New York Jets
Coach: Rex Ryan (28-20)
Last season's record/finish: 8-8/second.
Skinny: The Jets averaged 23.6 points last season and will be hard-pressed to match that total, especially with two quarterbacks who have trouble throwing - Mark Sanchez (78.2 passer rating) and Tim Tebow (72.9). The defense, without a dominating pass rush, has slipped, and matching last year's record could be a challenge.
Coach: Joe Philbin (first season)
Last season's record/finish: 6-10/third.
Skinny: Rookie Ryan Tannehill has been impressive in training camp, but he will have one of the NFL's worst collection of receivers to target. The defense, led by Pro Bowl DT Paul Soliai, will have to carry the team in the early going. But this could be a very difficult first season for Philbin.
Coach: Chan Gailey (28-36)
Last season's record/finish: 6-10/fourth.
Skinny: The Bills were 30th in points allowed (27.1 per game) and addressed that side of the ball by signing defensive ends Mario Williams from Houston and Mark Anderson (10 sacks) from New England. They also used their first-round pick on South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The Bills are a trendy playoff pick, but Buffalo will struggle unless quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (24 TD passes, 23 interceptions) shows more consistency.
Coach: John Harbaugh (44-20)
Last season's record/finish: 12-4/first; lost to New England in the AFC championship game.
Skinny: Even with NFL defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs expected to miss significant time with an Achilles tendon injury, this team is a Super Bowl contender. Audubon High graduate Joe Flacco (3,610 yards, 20 TDs, 12 interceptions) has led the team to the playoffs in each of his four seasons, and the best from him may be yet to come.
Coach: Mike Tomlin (55-25)
Last season's record/finish: 12-4/second. Lost to Denver in the wild-card round.
Skinny: The Steelers defense led the NFL in fewest points per game allowed (14.2), which made it surprising that they were torpedoed by Tim Tebow and Denver in a 29-23 overtime playoff loss. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a 10-4 career playoff record with two Super Bowl wins, and he will likely have the Steelers in contention again.
Coach: Marvin Lewis (69-74-1)
Last season's record/finish: 9-7/third; lost to Houston in the wild-card round.
Skinny: Quarterback Andy Dalton (3,398 yards, 20 TDs, 13 interceptions) and wide receiver A.J. Green (65 receptions, 1,057 yards, 7 TDs) look to improve on their impressive rookie seasons. Once again, this is a playoff contender, but depth is a question after some preseason injuries.
Coach: Pat Shurmur (4-12)
Last season's record/finish: 4-12/fourth.
Skinny: Cleveland was surprisingly strong on defense last season, allowing only 19.2 points per game, which was fifth in the NFL. The Browns, however were 29th in scoring, averaging 13.6 points, and will be starting 28-year-old rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and first-round running back Trent Richardson, who is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery.
Coach: Gary Kubiak (47-49)
Last season's record/finish: 10-6/won division; lost to Baltimore in the divisional round.
Skinny: The Texans remain the division favorite but must keep quarterback Matt Schaub of West Chester East High and wide receiver Andre Johnson (33 receptions, 492 yards, 2 TDs) healthy. Even without the departed Mario Williams, this is a solid defense on a team that was second in the AFC in turnover differential (plus-7).
Coach: Mike Munchak (9-7)
Last season's record/finish: 9-7/second.
Skinny: Second-year quarterback Jake Locker, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 draft, has earned the starting job. But the key will be whether running back Chris Johnson (1,047 yards, 4.0 average, and four TDs) can rebound from an off-year, at least for him. The underrated defense was eighth in the NFL in points allowed (19.8 per game), and the Titans should contend for the division title.
Coach: Mike Mularkey (14-18)
Last season's record/finish: 5-11/third.
Skinny: Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert (65.4 passer rating) should benefit from the addition of first-round wide receiver Justin Blackmon. NFL rushing champ Maurice Jones-Drew ended his 38-day holdout, good news for an offense that averaged just 15.2 points per game.
Coach: Chuck Pagano (first year)
Last season's record/finish: 2-14/fourth.
Skinny: Quarterback Andrew Luck, the first overall pick in the NFL draft from Stanford, was impressive in the preseason. With veterans Robert Mathis (91/2 sacks) and Dwight Freeney (81/2 sacks) the Colts have some key veterans in place. But they will still likely take their lumps, despite Luck's presence.
Coach: John Fox (81-79)
Last season's record/finish: 8-8/first; lost to New England in the divisional round.
Skinny: Peyton Manning improved as the preseason went on, and even if he isn't 100 percent it's still a serious upgradeover Tim Tebow. Denver is a division contender in the wide-open West, but the defense must improve after the Broncos allowed 24.4 points per game.
San Diego Chargers
Coach: Norv Turner (107-113-1)
Last season's record/finish: 8-8/second.
Skinny: Quarterback Philip Rivers (27 TD passes, 20 interceptions) must pick up his game if the Chargers are to contend. Tight end Antonio Gates appears healthy. But a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game must show more consistency.
Coach: Dennis Allen (first year)
Last season's record/finish: 8-8/third.
Skinny: The Raiders could contend, especially with Carson Palmer having an entire training camp, but he must cut down his poor decision-making (13 TD passes, 16 interceptions). Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour (six sacks) leads a unit that must improve after allowing 27.1 points per game, 29th in the NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs
Coach: Romeo Crennel (26-41).
Last season's record/finish: 7-9/fourth.
Skinny: Many say the Chiefs could be vastly improved, but quarterback Matt Cassel must show more consistency. No team was hit harder by injuries last season, so key players such as defensive back Eric Berry, Cassel, and running back Jamaal Charles must rebound for the Chiefs to be a playoff team.