On the cusp of the 2014 NFL season, our analysts provide their predictions, including the winners of individual awards, playoff teams for each conference and Championship Sunday/Super Bowl forecasts.
Charley Casserly: Patriots. Buffalo will struggle at quarterback. And while Geno Smith makes positive strides, the Jets' secondary will hold them back. Miami has the best chance to challenge, but QB Ryan Tannehill and the offensive line need to improve. At the end of the day, it's the same result as always: Pats take the division.
Gil Brandt: Steelers. Pittsburgh's defense will be better than it was last season, thanks especially to the presence of first-round pick Ryan Shazier at linebacker. This division will be very close, as you could make a convincing case for the Bengals and Ravens to finish first. But Ben Roethlisberger reminded us in the latter half of 2013 -- when Pittsburgh went 6-2 -- that we should never count out the Steelers.
Charley Casserly: Colts. With Reggie Wayne back in the fold and Andrew Luck making up for deficiencies in the running game and on defense, the Colts prevail again in an improved division. The Texans are good enough in many areas to contend, but they can't win the division with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Blake Bortles will play at some point in Jacksonville, but the Jags are a year away. The Titans will be a tough out, but I am not confident enough in Jake Locker to get them to the Promised Land. (Their best QB might be rookie Zach Mettenberger.)
Gil Brandt: Broncos. Denver improved its defensive personnel significantly -- adding pieces like DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward -- and that will make them tough to beat. And then there's Peyton Manning. Quarterbacks tend to slow down at his age (38), but he seems to be defying the laws of gravity.
Charley Casserly: Broncos. No explanation needed for the loaded Broncos. K.C. will take a step back because of its offensive line and secondary. The Chargers overachieved last year; they are a .500 club. And Oakland's a team in transition; the Raiders will break in rookie QB Derek Carr during the season.
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AFC WILD CARD 1
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