It is that time of year again. With NFL training camps just a few weeks away, it is time to take a preliminary guess at how this coming season will unfold. I am just a bit anxious for the season to begin, can't you tell?
I'll start with the AFC this week. My projections for wins this season are in parentheses:
PATRIOTS (11 wins): While the Pats have improved their most glaring weakness from last year, their wide receivers, I would not expect that to improve their overall wins by much because the rest of this division has also improved. However, they should still win this division.
JETS (9 wins): I will give Coach Mangini credit. He learned how to win games from Bill Belichick using smoke and mirrors. This is still not a great team, but I wouldn't underestimate their coaching.
BILLS (8 wins): The addition of RB Marshawn Lynch will make this team better, but this is offset by the loss of CB Nate Clements. I am still not sold that J.P. Losman can be the quarterback they need.
DOLPHINS (7 wins): New coach (Cam Cameron). New quarterback (Trent Green). Even with the growing pains, I expect the Dolphins will be better.
BENGALS (10 wins): The team to beat in the North. We all know how depleted their roster has become due to local law enforcement, but this team still has a solid base to build on, and Marvin Lewis can do it.
RAVENS (10 wins): It is hard to call the Ravens a much worse team than last year. While the addition of RB Willis McGahee improves them, this team was already old last year. If QB Steve McNair still has enough gas left in the tank, this team could easily be a Super Bowl team. But that's a BIG "if".
STEELERS (7 wins): This is a good news/bad news deal for the Steelers. With Mike Tomlin installing a new offense, expect the Steelers to take a while to come around offensively (assuming the new offense works at all). I am giving the Steelers the benefit of the doubt here by saying 7 wins. Expect the Steelers to start slow and MAYBE come on at the end of the season.
BROWNS (4 wins): This team is STILL rebuilding? By the way, anyone execting Brady Quinn to be an improvement over Charlie Frye will be sorely disappointed. Quinn might be a LITTLE better next year.
TITANS (9 wins): While the Colts may be the "class" of this division, the Titans will be hungrier. Vince Young is the real deal, and he'll take the Titans past the Colts to win this division. The only question in my mind is whether the Titans win the division by a tie-breaker or by overall wins.
COLTS (9 wins): With the Super Bowl victory hanging around their necks like an albatross, expect the Colts to drop more games than last year. Regardless, they are still a tough team to beat.
TEXANS (7 wins): Will their offensive line play any better than last year? Will Matt Schaub play any better than David Carr? And their best running back is Ahman Green? With all those questions, there is a bright side. I think their defense will be a little better with DT Amobi Okoye.
JAGUARS (6 wins): The Jags still have not solved their quarterback problems. Without a lot of improvement elsewhere, this team is dropping.
BRONCOS (10 wins): Jay Cutler looks like the best quarterback the Broncos have had since Elway. Another year under Cutler's belt can only mean good things for this team.
CHARGERS (9 wins): How can an overwhelmingly talented team like the Chargers go from 14 wins to 9 wins? Two words: Norv Turner, who has consistently shown over the years he can take a great team and make them mediocre.
RAIDERS (7 wins): Expect the first year under Lane Kiffin to be a significant improvement over last year's catastrophe. All the news out of Oakland seems to show the Raiders embracing the new coach's philosophy.
CHIEFS (7 wins): Nothing like another year under Herm Edwards to make a playoff team worse. When you consider that RB Larry Johnson might hold out or be traded, the Chiefs might even be a 2 win team.