1. New York Giants
Key losses: WR Mario Manningham, RB Brandon Jacobs, TE Jake Ballard (microfracture knee surgery).
Key additions: RB David Wilson, WR Rueben Randle, WLB Keith Rivers, TE Martellus Bennett.
Forecast: The champs got better. Wilson is an upgrade over Jacobs, and Randle is an upgrade over Manningham.
2. New England Patriots
Key losses: DE Andre Carter, DE Shaun Ellis, DE Mark Anderson, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB Kevin Faulk.
Key additions: WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Jabar Gaffney, DE Chandler Jones, LB Dont’a Hightower, DE Jonathan Fanene, S Steve Gregory, CB Alfonzo Dennard.
Forecast: The Patriots upgraded their defense and their wide receivers, and now they’re the best team in the AFC by far.
3. Green Bay Packers
Key losses: LT Chad Clifton, S Nick Collins, RB Ryan Grant, QB Matt Flynn.
Key additions: OLB Nick Perry, C Jeff Saturday.
Forecast: Still the best passing offense in the NFL, now the defense has two good pass rushers as Nick Perry teams up with Clay Matthews at outside linebacker.
4. San Francisco 49ers
Key losses: WR Joshua Morgan.
Key additions: WR Randy Moss, WR Mario Manningham, WR A.J. Jenkins, RB LaMichael James, QB Josh Johnson.
Forecast: The best defense in the league and arguably the best roster top-to-bottom too. The offense wasn’t good enough on third down or in the red zone last season to reach the Super Bowl. So, the front office added four playmakers whom they hope will improve the Niners third-down and red-zone offense from awful to good enough. But the young and unproven right side of the offensive line (RG Daniel Kilgore and RT Anthony Davis) cannot be the weak link this season – they must mature quickly and hold their own, or else Vernon Davis and Moss and Mannigham will never get the ball. If the offensive line holds up, the level of success of the entire offense will fall squarely on Alex Smith’s shoulders. Can he consistently move the chains, especially in the playoffs? If he can, the Niners can win the Super Bowl this season. If he can’t, his backup deserves a shot.
5. Houston Texans
Key losses: DE Mario Williams, ILB DeMeco Ryans, CB Jason Allen.
Key additions: ILB Bradie James, DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus.
Forecast: The Texans defense played very well without Mario Williams last year, and this year they’ve added pass rusher Whitney Mercilus, so it should be top-notch once again. The offense is consistently very good with Matt Schaub at QB, Andre Johnson at WR and Arian Foster at RB, and that trio is healthy this season.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
Key losses: CB William Gay, RB Rashard Mendenhall (ACL tear), NT Casey Hampton (ACL).
Key additions: RG David DeCastro, LT Mike Adams, NT Alameda Ta’amu
Forecast: Whoever starts the season at running back will have a great offensive line in front of him. Roethlisberger will continue to throw for tons of passing yards, because wide receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are very good.
7. Denver Broncos
Key losses: DT Brodrick Bunkley, WR Eddie Royal, QB Tim Tebow.
Key additions: QB Peyton Manning, TE Jacob Tamme, WR Andre Caldwell, CB Tracy Porter.
Forecast: This team should be able to pass the ball and rush the passer – a winning combination for Peyton Manning in the past.
8. Chicago Bears
Key losses: Johnny Knox (cracked joint in spinal column)
Key additions: WR Brandon Marshall, DE Shea McLellin, WR Alshon Jeffery, RB Michael Bush.
Forecast: This team got exactly what they wanted this offseason, another pass rusher and a couple of huge wide receivers. With QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte back healthy, the Bears should contend for the Super Bowl.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Key losses: CB Leon Hall (torn Achilles), WR Jerome Simpson, WR Andre Caldwell, DE Frostee Rucker, DE Jonathan Fanene, OG Nate Livings.
Key additions: LG Travelle Wharton, RG Kevin Zeitler, WR Marvin Jones, WR Mohamed Sanu, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Jason Allen, CB Terrence Newman.
Forecast: Second-year QB Andy Dalton will have a monster season throwing to one elite WR – A.J. Green – and two good rookies – Sanu and Jones.
10. Philadelphia Eagles
Key losses: LT Jason Peters (Achilles tear).
Key additions: MLB DeMeco Ryans, LT Demetress Bell, DT Fletcher Cox, SLB Mychal Kendricks, DE Vinny Curry, CB Brandon Boykin, WR Marvin McNutt.
Forecast: The Eagles made very good offseason moves, but they’ll never seriously contend for a Super Bowl as long as Vick’s their QB. He’s small, he runs a lot, takes huge hits and misses too many games.
11. Dallas Cowboys
Key losses: ILB Bradie James, CB Terrence Newman, WR Laurent Robinson.
Key additions: CB Brandon Carr, CB Morris Claiborne, ILB Dan Connor.
Forecast: Cornerback was their biggest need and they got two very good ones, but they still have a shaky running game. With the loss of Robinson they now have no depth at wide receiver. If Dallas stays completely healthy they could contend for the Lombardi Trophy, but don’t bet on it.
12. Detroit Lions
Key losses: CB Eric Wright.
Key additions: OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles, CB Dwight Bentley.
Forecast: This team basically stood pat. They needed a CB so they drafted Bentley in the third round. Their best player – Calvin Johnson – carries the Madden Curse this season, which doesn’t bode well for Detroit.
13. Baltimore Ravens
Key losses: OLB Terell Suggs (Achilles tear), OLB Jarret Johnson, DT Cory Redding, OG Ben Grubbs
Key additions: OLB Courtney Upshaw.
Forecast: With Suggs, this is a top-five team. Without him, Baltimore is an aging defense with a so-so pass rush.
14. Atlanta Falcons
Key losses: MLB Curtis Lofton.
Key additions: CB Asante Samuel.
Forecast: The defense is good but not great. Same with the offense. QB Matt Ryan needs a strong running game to be effective, and 30-year-old RB Michael Turner has slowed down the last two seasons.
15. Seattle Seahawks
Key losses: MLB David Hawthorne.
Key additions: QB Matt Flynn, DE Bruce Irvin.
Forecast: If their surprise first round pick, Irvin, can become a third-down sack master, Seattle’s defense could be very good, but the offense lacks talented pass catchers and an experienced QB. Also, now that Marshawn Lynch has a long-term contract, will he still play hard?
16. San Diego Chargers
Key losses: WR Vincent Jackson, RB Mike Tolbert.
Key additions: OLB Jarret Johnson, OLB Melvin Ingram, WR Robert Meachem, WR Eddie Royal, FB LeRon McClain.
Forecast: Philip Rivers lost his best WR – Jackson – but he gained two good ones, and now he’s got four (Vincent Brown, Malcolm Floyd, Meachem and Royal) to go along with TE Antonio Gates. The defense needed pass rushers, so they added two outside linebackers – Johnson and Ingram. They should be a very tough team this season.
17. New Orleans Saints
Key losses: HC Sean Payton, DC Gregg Williams, MLB Jonathan Vilma (1-year ban), LG Carl Nicks, CB Tracy Porter, WR Robert Meachem, LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Key additions: LG Ben Grubbs, MLB Curtis Lofton, WLB David Hawthorne, NT Broderick Bunkley.
Forecast: The team is in disarray. The defense will stink and the offense won’t have its play caller – the disgraced Sean Payton.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Key losses: CB Brandon Carr.
Key additions: RB Peyton Hillis, CB Stanford Routt, RT Eric Winston.
Forecast: The biggest additions aren’t really additions; they’re Chiefs who are returning from various injuries – QB Matt Cassel, RB Jamaal Charles and S Eric Berry and TE Tony Moeaki. They downgraded big-time at cornerback, replacing Carr with Routt. Cassel is NBD – no big deal – but without him, the Chiefs are nowhere.
19. Carolina Panthers
Key losses: MLB Dan Connor, OG Geoff Schwartz.
Key additions: MLB Luke Kuechly, OG Amini Silatolu, WR/PR Joe Adams, TE Greg Olsen.
Forecast: The offense will be excellent. Cam Newton’s the best young offensive player in the NFL. Joe Adams will win the No. 2 WR job in training camp and have a good season opposite Steve Smith. First round pick Luke Kuechly will help improve the defense, but it’s got a long way to go before it’s good enough.
20. Oakland Raiders
Key losses: DE Kamerion Wimbley, CB Stanford Routt, RB Michael Bush.
Key additions: OG Mike Brisiel, OG Tony Bergstrom, RB Mike Goodson, CB Ronald Bartell, WR Juron Criner.
Forecast: Wimbley’s a one-trick pony – a speed rusher who doesn’t defend the run. The Raiders will be fine without him. And they’ll actually improve without Routt. Call it addition by subtraction. All he did for Oakland was commit a ton of pass interference penalties. Bartell should be a big upgrade. If Darren McFadden stays healthy, the Raiders offense will be top-10. If the defense can at least stop the run, this team could be competitive.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key losses: None.
Key additions: WR Vincent Jackson, LG Carl Nicks, S Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin, CB Eric Wright.
Forecast: Young QB Josh Freeman had a down year. He should bounce back, especially because he’s got a new wide receiver – Jackson – and a new tail back – Martin. The defense has talent. There’s a new head coach – Greg Schiano. This team should surprise the league this season.
22. Tennessee Titans
Key losses: Cortland Finnegan.
Key additions: LG Steve Hutchinson, DE Kamerion Wimbley, WR Kendall Wright.
Forecast: This offense is much better with WR Kenny Britt, who tore his ACL last season and missed 13 games after missing four the season before. Hutchinson’s old, and so is the quarterback – Matt Hasselbeck. First-round pick Kendall Wright will bust. Team MVP Chris Johnson had a down year last season. If he doesn’t rebound, the Titans will be lucky to tread water this season.
23. New York Jets
Key losses: LaDainian Tomlinson.
Key additions: DE Quiton Coples, WR Stephen Hill, S LaRon Landry, Tim Tebow.
Forecast: This team still stinks. WR Santonio Holmes will quit on them again this year, maybe even before the season begins. If they didn’t have the best CB in the NFL – Derrelle Revis – the Jets would just be plain awful.
24. Arizona Cardinals
Key losses: CB Richard Marshall.
Key additions: WR Michael Floyd, CB William Gay.
Forecast: This team’s going nowhere. The offensive line is still bad, and so is the quarterback – Kevin Kolb. If they didn’t have one of top-10 players in the league – Larry Fitzgerald – they wouldn’t have very much going for them. At least they have the promising young cornerback and punt returner – Patrick Peterson.
25. Buffalo Bills
Key losses: LT Demetress Bell.
Key additions: DE Mario Williams, CB Stephon Gilmore, DE Mark Anderson, OT Cordy Glenn.
Forecast: They added the best pass rusher in the NFL to their defense – Williams – plus they added another good one – Anderson, and spent a top-10 draft pick on a corner – Gilmore. The defense should be good, but the offense won’t be, and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is the reason why. He stinks.
26. Indianapolis Colts
Key losses: QB Peyton Manning, TE Jacob Tamme, WR Pierre Garçon, C Jeff Saturday.
Key additions: QB Andrew Luck, TE Coby Fleener, TE Dwayne Allen.
Forecast: This team is going to be slightly better than many people think. Andrew Luck will be very good right away, like Cam Newton last season, only better. Fleener will catch more than 10 TDs, and Reggie Wayne will gain more than 1,200 yards receiving. The defense still can rush the quarterback, but can they stop the run? Probably not.
27. Minnesota Vikings
Key losses: None.
Key additions: LT Matt Kalil, WR Jerome Simpson, WR Greg Childs, WR Jarius Wright.
Forecast: Team MVP Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus last season, believes he’ll be ready to start this season. That’s good news for the Vikings, especially for 2nd-year noodle-armed QB Christian Ponder, who needs all the help he can get. And they’re giving it to him – not only will Peterson return, but they drafted a stud left tackle – Kalil –signed a good wide receiver – Simpson – and drafted two more good ones from the University of Arkansas – Childs and Wright. The defense isn’t nearly good enough for this team to matter, though.
28. Washington Redskins
Key losses: LaRon Landry, Jabar Gaffney.
Key additions: Robert Griffin III, Pierre Garçon, Joshua Morgan.
Forecast: QB Griffin will disappoint his rookie season. His weapons – Garçon, Morgan and RB Roy Helu – really are NBD, and his coach – Mike Shannahan – is way over the hill.
29. St. Louis Rams
Key losses: WR Brandon Lloyd.
Key additions: CB Cortland Finnegan, DT Michael Brockers, WR Brian Quick, CB Janoris Jenkins, RB Isaiah Pead, WR Chris Givens.
Forecast: The defense should be much better than last season, when it featured one of the slowest, worst secondaries in football. Now with Finnegan and Jenkins, they have two good cornerbacks. Unfortunately for St. Louis, the offense will continue to stink. The WRs are NBD, and the QB, Sam Bradford, is a dink-and-dunker who needs a clean pocket to operate. In other words, he’s a bust and he’ll hold this team back for years.
30. Cleveland Browns
Key losses: RB Peyton Hillis.
Key additions: RB Trent Richardson, QB Brandon Weeden, DE Frostee Rucker.
Forecast: Trent Richardson was the right draft pick; Brandon Weeden was not. Like Bradford, Weeden was a prolific Big XII QB who needs a clean pocket. QBs don’t get clean pockets in the NFL, so the Browns are screwed.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Key losses: None.
Key additions: DE Andre Branch, WR Justin Blackmon, WR Laurent Robinson, WR Lee Evans.
Forecast: Another team who foolishly invested in a Big XII QB. Blaine Gabbert is so bad, he will single-handedly ensure the Jaguars are one of the NFL’s worst teams this season.
32. Miami Dolphins
Key losses: None.
Key additions: QB Ryan Tannehill, RT Jonathan Martin, CB Richard Marshall.
Forecast: Miami is giving its Big XII QB, Tannehill, a year to develop, as if that will help. It won’t. He’ll still be horrendous in the NFL, but the Dolphins will be horrendous with our without him, so it doesn’t really matter.