By Steve Silverman
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There’s a lot more to covering football than making predictions, but at the start of the season it’s an absolute staple that has remained in place for decades.READ MORE: Supply Chain Issues: How Are Global Shortages Affecting Local Customers?
While we don’t learn a lot from preseason football about the strengths and weaknesses of each team, it does tell us something about the depth of talent on the 32 teams. The New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts appear to have plenty of it; the rest of the teams don’t appear to be as fortunate.
But each of the main contenders have issues to deal with, and remaining at the top may not be so easy. We have picked the Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl each of the last two years, and we were one play away from being correct both times.
This time, the Seahawks will not be as fortunate.
New England Patriots – The losses of Darrelle Revis and Vince Wilfork leave this team vulnerable, but Tom Brady & Co. still have enough to finish on top in the division.
Miami Dolphins* – Adding Ndamukong Suh to a potent defensive line makes the Dolphins dangerous. Ryan Tannehill showed improvement in 2014, but he is not a championship-level quarterback.
Buffalo Bills – Rex Ryan once again has a defense that can produce mayhem. He also has Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, and that means his options are limited.
New York Jets – Todd Bowles has already learned that the Jets’ locker room is not an easy place to negotiate. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets get off to a sharp start, but second-half stumbles will leave this team at the bottom of the division.
Baltimore Ravens – Look for the Ravens to score a lot of points thanks to Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett. If the defense improves as the season moves along, they will be a legitimate Super Bowl threat.
Cincinnati Bengals – Despite what the Bengals say publicly, the book is written on Andy Dalton. He can’t play well in the most important games, and the Bengals will disappoint again.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Once the Steelers get Le’Veon Bell back in the lineup, their offense will be nearly unstoppable. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh defense is a sham.
Cleveland Browns – The new uniforms look good, but the Browns are still a mess.
Indianapolis Colts – This could be the year that Andrew Luck continues his ascent and becomes the NFL’s top quarterback. Frank Gore gives the Colts the toughness they have been missing.
Houston Texans – J.J. Watt has plenty of talent helping him on defense and Jadaveon Clowney should blossom this season. Brian Hoyer is just another guy at quarterback, and the Texans will fall short against good teams.
Tennessee Titans – Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has a brilliant prospect to work with in Marcus Mariota. There will be plenty of ups and downs, but Mariota will be a solid Rookie of the Year candidate.
Jacksonville Jaguars –Much will depend on Blake Bortles’ ability to step up and make improvements after an ordinary rookie season. Can’t see it happening with this ordinary group.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs opened eyes last year by beating both the Patriots and the Seahawks, but they let winnable games slip away against the Titans and Raiders. Andy Reid won’t let that happen again, and the Chiefs will win the West.
San Diego Chargers* – Philip Rivers will get a much better performance from his running game this year as rookie Melvin Gordon becomes an impact player. The Chargers will chase the Chiefs all season.
Denver Broncos – It will all fall apart for the Broncos this year as Peyton Manning finds there is not enough left in the tank. They may be lucky to stay out of the cellar.
Oakland Raiders – The Raiders have had double-digit loss seasons in 10 of the last 12 campaigns, so it’s easy to pick them last. However, Derek Carr, Latavius Murray and Amari Cooper give them a much stronger core, and this team is finally improving.
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Philadelphia Eagles – Chip Kelly appears to know what he’s doing, so the belief is that installing Sam Bradford at quarterback will work. The Eagles are the most balanced team in the division.
Dallas Cowboys – After last year’s division championship, the Cowboys nearly got to play for the NFC Championship. Losing DeMarco Murray leaves Jerry’s boys with a very questionable running game.
New York Giants – The Giants’ offense could be quite sharp with Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz, but there are still too many holes to be dependable.
Washington Redskins – The whole RGIII mess is weighing down this team. Is there any doubt the Redskins finish in the cellar?
Green Bay Packers – The Jordy Nelson injury hurts, but the Packers have the best quarterback in football in Aaron Rodgers and a slew of talented receivers. They run away with the division, and perhaps more.
Minnesota Vikings* –Mike Zimmer is the best defensive coach in football, and the offense is getting better. Teddy Bridgewater must continue to grow in his second year, and an inspired Adrian Peterson runs for at least 1,300 yards and 12 TDs.
Detroit Lions –Jim Caldwell is one of the more underrated coaches in the game, but losing Suh hurts this team badly. Teams will be able to control the interior line and the Lions will struggle.
Chicago Bears – John Fox and Vic Fangio give the Bears professional coaches who know what they are doing. Unfortunately, they are working with bottom-level talent, and the Bears may not win five games.
Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton needs to stay healthy for the Panthers to have a chance in this dull division. Ron Rivera gets the defense back to playing effectively, as it did in 2013.
New Orleans Saints – The Saints are trying to find themselves after last year’s 7-9 season. Drew Brees learns that the flesh isn’t always capable even if the spirit is willing. The Saints disappoint again.
Atlanta Falcons – Dan Quinn wonders what he got himself into after leaving Seattle to take over this franchise. The Falcons still need to get bigger, stronger and meaner on defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The combination of Jameis Winston at quarterback and Lovie Smith at head coach is not reminiscent of Joe Montana and Bill Walsh. Winston has far too many flaws and Smith only has defensive answers.
Arizona Cardinals – After all the injuries in 2014, the Cardinals stay healthy and Carson Palmer has one more magical year. The Cardinals rise in the West.
Seattle Seahawks – This team appears to be as strong as it was the last two years. However, the Seahawks are counting on big things in the passing game from Jimmy Graham, and it may not work out.
St. Louis Rams – Jeff Fisher has a very nasty defensive front and Nick Foles is credible under center. There’s a chance the Rams could push for second place.
San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers have fallen hard and fast. Somewhere in Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh has an unmistakable smirk on his face.
* — Wild-Card teams
AFC Championship game:
Kansas City over New England – Hard-running Chiefs overpower deflated Pats
NFC Championship game:
Green Bay over Arizona – Packers learn that they can’t sit on a late lead. They keep pushing and win by double-digits.
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Green Bay over Kansas City – A repeat of Super Bowl I, as the Packers paste the Chiefs in the second half.