1. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have won back-to-back division titles and should be in line for their third, but it will be interesting to see if Colin Kaepernick can stay healthy for a full slate of games with his current style of play. He has the arm to win from the pocket and will need to stay there more often.
2. Denver Broncos
The Broncos were my favorite to win the AFC even before adding Wes Welker. The window is getting smaller for Peyton Manning, but this is easily the most talent-rich team he has entered any season with.
3. Seattle Seahawks
The rich got richer with the additions of Percy Harvin, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Antoine Winfield. Russell Wilson set the bar pretty high for himself as a rookie, and he will need to be every bit as good to compete with San Francisco for the division.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Peyton Manning didn’t win a playoff game until his fifth season in the NFL, just as Matt Ryan did last year. The monkey is off Ryan and Mike Smith’s back, and now they are ready to take this team to the next level.
5. Baltimore Ravens
It was panic mode in Baltimore during the first few days of free agency, but with the signings of Elvis Dumervil and Michael Huff followed by yet another stellar draft, the Ravens fans are once again praising Ozzie Newsome.
6. New England Patriots
With Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski both still nursing injuries and a depleted depth chart at the wide receiver position, this may be the least intimidating offense under Tom Brady in his years as a starter. But I’m guessing he still finds a way to make it work.
7. Green Bay Packers
The best player in the NFL is now also the highest paid, and he is worth every penny. Rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin should finally provide a steady presence in the Packers backfield.
8. Houston Texans
The post-Manning era in the AFC South hasn’t been as friendly to the Texans as many had predicted. The Colts are the younger and more explosive team and may have already closed the gap in the division.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals won seven of their last eight regular-season games and their defense allowed just 12.8 points per game during that span. The Bengals were able to resign everyone on that defense except Manny Lawson and with the additions of Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard via the draft, the offense has also gotten even better.
10. Minnesota Vikings
One could argue that the Vikings’ three first-round picks were the best players in the class at their respective positions. Couple that with the addition of Greg Jennings, this team is markedly better in 2013 than the team that reached the playoffs in 2012.