1. New York Jets
Outlook: With the No. 1 defense from a year ago intact and the league’s top rushing attack in 2009, the Jets could live up to the hype. They added talented CB Antonio Cromartie and WR Santonio Holmes.
2. New England Patriots
Outlook: The Patriots have questions on the offensive line and the defensive secondary, but with Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker leading the offense they can’t be taken lightly.
3. Miami Dolphins
Outlook: The Dolphins made several moves in an effort to get back into the playoff mix. They acquired receiver Brandon Marshall, signed linebacker Karlos Dansby and brought in Mike Nolan to run the defense, all of which should pay off immediately.
4. Buffalo Bills
Outlook: Chan Gailey is charged with turning around the Bills, who haven’t reached the playoffs in a decade. Expect that drought to continue; Buffalo could vie for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. Rookie RB C.J. Spiller was dynamic in the preseason.
1. Baltimore Ravens
Outlook: On offense the Ravens have shifty running back Ray Rice, and now quarterback Joe Flacco has a glut of receivers led by Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. If the pass defense holds up, Baltimore will be a handful.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Outlook: The key for the Steelers will be weathering the first four games of the season. Ben Roethlisberger is suspended and Byron Leftwich is injured, meaning the untested Dennis Dixon will be guiding the offense. Expect a heavy dose of handoffs to Rashard Mendenhall.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
Outlook: First things first, the Bengals seemingly have the tools to repeat as division champs. They had a top-10 rushing attack in 2009 and the fourth-ranked defense, and have added Terrell Owens and rookie Jordan Shipley at receiver to take some pressure off running back Cedric Benson.
4. Cleveland Browns
Outlook: Mike Holmgren is running the show in Cleveland now, but a turnaround this season is probably too much to ask. Coach Eric Mangini returns, and Jake Delhomme takes over at quarterback. The rushing attack should be a strength with Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Outlook: Peyton Manning is coming off another MVP season and shows no sign of slowing down. If the line can hold up, the Colts shouldn’t have any trouble on offense. Indy has perhaps the best defensive end combo in the league in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
2. Houston Texans
Outlook: The Texans have a playoff-caliber offense. Andre Johnson is the NFL’s best receiver and Matt Schaub led the NFL in passing yards last season. Second-year back Arian Foster was solid in the preseason and will be the featured back. Linebacker Brian Cushing, last season’s defensive rookie of the year, is suspended the first four games of the season.
3. Tennessee Titans
Outlook: It appears Vince Young is finally the unquestioned quarterback in Tennessee. Chris Johnson is the key to the offensive attack and would have more room to run if the Titans develop a decent passing game
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Outlook: The Jaguars have a great running back in Maurice Jones-Drew and a lot of questions. David Garrard has proven mediocre at quarterback, and a lack of quality receivers continues to be a problem. The Jags desperately need to better the league’s worst pass rush.
1. San Diego Chargers
Outlook: No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson remains out of the mix because of a suspension and extended holdout. Philip Rivers is in the prime of his career, and rookie running back Ryan Mathews by all accounts is ready to replace the departed LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers’ defense is the most talented in a bad AFC West.
2. Oakland Raiders
Outlook: Oakland made several moves in the off-season, trading for quarterback Jason Campbell, hiring Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator and drafting linebacker Rolando McClain and tackle Lamarr Houston. The rushing duo of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush gives Oakland a good chance at respectability.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Outlook: Kansas City added veteran running back Thomas Jones and guard Ryan Lilja to strengthen the rushing attack. Coordinators Charlie Weis (offense) and Romeo Crennel (defense) were brought in to help coach Todd Haley.
4. Denver Broncos
Outlook: Denver upgraded its run defense, signing longtime Chargers tackle Jamal Williams as a temporary fix. The offense probably got worse with the departure of Brandon Marshall. The Broncos drafted receiver Demaryius Thomas in the first round, but a foot injury has sidelined him. Kyle Orton remains the starting quarterback.