a few sentences of how much they suck (that’s coming tomorrow with the AFC and NFC West previews). However, Tennessee is not that bad on paper so I won’t lump them with the scrubs in this division. If RB Chris Johnson turns back into CJ2K, then the Titans will be playoff contenders. Jake Locker won the starting QB job this preseason, so the future is now in Tennessee.
Indianapolis Colts (6-10). The Colts may be bad this season, but not as bad as we all think. Rookie QB Andrew Luck is the real deal. He looks poised, unafraid and looks to take the mantle from Peyton Manning. The Colts made the trade for talented, but troubled cornerback Vontae Davis from Miami, meaning that they are trying to win sooner rather than later. Good for Indy. Too bad they are in the same division as the Texans.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13). This team is so horrible; they don’t even deserve a preview. They have a second year QB in Blaine Gabbert, who still looks afraid to stand in the pocket. Too bad their bad offense will waste the efforts of a decent defense. The city of Jacksonville should hope and pray the NFL moves the team to LA (except maybe LA). Hell if I were Maurice Jones-Drew I’d want to get traded out of there too.
Atlanta Falcons (12-4). The Falcons are ready for lift-off. I really loved the move to get Asante Samuel from Philly. He should give the Falcons the player they need to improve their secondary, which was considered the weakest link of their defense. QB Matt Ryan is a man, and look for him to really do his thing this season. As long as RB Michael Turner can tote the rock, Atlanta can stay balanced offensively. I cannot imagine having to game plan against Ryan, Turner, and WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White. Scary as hell, isn’t it?
Carolina Panthers (10-6). This is my surprise team in 2012. The Panthers are so freaking explosive offensively, and the credit has to go to stud QB Cam Newton. He helped re-energize that offense last season as well as the career of WR Steve Smith. Now if their defense shows up this season, look the hell out. Hell, all Carolina’s D has to do is finish top-15 statistically. Granted, the Panthers were a MASH unit defensively last season with Jon Beason and Thomas Davis among others missing significant time (in Beason’s case, the entire season), but they were horrible last season. I do like the addition of Luke Kuechly in the draft. All and all, this season the Panthers have the tools to compete for a Wild-Card spot, and I think they will get it this season.
New Orleans Saints (9-7). I wish I could place the Saints higher than the Panthers. I’d love for New Orleans to stick it to NFL Commissioner/Warden/Playa Hater Roger Goodell’s ass (though New Orleans does specialize in voodoo). I just don’t see it this season. There are too many distractions for the Saints to overcome. First there was that stupid-ass “Bounty-Gate” thing that Goodell spearheaded to the tune of several suspensions of players AND coaches AND executives. The Saints will miss Jonathan Vilma’s presence on defense and Sean Payton’s presence on the sidelines even more. Now don’t get me wrong, the Saints WILL compete – Drew Brees will make sure of that. I just think the pressure and distractions will eventually get to them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9). This team will be better than what people think. I love Greg Schiano as an NFL head coach. I think he will get the best out of those players. I loved the way he kicked LeGarrette Blount’s ass when Blount bitched about a rookie RB taking away his carries. Schiano’s response: name the rookie RB his starter. I loved it. I also loved the acquisition of WR Vincent Jackson. I think that QB Josh Freeman will have a bounce-back season. I just think they are in too tough of a division to make any noise.