AFC CHAMP: New England
“After that loss to Baltimore in the playoffs, I’m sure the Patriots went back and reevaluated everything. Plus, I’ve got a feeling that Tom Brady is returning with reckless abandon.”
But Watch Out For: Indianapolis and New York (Jets)
“It still probably isn’t sitting well with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning that he lost in the Super Bowl. I like the Jets, too. Great defense. They made some improvements in their secondary. They’ve added [former Chargers star running back] LaDainian Tomlinson. Mark Sanchez was terrific as a rookie quarterback, and he’s going to be even better. The Jets have a great foundation.”
NFC CHAMP: New Orleans
“The reigning Super Bowl winners have great leadership in Drew Brees and a terrific coach in Sean Payton. The team members believe in one another, and I’m sure they’re looking forward to defending.”
But Watch Out For: Detroit
“My Lions—we’re coming back! [Johnson grew up in Detroit.] We’ve got some good young draft picks. The tide is eventually going to turn in Motor City, and I’m predicting that my Lions will be a dark horse.”
Super Bowl Champ: New England over New Orleans
“This year is going to mark the return of the Pats. They’ve got an incredible future Hall of Fame quarterback and a future Hall of Fame wide receiver [Randy Moss]. These guys are focused—they’re not going to be messing around.”
Rookie Watch: Jimmy Clausen
If he plays. With Jake Delhomme gone, Clausen may have a shot to compete for that job in Carolina.
Players to Watch
I love watching a couple of Johnson boys play: [Tennessee Titans RB] Chris Johnson and [Houston Texans WR] Andre Johnson. Chris rushed for more than 2,000 yards last year, and Andre led the league in receiving yards. They’re still young, so we’re getting to see greatness right before our eyes.