Column as I see ’em

NFL Season Primer

AFC East-Patriots

With the weakest scheduling in the entire league, Tom Brady and Bill Bellichick will make their 10th season together a breeze. Two top defensive draft picks and the usual high-powered offense will take the Pats deep into the post-season, barring major injury. Patriots go deep into the playoffs.

AFC North-Ravens

Losing linebacker Terrell Suggs will pose more of a challenge to the Ravens than the team has faced before, especially when their schedule has them facing 12 pro-bowl quarterbacks during the 17-game regular season. Offensively, Joe Flacco (entering the final year of his contract) is poised to have a career year helped by the transition to a no-huddle offense. On top of that, the Harbaugh brothers have been gold as head coaches, combining for a record of 25-7 last season. Look for similar results in 2012.

AFC South-Texans

The Texans won the division and their first round playoff game with a backup quarterback and an injured Andre Johnson. Peyton Manning is in Denver for 2012. Matt Shaub is only getting better and really taking control of the offense, leading one of the most balanced teams in the league this year. Arian Foster will be the prime concern of most defenses, allowing Shaub to open up the passing game with two rookie wide receivers and an underrated tight end in Owen Daniels. Texans go deep into the post season.

AFC West-Broncos

Peyton Manning, enough said. AFC championship contender.

NFC East-Giants

Last year’s Super Bowl champions will be hard-pressed to repeat their success. Their running back tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw has been split up, leaving Bradshaw as the only ball carrier for the G-men. Eli Manning, with some new faces on the offensive line, will need to continue improving but will most likely not be able to pull off the seven fourth-quarter comebacks required of him last season. Defensively, the Giants are as solid as ever with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul dominating the defensive end position. Giants go one round into the playoffs.

NFC North-Packers

After going 15-1 last season and facing the second easiest schedule in the league, the Packers are again predicted as Super Bowl hopefuls. Aaron Rodgers looks to continue his reign as league MVP, helped by a healthy offensive line and the usual suspects in his receiving corp. Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk promise to bring the defense back to the 2010 Super Bowl-winning state, and with Charles Woodson swapping between the cornerback and free safety positions, offenses will have to adjust to him. The addition of Cedric Benson at the RB position will add some balance to their offense. Look for the Packers in the Super Bowl this year.

NFC South-Falcons

Brand new defensive and offensive coordinators grace the Falcons coaching staff this season, including Mike Nolan, one of the best defensive coordinators post-2000. Quarterback Matt Ryan and his offense is undergoing a lot of change switching to an aggressive, fast-paced offensive plan including no-huddle. With Nolan at the helm of the defense, Atlanta will no longer have to put up massive numbers to win games, allowing the offensive play-calling to be refined. Atlanta makes the playoffs but not much more than that.

NFC West- 49ers

Ex-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh orchestrated a complete turnaround for the 49ers in one season and looks to continue improving the young West Coast team. Alex Smith has stepped into the role of quarterback, and Frank Gore will continue to dominate the ground game. With one of the most underrated defenses in the league, San Francisco is a favorite for the NFC championship.