1.) Patriots – Best coach, best quarterback and best team — at least in regular seaso.
2.) Falcons – Utterly consistent and balanced. Gonna be very tough at home but elite passing teams like Saints or Packers could give them trouble.
3.) Steelers – Could not have finished Week 17 any more emphatically.
4.) Ravens — Used to being playoff road warriors.
5.) Packers – Would not be surprised to see them in Dallas.
6.) Saints — Didn’t like the way they ended their season, but do expect them to do damage in the big dance.
7.) Colts – Always scary once they get in. Have some options at running back now.
8.) Eagles — Did the prudent thing and rested a lot of guys in Week 17. But getting Green Bay in a Wild-Card Game road is no joke.
9.) Bears — When the quarterback slips up, he slips up big.
10.) Jets – Rex Ryan talking Super Bowl again, but I just don’t see it. Gonna have to score into the mid-20s at least to beat the Colts.
11.) Chiefs — Been a great season, but the Charlie Weis defection and that beat-down loss to the Raiders has to make you wonder about their playoff psyche.
12.) Buccaneers — The single biggest shocking team in the NFL this season. Very young and plenty good.
13.) Giants — Eli Manning simply cannot account for 30 turnovers. That was the difference.
14.) Cowboys — Jason Garrett deserves the job and he’ll get it.
15.) Chargers — If they don’t have all the restricted free agent drama next year they might get back in. But the division is tougher than it was during their four-year reign.
16.) Raiders — Leave it to them to go 6-0 in the division but just 8-8 overall. Some pieces are there, but more coaching uncertainty ahead.
17.) Lions — Quietly started putting some wins together in the second half of the season. Could be truly explosive next year.
18.) Rams — Came up a little short, but the defense is much improved, they can run ball and have a blossoming star at quarterback. Will add pass catchers this offseason. Way ahead of schedule.
19.) Jaguars — Tough assignment without MJD the last two weeks, and late collapses are troubling. Still, Gene Smith has them on right path. Assembling some talent there.
20.) Texans — Wade Phillips, or some proven defensive coordinator, is in order. But will that be enough for a franchise that can’t get over the hump?
21.) Vikings — Face a ton of organizational decisions and have a bevy of key free agents. Leslie Frazier will solidify things but the stadium issue will loom, too.
22.) Redskins – Can’t establish a home-field advantage and struggle annually in their division. Like most teams at back end don’t have a quarterback (or at least one they showed interest in keeping around). Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth leaving town.
23.) Titans — Will be odd to see anyone other than Jeff Fisher on those sidelines in 2011, but that could well be the case.
24.) Seahawks — Yes, I know they won the division and all. But they have questions at quarterback, running back and both lines. Were blown out a lot. Much work remains.
25.) 49ers — Not sure they’re gonna land an A-list coach, in fact I doubt it. But in their weak division a modicum of offensive improvement and they’re in the playoffs.
26.) Dolphins — Looks like a job for Bill Cowher to me. Defense is legit. Need to reshape offense and breed winning mentality.
27.) Bills — Played with passion, but reality of issues at quarterback and on defense ultimately undermined them. If they don’t start getting real production from recent first-rounders they’re doomed, because they can’t come close to spending like everyone else in their division.
28.) Bengals — Do you use that top pick on an underclassman quarterback? T.O. and Chad Ochocinco are as good as gone. Marvin Lewis seems ready to move on.
29.) Broncos — Figuring out if Tim Tebow is ready to be the guy will be tricky. A lot of NFL people skeptical John Elway is the best-prepared man to lead that franchise.
30.) Browns – No one can crown Colt McCoy at this point, and the lack of talent was crushing from Thanksgiving on. I’m thinking John Fox as head coach and Mile McCoy as offensive coordinator.
31.) Cardinals — Could be major changes coming to the staff, particularly on the defensive side.
32.) Panthers — They were every bit as bad as 2-14 looks. But things have a way of fluctuating in their division. They have some young building blocks.