New England Patriots
Training camp solution: Not so long ago people thought Wes Welker could miss the season’s first six weeks. Now it’s clear he’ll be a huge part of the offense in the season opener. He looks the same as ever; you wouldn’t know he underwent ACL surgery last offseason.
Hanging problem: The Patriots have already lost their best defensive end (Ty Warren) and their best cornerback (Leigh Bodden) for the year. That won’t help out a weak pass rush or an extremely young secondary.
Surprise: The Patriots should start three rookies (tight end Dan Gronkowski, cornerback Devin McCourty, and linebacker Brandon Spikes.) Look for a lot of two tight end sets featuring Gronkowski and fellow rookie Aaron Hernandez.
New York Jets
Training camp solution: Wide receiver Santonio Holmes has often looked like the team’s best offensive player. He will be the clear No. 1 receiver when he returns from suspension in Week 5. Nose tackle Kris Jenkins looks all the way back after a strong, healthy camp.
Hanging problem: Even with cornerback Darrelle Revis back, the Jets passing attack must snap out of a month-long funk. Despite better weapons, quarterback Mark Sanchez has displayed a lack of confidence in the preseason. The lack of a quality left guard doesn’t help.
Surprise: LaDainian Tomlinson looks far more explosive than expected. He could provide a nice change-of-pace and third down back behind starter Shonn Greene.
Training camp solution: The Bills settled on Trent Edwards as their starting quarterback quickly and he’s shown consistent progress.
Hanging problem: The Bills withstood a series of injuries, notably to free safety Jairus Byrd and running back Fred Jackson. Both players are uncertain for Week 1. The team’s defense showed nothing to dispel the notion that their transition to a 3-4 defense will be rocky. They also never really found a No. 2 receiver.
Surprise: This offense won’t look as dreadful as years past. Rookie running back C.J. Spiller flashed explosive talent in August and coach Chan Gailey knows how to creatively create yardage.
Training camp solution: The Dolphins actually may have upgraded at nose tackle following Jason Ferguson’s retirement. Randy Starks’ transition has proven seamless. The team’s defensive line should be a strength.
Evan Silva highlights the game's best players on offense, defense and special teams. Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen was an easy selection.
Hanging problem: Miami hasn’t really settled their linebacker group or offensive line one week before the opener. Rookie linebacker Koa Misi hasn’t stepped up as expected and inside linebacker Channing Crowder has a mysterious injury.
Surprise: Chad Pennington looks ready to play again. Starter Chad Henne had an uneven month and will have to keep his team around .500 to avoid a quarterback controversy.
1. Patriots (10-6)
2. Dolphins (10-6)
3. Jets (9-7)
4. Bills (3-13)
Training camp solution: Receiver Anquan Boldin and two rookie tight ends have blended into the offense seamlessly. The team’s passing attack looks ready to take a big step -- and that before adding T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Hanging problem: No team had a rougher month of injuries. Starting cornerback Domonique Foxworth was lost for the year and rookie linebacker Sergio Kindle may not return from a fractured skull. The team’s secondary is thin, even after a smart trade for Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson.
Surprise: Houshmandzadeh adds another possession receiver to the offense. This team won’t stretch the field, but Housh was a worthwhile pickup for minimum salary.
Training camp solution: Terrell Owens’ strong start in Cincinnati allowed the Bengals to admit a very expensive mistake in signing wide receiver Antonio Bryant. Owens looks like a competent low-cost No. 2 receiver who won’t have to carry a run-first team.
Hanging problem: 2009 No. 6 overall pick Andre Smith missed half of camp, got called out for a lazy work ethic, and has looked lost in his time with the first team. He was expected to shore up a trouble spot on the Bengals offensive line.
Surprise: The rookie class could be very, very good. Tight end Jermaine Gresham appears to be a future Pro Bowler, Jordan Shipley should be active as a slot receiver right away, and fourth-round defensive tackle Geno Atkins has been a revelation as a pass rusher.
Training camp solution: The team’s passing game had a positive month. Cleveland is creatively trying to scheme around a lack of talent at quarterback and receiver with a dizzying array of formations. Jake Delhomme has looked competent. Seneca Wallace provides an interesting red zone option. If nothing else, the Browns should be more fun to watch.
Chris Wesseling highlights 10 players who will struggle in 2010 like Redskins QB Donovan McNabb, and 10 more who will thrive.
Hanging problems: The team’s best defensive player – Shaun Rogers – hasn’t practiced all month. Their top-10 pick, cornerback Joe Haden, has looked average overall and won’t open the season as a starter.
Surprise: Broncos reject Peyton Hillis could wind up being a big part of the team’s backfield as a hybrid tailback/fullback. Despite the loss of rookie Montario Hardesty, the Browns want to be a run-first team.
Training camp solution: Ben Roethlisberger didn’t prove to be a big distraction after all. He’s said and done all the right things and backed it up with the strongest training camp of his career. He looks newly motivated.
Hanging problem: The Steelers don’t feel that confident or Dennis Dixon as the team’s starting quarterback while Roethlisberger is suspended and they didn’t get him enough snaps in the preseason before Leftwich’s knee injury.
Surprise: New right tackle Flozell Adams has looked confused at his new position. In what has been a quiet, productive, camp, the Steelers failed to have someone step up into the backup running back or No. 3 receiver role.
1. Ravens (11-5)
*2. Steelers (10-6)
3. Bengals (9-7)
4. Browns (6-10)
*Will win wild-card spot
CSN: Chip Kelly says he'll adapt his offense to fit the NFL, but analyst Ron Jaworski isn't sold.
2013 SNF Schedule
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