Considering that magazines have started to predict the '09 season, I decided to put my two cents in and pick my 12 teams to make the playoffs. I'll divide by division every day and give a quick analysis and a mock playoff run, finishing with my super bowl prediction.
1) San Diego
3) Kansas City
Analysis: The chargers have the look of a 12-13 win club "if" Shawne Merriman returns to form, and based on his insane work ethic I would not bet against him. The chargers have a tremondous roster with excellent playcallers, my biggest doubts are lack coaching leadership and a history of injuries to key players. If they can stay healthy and personnel plays to level a 2-3 seed in the conference is more than a realistic goal. A week 4 game in Pittsburgh may decide if this team can get one the top 2 seed in the conference.
The Raiders closed strong, and can do 2 very important things well: run the football and stop the opposing team's passing game, they're still a year away from contending but 6-7 wins is quite possible. If Al Davis would give this team to Jeff Garcia they might contend this year, strangely enough I agree to a point with Al, Jamarcus Russell's potential is to high to not give him at least a bigger sample than 17 games. If they can stop the run better they might surprise.
The Chiefs were the unluckiest team in football in '09 going 1-9 in games decided by 7 or less, things should balance out this year, but the trade of Tony Gonzalez is massive head scratcher, I'm not convinced Matt Cassel is a major upgrade to Tyler Thigpen; the main concern to Cassel is the 47 sacks he took under the superior Patriots O-Line. The improvement is more based on a more balanced outcome in tight games than anything else. Until this team has something better than the worst pass rush in NFL they're not going anywhere.
The Broncos are a team that took 3 steps backwards and circumstance has played a cruel fate, as Kevin Acey said recently the NFL is defined not only by the team you are, but by who you play, and when and where you play them. Lets put this equation together a defense in transition with no serious improvement (a descending Brian Dawkins barely counts) that gave up 28 points per game, and you take away a 4500 yard QB who carried you to an 8-8 record, change to a mediocre QB and a schedule that has "the most games" versus elite teams: Chargers (2), Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Ravens, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys. Clear and simple top 3 pick in '10 draft.
Playoff teams: San Diego Chargers (3rd seed AFC 12-4 record)
Tomorrow: AFC North