1. DENVER BRONCOS- This team is so stacked and they (somehow) got better in the offseason. Peyton Manning has Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, (and now) Wes Welker, Jacob Tamme. Highly praised Louis Vasquez joined an already solid oline too, which gives defenses even more stress. Yes, the loss of Dumervil hurts...but the leader of the defense has been Von Miller.
2. SAN FRANCISCO- These guys have perhaps the best front 7 in football I have ever seen (i'm 23, so I wasn't around for the terrific 80's 46 Bears defense or the Steel Curtain Steeler's D, which I have heard is quite outstanding). The O-line and the rest of the offense too is outstanding. DB's are a concern and I don't think Ashmoghua will make as much of a positive impact as they would like. Frank Gore is now 30- a deadly age for RBs. But with a promising young QB, good receivers, terrific oline and an exceptional front seven, I rank these guys #2.
3. GREEN BAY PACKERS- There are so many things I love about Aaron Rodgers' play. He is the king of QB's at the moment. The loss of the old Greg Jennings wont harm them at all. Eddie Lacy could be the RB they need. They hope the addition of Datone Jones shores up their run D which struggled last year and it could work. Even though the defense is only average, Rodgers elevates this team's play and makes them a serious threat.
4. ATLANTA FALCONS- This is Matt Ryan's year. He has the talent, he has the tools (Gonzalez, White, Jones) to do win it all.
5. BALTIMORE RAVENS- This team lost the core of their defense. But they have the best front office in football. They have an outstanding coach. They have a QB that knows how to win playoff games (what an outstanding playoff run in 2012). They still have do it all back Ray Rice. They won without their top CB in 2012. They added Elvis Dumervil. They had a strong draft. They shrewdly let Ellerbe and Kruger walk for big bucks- this team knows how to declare "NEXT MAN UP".
6. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- They are not the lethal, scary team they once were. I don't think they get past the Divisional Round this year and the loss of Welker and the potential loss of Rob Gronkowski is serious. I don't like the receivers Tom Brady has to work with. But it is Tom Brady we're talking here. Bill Bellichick will still be the mastermind in NE, thus they are contenders.
7. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS- These guys are borderline elite. I'm not sold on them like most people are. Richard Sherman is a stud and Bobby Wagner has it all, but with Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons missing for some time (whom of which combined for 20 sacks), the defense pass rush will struggle, especially in that important week 2 clash with San Francisco. Russell Wilson will have to utilize Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Marshawn Lynch to perfection and cannot afford to start off slowly, given their defensive setbacks this offseason. A good team- their road struggles too setback this team and I'm not as high on these guys as most experts are.
8. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS- I'm so impressed with Andrew Luck's rookie season. I questioned some Free Agent and Draft additions, but all the additions were upgrades (except Walden). The core of this team's skilled players was set up in last year's draft. This offseason saw the trenches improve immensely (on paper)- which was a necessity given last year's struggles. I'm looking forward to 2013.
9. HOUSTON TEXANS- Two reasons why I don't rate these guys higher: Reason 1) the offseason has been a setback for them- They don't have a receiving threat outside Andre Johnson (although the addition of De'Andre Hopkins may relieve coverage off him, he is still unproven and he is still a rookie). The addition of Ed Reed for Clover Quinn is a downgrade. He may be a big name, but he had serious issues in 2012 and his injuries have certainly caught up to him (this hip surgery incident astounds me). They've lost defensive depth this offseason too. Reason 2)Matt Schaub is not even close to elite. As simple as that. Texans do have positives to their team: J.J Watt is coming off one of the best defensive years I've seen in my time watching football. Brian Cushing is returning from injury. Jonathon Joseph is experienced and productive. Andre Johnson (even though he is getting old) still has it. Arian Foster is a TD scoring machine. All in all though, in this day in age though, NFL teams can only go as far as their QB will take them though.
10. CINCINNATI BENGALS- I was tempted to put these guys where Texans were but Houston have eliminated these guys out of the playoffs the past two years, so it is not right. But, these guys have built a serious team the past few years. This year's draft was great , and I project Tyler Eifert being a steal. I question their runningback situation though. I question Andy Dalton's poise in the playoffs (he's had two mediocre games against the Texans). But their defense is solid and A.J Green is terrific.
NOTABLE OMMISIONS- Pittsburgh Steelers- These guys can beat any opponent at any given day as they have Big Ben- the toughest QB in football. But they are in a stacked division at the moment. New York Giants- I really wanted to squeeze these guys in the top 10 but the NFC is just so competitive with 49ers, Packers and Falcons leading the way. I wouldn't be surprised if they make me eat my words and get to the Championship game. Saints are an outstanding offense, but there defense is just so bad. Rams are in a tough division and Sam Bradford hasn't proven to me his is the guy to take this team to a division title.
Here is my list. If you have any questions or arguments, go to the comments section