1. New England
Just watch the Patriots open at worst 3-1 with Jimmy Garappolo and then get an octane boost when Tom Brady comes off suspension. Brady is motivated enough under normal circumstances. Bill Belichick will use the suspension time to get the NFL's 30th-ranked running game on track.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown comprise the NFL's best three-headed offensive monster. The Steelers will score early and often, count on it. Where Pittsburgh needs to make its biggest improvement is on defense, and in the last two drafts they've taken 11 players on defense and four on offense.
This is the year a healthy Andrew Luck takes his place alongside Brady, Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Brees among the NFL's elite at quarterback. At least that's what the Colts were counting on when he was guaranteed $87 million. Defensively, new coordinator Ted Monachino can be counted on to upgrade a scheme that was too vanilla.
The Broncos emptied a bank vault for Von Miller, who had one of the most dominant postseasons of any player in NFL history. Now the trick is for Miller to reach a J.J. Watt level of consistency. It says here that Denver also made the right call in letting Brock Osweiler go and getting Mark Sanchez as a bridge to Paxton Lynch.
How will the Bengals bounce back from one of the most epic meltdowns ever seen in the postseason? Probably by doing some of the same things in terms of discipline, but the fact is Cincinnati still has plenty of talent. Quarterback Andy Dalton, with 25 touchdown passes and seven interceptions, had his best season but was hurt for the playoffs.
Everyone's trendy pick for the playoffs has completely remade itself over a three-year period. In 2013, it was a struggle to find 35 players worthy of an NFL roster let alone 53. No longer. The quarterback (Derek Carr) and the pass rusher (Khalil Mack) get most of the publicity, but the Raiders actually look to be without a glaring weakness anywhere.
7. Kansas City
Alex Smith is the perfect quarterback for the Chiefs because no matter who the coach is, their organizational strength has been their ability to take the ball and not give it away. Kansas City was a plus-14 in turnover ratio last year, and their personnel sets up nicely to do it again.
8. New York Jets
The Jets improved by six games in going from Rex Ryan to Todd Bowles, in large part because of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who passed for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns. If Matt Forte has one or two good years left, he's an upgrade over the departed Chris Ivory. Jets have as physical a defensive front as there is in the NFL, led by Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson.
Lots of warning signs going in to 2016. J.J. Watt has a bad back, Brock Osweiler an overstuffed wallet and DeAndre Hopkins looks as if he's got a major pout coming on over his contract. The Texans will need a lot out of free agent back Lamar Miller if they hope to defend their AFC South title and go back to the playoffs.
Terrell Suggs is attempting to come back from a torn Achilles' as a 14-year veteran, and Elvis Dumervil showed the strain of not having Suggs on the other side. This simply isn't the Ravens we're used to seeing on defense, and free agent safety Eric Weddle may or may not have a lot left. Joe Flacco is solid, but never ascended to the level his 2012 postseason seemed to suggest.
Rex Ryan's reputation as a defensive guru took a major hit when he took the Bills job and Buffalo promptly got worse on defense -- finishing a mediocre 16th against the run and getting only 21 sacks in 16 games. Rex thinks bringing twin brother Rob on staff and having a second year to institute his system will make the difference.
What is it with the Jaguars and injured players? Edge rusher Dante Fowler, No. 3 overall pick in 2015, was lost for the season the first time he worked out. This time Jacksonville simply drafted a player who was already hurt -- UCLA linebacker Myles Jack in the second round. Quarterback Blake Bortles must prove his good stat line was more than simply piling up yardage in garbage time.
It's pretty much assumed bringing in Adam Gase as head coach will change things in Miami when it comes to playing offense. Of course, Joe Philbin had an excellent reputation, too, and it was mostly Aaron Rodgers that built it. Is Gase a guru who can make Ryan Tannehill something special or was he simply the guy who pointed Peyton Manning to the field with the Broncos?
14. San Diego
This was not a good team in any way, and the Chargers pretty much are going with the status quo unless you count defensive end Brandon Mebane as a big-ticket item. Quarterback Philip Rivers will spread the ball around enough to make things interesting on occasion, but it's not looking good for coach Mike McCoy in a make-or-break year.
Not exactly the greatest show on turf in Nashville, with an attack that will center on plow horse running backs DeMarco Murray and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. If they can't average four yards per carry, Marcus Mariota will take a beating. And since when is continuity a good thing on a 3-13 team with the retention of interim coach Mike Mularkey?
Hue Jackson wanted a second chance at being a head coach so bad he took on the worst roster in the NFL and is working for a front office more rooted in analytics than securing football talent. Jackson did things with Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey that no other coach could do. He probably wishes he had both on his current roster.