1. New England

Coach Bill Belichick ended the Tim Tebow distraction simply by releasing the star-crossed quarterback. It remains to be seen how well the Patriots fare in the aftermath of losing wide receiver Wes Welker to free agency and former standout tight end Aaron Hernandez being charged with murder.

2. Houston

The Texans finally figured out how to make it to the playoffs. Now it's a matter of solving the issue of succeeding in the playoffs. The health of all-world running back Arian Foster is an ongoing concern, as well.

3. Baltimore

Rarely has a Super Bowl team changed in such a short time as the Ravens. Mainstays Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin, among others, are gone. Yet, the Ravens have a way of reloading without rebuilding.

4. Denver

The hits just keep coming for a Broncos team that played last season without any hiccups. It's enough to make one wonder whether the Broncos can recapture the magic of last season, even with quarterback Peyton Manning and Welker lighting up the scoreboard as they did Thursday night.

5. Cincinnati


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Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green are entering their third seasons. The Bengals as a team are entering their prime, too. There's no reason to think this team can't make some postseason noise.

6. Pittsburgh

Aging defense, patchwork offensive line, lack of depth at wide receiver, no marquee running back. When is the last time the Steelers faced so many question marks entering a season? Somehow, they'll find a way to be competitive.

7. Indianapolis

Quarterback Andrew Luck has a year under his belt and a better supporting cast this time around. Even so, the Colts are going to be hard-pressed to improve upon last season's surprise run.

8. San Diego

New general manager, new head coach, new offensive coordinator, same old Chargers. Nothing is going to change that perception until quarterback Philip Rivers ends his penchant for turnovers and the Chargers make a deep playoff run.

9. Kansas City

Coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith are reveling in their change of scenery. Both are upgrades over what the Chiefs had in recent seasons. Keep an eye on this team as a potential sleeper. There's simply too much talent to ignore.

10. Miami

The Dolphins spent wildly on free agents, adding the likes of receiver Mike Wallace and linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbee. Coach Joe Philbin is confident the maturation of QB Ryan Tannehill will be enough to make a difference.

11. Buffalo

First-year coach Doug Marrone kept only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, and both are rookies — E.J. Manuel and Jeff Tuel. Bills fans have to be thinking, "How did we get from Jim Kelly to this situation?"

12. Tennessee

The once-proud Titans now are so desperate that they hired bountygate architect Greg Williams as their defensive coordinator. That just places an even larger target on head coach Mike Munchak to show improvement in his third season.

13. Cleveland

Now it's Norv Turner's turn to see if he can turn Brandon Weeden into a top-flight quarterback. If Turner fails to weave his magic, it's going be another long, cold winter by Lake Erie.

14. N.Y. Jets

The Jets are better suited to a reality show than an NFL franchise. There's no way this season ends well for coach Rex Ryan, even if rookie Geno Smith turns out to be an upgrade at quarterback over Mark Sanchez. Buckle up.

15. Raiders

Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn and Matt McGloin enter the season with three NFL starts combined. Quarterback is the one position where a team needs experience. Hard lessons are sure to be learned in abundance.

16. Jacksonville

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is back at full strength after missing most of last season. That's good news for fantasy football managers with Jones-Drew on their teams, it won't make much difference for the listless Jaguars.