AFC North: Steelers (11-5), Ravens (9-7), Bengals (8-8), Browns (3-13)
You won’t find a more dominant QB-RB-WR trio than Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Once Bell returns from his two-game suspension, Pittsburgh’s three-dimensional offense will be hard to stop. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant is poised for a breakout year. The division is stacked with good quarterbacks in Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton, but Roethlisberger has the best supporting cast, which will help the Steelers take the North.
AFC East: Patriots (13-3), Dolphins (8-8), Bills (7-9), Jets (4-12)
Having Tom Brady’s four-game suspension nullified is huge. That’s one-fourth of the season, and Patriots fans, obviously, feel better with Brady than Jimmy Garoppolo. While I like Rex Ryan and hope he can find success similar to his first couple of years with the Jets, the Bills have a lot of uncertainty under center. In fact, both the Jets and Bills have a good defense, but you have to question whether the offense will create a balance. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a strong outing in 2014, but Miami is still an average team at best.
AFC South: Colts (12-4), Texans (9-7), Titans (5-11), Jaguars (2-14)
Unless Andrew Luck suffers an injury, the Colts are running the table in the AFC South. Houston is the most interesting team, as they have the best football player in J.J. Watt, along with a merciless defensive line. It’s the offense that will determine Houston’s success this year. While Marcus Mariota is great and likeable, the Titans are far away from being a contender.
AFC West: Chiefs (10-6), Broncos (10-6), Chargers (9-7), Raiders (6-10)
While Denver did lose a couple of offensive weapons, there is no doubt that Peyton Manning could make anyone look good. But we may begin to see Manning regress a bit. In fact, Kansas City’s stout defense never surrendered more than 29 points in a game last year. With an improved offense, the Chiefs should be more balanced and competitive to the point where they give the Broncos a run for their money. San Diego’s consistency is a concern while Oakland is on the right path to becoming the competitive franchise it once was.
AFC Wild-Card: Texans over Steelers, Chiefs over Broncos
AFC Divisional: Patriots over Texans, Colts over Chiefs
AFC Championship: Colts over Patriots
NFC North: Vikings (11-5), Packers (10-6), Lions (9-7), Bears (3-13)
Give Teddy Bridgewater an elite running back in Adrian Peterson, and the Vikings will go from 7-9 to fighting Green Bay for the division. Losing wide receiver Jordy Nelson is a blow to the Packers. However, as long as they have Aaron Rodgers, that offense will still operate very well. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson will be heavily relied on in a competitive division.
NFC East: Giants (12-4), Cowboys (9-7), Eagles (7-9), Redskins (1-15)
Eli Manning had nearly one of his best seasons statistically after improving from an abysmal 2013 campaign. If Victor Cruz can stay healthy while playing opposite of Odell Beckham Jr., watch out. That passing game will be fun to watch and may ultimately be the reason why the Giants take the East. Speaking of improvement, Tony Romo has drastically improved the past two years and will have another great season. Running back Darren McFadden’s career hasn’t panned out well since coming out of Arkansas, but Dallas will use Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle quite a lot to help fill the loss of DeMarco Murray as he joins the Eagles. Philadelphia has a solid group of running backs with Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles supporting Murray. But do they have a viable quarterback? Chip Kelly will face a lot of criticism if this season does not pan out well.
NFC South: Saints (9-7), Buccaneers (7-9), Panthers (4-12), Falcons (3-13)
The Saints took a huge loss after trading Jimmy Graham away to Seattle, leaving many to wonder how far this team will go. But given that Carolina lost Kelvin Benjamin for the season, it opens the door back up for the Saints. The Falcons are trying to finish above .500, but there are too many holes on that defense. Tampa Bay will try to rebound with Jameis Winston as the quarterback, as he has a mix of veterans and young players to work with. The NFC South was brutal to watch last year. There is no clear-cut team that can runaway with the division. We should expect another tight race with all four teams likely in the hunt late in the season.
NFC West: Seahawks (13-3), Cardinals (10-6), 49ers (6-10), Rams (4-12)
Adding Jimmy Graham was huge for Seattle and its offense, giving everyone a reason to pick them to play in the Super Bowl for the third straight year. Though Kam Chancellor’s absence is something the team wants to change, Seattle’s secondary is still top-notch. Arizona was hot last year, going 9-1 until Carson Palmer tore his ACL, leaving the Cardinals to finish 2-4 and falling to a team below .500 in the postseason. If Palmer is healthy, Arizona will look to dominate again. The 49ers not only lost Jim Harbaugh, but lost 11 key veterans to free agency or retirement. That is not an ideal first year to go into for head coach Jim Tomula, and there’s no certainty that Colin Kaepernick is a feasible quarterback.
NFC Wild-Card: Vikings over Cardinals, Packers over Saints
NFC Divisional: Seahawks over Packers, Giants over Vikings
NFC Championship: Giants over Seahawks
Super Bowl: Giants over Colts
Super Bowl MVP: Odell Beckham Jr.Follow @Farzin21