Possibly one of the hardest to predict and one of the most watched divisions this season with the introduction of Quarterback Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos. Having a last season off through injury with his previous team, the Indianapolis Colts, and the acrimonious way he was let go he has a lot to prove. The young Kansas City Chiefs team with new coach Romeo Crennel will put up a good challenge this season considering three of their starts were injured for the majority of last season. The San Diego Chargers are for once under the radar and could push hard. The perennial under achieving Oakland Raiders have yet another change at head coach however rebuilding this season will be their main priority.
One of the more physical divisions in the NFL there are two clear cut teams here who slug it out season in, season out. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens both build their game heavily on defence and there is not a lot between either team. The Cincinnati Bengals made the playoffs last year built around a lot of first year players however were eliminated in the first round. The Cleveland Browns are still rebuilding and this season have a new quarterback in recently drafted Brandon Weeden.
The AFC East has been dominated by the New England Patriots over the last few years however the rebuilt New York Jets under Coach Rex Ryan have started to push them. The Patriots fell at the last hurdle last season however are favourites for another shot at it this season… The Jets went and signed the mercurial Tim Tebow as a backup quarterback that will bring one thing – lots of media. The Buffalo Bills have the longest drought of missing the playoffs – 12 years however they were competitive last season. The Miami Dolphins are in a rebuilding season under new coach Joe Phibin, who was offensive coach at the Green Bay Packers for the last few seasons.
Last season the Houston Texans made the playoffs for the first time in their short 10 year history and that was with their third string quarterback who was only playing due to injuries during the season. A well coached and organised team they could be a surprise again. The other three teams in their division all have relatively new coaches for this season. The Tennessee Titans are rebuilding after long time coach Jeff Fisher departed at the end of the 2010 season and will start blooding second year quarterback Jake Locker. The Jacksonville Jaguars have both new owners and a new coach and will be looking to rebuild as will the Indianapolis Colts.The Colts have No. 1 draft pick and highly rated Andrew Luck at Quarterback. A weapon for his college Stanford, Luck will have the most pressure of any player of the next few seasons – replacing Peyton Manning.
Over the last few seasons this has been one of the weakest divisions however last season the San Francisco 49ers got to the NFC playoff game and lost in overtime. They are favoured to be just as competitive this season. The Arizona Cardinals already have a quarterback issue with their projected starter, Kevin Kolb, already injured in their first pre season game. The Seattle Seahawks have a new quarterback – Matt Flynn – who spent three seasons as back up at Green Bay. The St Louis Rams have a new coach in ex Titans man Jeff Fisher. He has the pedigree to turn them around however will spend this season rebuilding.
The Northern States bring the extremes in both weather and toughness and this division brings that out. The Green Bay Packers have been there or there about in the Aaron Rogers era of quarterback and is a Superbowl favourite yet again. The rebuilt Chicago Bears, who were Superbowl finalists in 2006, will prove tough competition and at home this season could go unbeaten based on this season’s schedule. The Detroit Lions made the playoffs last season for the first time since the 90’s and should still be competitive. The Minnesota Vikings are in rebuild mode in the post Brett Favre era and in a division with three playoff contenders may struggle.
Last season the Philadelphia Eagles were dubbed the “dream team” by both their own players and the media due to their smart off season trading and free agents however it turned into a nightmare and hey failed o make the playoffs. This season however it may be a case of lessons learnt. The reigning Superbowl champions The New York Giants are also in this division. Back to back Super bowls are rare however here is nothing to say the Giants cannot do it. America’s team the Dallas Cowboys are the definition of underachievers in the NFL.With their main players starting to age this could be the last window of opportunity. The Washington Redskins with star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin lll (RG3) are rebuilding however they will cause a few upsets being well coached by Mike Shanahan.
The New Orleans Saints have already hogged the headlines in this division with the well publicised pay for injury scandal and the contract Quarterback Drew Brees recently signed making him one of the highest paid sportsman in the USA – $100M over 5 years. It will be interesting to see if the suspensions of a number of the coaching staff and players will have an effect on the field. The Atlanta Falcons made the playoffs last season before being totally outclassed by Superbowl Champions, the New York Giants. They will be looking to improve on that. The Tampa Bay Buccaneer have a very young team and a new head coach and could cause a few surprises. The Carolina Panthers had a great season considering their rebuilding programme around at times brilliant Quarterback play of rookie Cam Newton. They have a much tougher schedule this season so it may be a harder ask.