It may still be pre-season in the NFL, but it's never too early to take a look at the potential candidates to go far. After the draft and free agency window, some teams have moved up the power rankings and others have fallen. In order to suggest which teams have the best chances, I have categorised them into four groups:
There are a few franchises who I expect to win their divisions and as such, this qualifies them for the category. The Seattle Seahawks should be the strongest side in the NFC West again this season, with rumours of bust ups in the San Francisco camp and the Cardinals still playing catch up.
Green Bay, Denver & New Orleans
The Packers look to have recruited well in the off season and slipped past Detroit and Chicago last season with a weak squad. The Broncos and Saints should win their divisions comfortably, after the Chiefs and Panthers fell short last season and ultimately conveyed their squad inferiority in the respective divisions.
Indianpolis, New England, Philadelphia & Pittsburgh
Completing the favourites category are the Colts, the Pats, the Eagles and the Steelers. I expect the Steelers to pick up where they left off at the end of last season - with strong performances. The Eagles should see off one of the weaker divisions and the Colts/Pats both strengthened already talented playoff-worthy squads.
San Francisco & Arizona
The San Francisco 49ers weren't far off another Superbowl visit last season. They will challenge the top tier sides again this season and I expect their division rivals Arizona will be there too. The Cardinals went from strength to strength last term and only just missed out on the playoffs, even beating Seattle in their own home.
Detroit & Chicago
Detroit recruited Eric Ebron to take some pressure off Calvin Johnson - one of the more exciting offences in the league. Their division is a tough one and the Bears will hope to make another push for that bracket, if Cutler can keep fit. Bears wideout Brandon Marshall even told NFL group Around The League that he fancies Cutler to challenge for MVP this season.
He corrects the coaches. He's the first one in and the last one off the field. This is his offence
Kansas City, Baltimore & Carolina
The Chiefs, the Ravens and the Panthers should all be on the fringes of a playoff game. The Ravens look to have recruited well and if Flacco can rediscover his playoff form from 2013, then they can upset a lot of sides, as they showed towards the end of last season.
Cleveland, New York and Houston
The Cleveland Browns have got Manziel fever and anything can happen with that franchise. Too many times have they fallen short, but perhaps their new QB can bring new hope this season. The Giants recruited well and will consider themselves stronger than last year. They're not a franchise to rule out. The Texans defence looks impressive with Jadeveon Clowney along side JJ Watt and that should prove decisive in the AFC South.
Dallas, Cincinnati & San Diego
A few franchises continue to fall short but have a glimmer of hope every season - the Cowboys, the Bengals and the Chargers. If they can get hot around December then I can see some interesting upsets but the Chargers will have it tough with the Chiefs and Broncos looking as strong as last year. The Bengals committed to Dalton as their number one QB recently, signing him to a six year $115 million deal. AJ McCarron will be lying in wait for Dalton's inevitable failure.
St. Louis, Miami & Atlanta
The Rams, the Dolphins and the Falcons complete our dark horses. The Falcons will look to bounce back after an abysmal year with Julio Jones back in action. The Rams will look to push on from a respectable season, as will Miami - hopeful of putting the incognito fiasco in the past.
Buffalo & The Jets
An altogether depressing segment of the article is this bracket of franchises. The Bills' biggest talking point in the off season was Sammy Watkins and potentially relocating cities. Neither will save their sorry cause I fear. The Jets, now with Michael Vick, will look to rejuvenate and ultimately, fail miserably. Still, a step up from Mark Sanchez.
Minnesota, Jacksonville & Oakland
The Vikings fall into this category, which may seem harsh. However, their division is one of the strongest and I'm sure they'll struggle to eclipse Detroit or Chicago, let along Green Bay. The Jaguars and Oakland could push for a 7-9 finish at best and for Jacksonville, this would be a step forward. Oakland's plethora of veteran signings cannot save their fate.
Washington, Tampa & Tennessee
The Redskins, the Titans and the Buccaneers compile the final three sides. None of whom look likely to pose a threat to their divisions or the league as a whole. Of course, it is still pre-season and anything can happen from here.