Having read page upon page of training camp reports on-line, having seen Matt Cassell and Matt Guitierrez take far too many snaps the last four weeks, my brain feels like all of the relevant information it had stored about the NFL during the off-season has been sapped.

Therefore, I only have my own hunches and personal biases to rely upon the following NFL season preview. I’m just going to come out and say it. Anybody can win this season as long as it’s not the Indianapolis Colts.

I don’t hold anything personal against the Colts. Yes, I’m a Patriots fan and the Colts have been New England’s biggest rival this century. But in terms of personal animus towards a rival, I hold the Colts in the same regard as I hold the 1980s Milwaukee Bucks from my perspective as a Celtics fan. It’s a team full of nice, classy guys that handed my team a crushing defeat (last year’s AFC Championship, Milwaukee’s four-game sweep of the 1983 Celtics), but ultimately, just not a team I can hate…

Except for that defense, that porous, Kleenex-constructed, ankle-nipping, nose-powdering defense. The fact that this can now be referred to as a championship-caliber defense stains the legacy of every other Super Bowl winning defense in history.

I’m happy to report that defense is back this year in the NFL. There are three great ones (Baltimore, Chicago and New England) and a handfull of very good ones (Denver, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Dallas, Seattle) that will restore the reputation of all defenses a year after the Indianapolis Colts besmirched the most noble part of the game.

NFC West

Seattle 12-4

San Francisco 10-6

St. Louis 9-7

Arizona 6-10

This could end up being the deepest division in football if every team improves like a lot of people think. Seattle bounces back with the return to prominence of Shaun Alexander and a full year of Deion Branch. The Niners will make the leap to the playoffs with Alex Smith making the leap to a Pro Bowl QB. The Rams’ defense needed an overhaul after last season and didn’t get it. Yet, unfortunately for Arizona, the Cardinals still have the worst defense in the divison, if not the conference.

NFC South

New Orleans 11-5

Carolina 7-9

Tampa Bay 5-11

Atlanta 5-11

People are a little too high on the Saints. Drew Brees won’t put up the same numbers he did last year, but they’re still one of the teams to beat in the NFC. The Panthers have been underachieving since 2005. No reason to think that’s going to change. Tampa needs Jeff Garcia to stay healthy, but they’re protecting him with a suspect line. Poor Atlanta. No one’s going to throw them a bone.

NFC Central

Chicago 11-5

Detroit 9-7

Green Bay 8-8

Minnesota 3-13

Rex Grossman doesn’t have to mess things up. Just the prospect of him eventually messing up will be hanging over the Bears all season. They’ll probably win just enough to keep him in the starting lineup. I’d buy Jon Kitna’s prediction of the Lions winning 10-plus games if Jon Kitna weren’t the Lions quarterback. Speaking of mediocre QBs, when does the “Will Brett Favre retire?” speculation begin? And yet out of all this, the team with by far the worst quarterback in the divison is the Vikings, who inexplicably see Tarvaris Jackson as the answer.

NFC East

Philadelphia 10-6

Dallas 10-6

Washington 6-10

New York 5-11

The Eagles’ run defense is a concern, but having Donovan McNabb around gives them the nod over the Cowboys, who will thrive under Wade Phillips’ defensive schemes but ultimately fail with Tony Romo at QB. The Redskins are a tempting sleeper pick, but not tempting enough. The Giants lost their best player but kept their head coach and will realize around Week 4 that they should have made every effort to do the opposite.

AFC West

San Diego 10-6

Denver 10-6

Kansas City 5-11

Oakland 4-12

The Chargers gave the boot to Marty Schottenheimer and replaced him with the only coach that could possibly make them bigger underachievers – Norv Turner. Travis Henry needs every penny he can get from incentive bonuses so his kids don’t go hungry, and that bodes well for the Broncos. Larry Johnson’s work-load the last couple of years is going to catch up to the Chiefs. The Raiders, well, Michael Vick should be available before they sign JaMarcus Russell.

AFC South

Indianapolis 11-5

Jacksonville 8-8

Houston 8-8

Tennessee 5-11

The Colts probably think they can cruise through the regular season again, and, playing in this division, who can blame them. The Jaguars’ perpetual QB controversy isn’t doing their offense any favors. The Texans are a year away from being a contender. The Titans are going to have to ride out Vince Young’s sophomore slump.

AFC Central

Baltimore 12-4

Cincinnatti 11-5

Pittsburgh 10-6

Cleveland 3-13

Defense will get the Ravens to the playoffs, but can Willis McGahee and Steve McNair put them over the top? Both the Bengals and the Steelers are poised for bounce-back years and will be scary come playoff time. Even though he’s doing the smart thing by not throwing Brady Quinn to the wolves right away, Romeo Crennel’s days with the Browns are numbers, unfortunately.

AFC East

New England 13-3

New York 8-8

Buffalo 7-9

Miami 4-12

It’s understandable what with all the big names the Patriots acquired on offense, but people are overlooking the defense, which will reach the level of the Ravens and Bears this season with Adalius Thomas on board. The Jets are headed in the right direction, but will take a step back this year. The Bills might be ready to challenge the Patriots in another year, too. Playing the role of Drew Bledsoe this season, the Dolphins’ Trent Green.

NFC Championship: Seattle over Dallas

AFC Championship: New England over Baltimore

Super Bowl XLII: New England over Seattle

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