The 2008 NFL Season is already filled with intriguing storylines: How will Peyton Manning and Tom Brady play with their respective injuries? Will the Cowboys finally advance in the playoffs? How will the Giants recover from the retirement of Michael Strahan and season-ending injury to Osi Umenyiora? Will Brett Favre help the Jets? How will Green Bay do with Aaron Rodgers? Did Shawne Merriman make the right decision in bypassing season-ending surgery to play on two bad knees?

These questions will be answered as the season progresses. Below are Campus Circle’s predictions on how the season will turn out.

AFC Baltimore Ravens

Head Coach: John Harbaugh

2007 Record: 5-11

2008 Projection: 6-10
John Harbaugh replaces Brian Billick as head coach, though he will have a tough first year. The Ravens must settle on a starting quarterback. Kyle Boller is far from a lock to start. Competing for his job is 2006 Heisman winner Troy Smith and rookie Joe Flacco (18th overall pick).

Outlook: The Ravens also have weaknesses under center, in the backfield and four new offensive linemen. Expect a repeat of 2007.

Buffalo Bills

Head Coach: Dick Jauron

2007 Record: 7-9

2008 Projection: 5-11

Four of the Bills’ seven wins came against divisional foes Miami and New York. With no new significant free agent signings and a quarterback controversy carrying over from last season, the Bills will unlikely improve upon their record.

Outlook: With the Jets signing Brett Favre, the Bills cannot rely on beating New York twice this year to place second in the division.

Cincinnati Bengals

Head Coach: Marvin Lewis

2007 Record: 7-9

2008 Projection: 10-6
It’s now or never for this version of the Bengals, who made great off season moves to replace players lost to free agency. Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer both suffered minor preseason injuries, but both expect to play in the regular season.
Outlook: After two disappointing seasons, the Bengals must return to 2005 form if they hope to take advantage of their talent and make a deep playoff run.

Cleveland Browns

Head Coach: Romeo Crennel
2007 Record: 10-6

2008 Projection: 8-8

The Browns surprised everyone in 2007, but it will be a miracle if Cleveland wins more than 10 games this season. However, the Browns added some offensive firepower (Donté Stallworth) and defensive punch (Beau Bell, Shaun Rogers).

Outlook: The key to the season is how the offensive line and defensive secondary recovers after losing several players to free agency.

Denver Broncos

Head Coach: Mike Shanahan

2007 Record: 7-9

2008 Projection: 6-10

Mike Shanahan lost some offense in Jason Elam, Travis Henry and Javon Walker. If he can work his running back magic on Michael Pittman, then quarterback Jay Cutler will have a solid backfield to rely upon. Safety Marlon McCree should be strong in the secondary.

Outlook: The Broncos just don’t have enough to compete consistently this year.

Houston Texans

Head Coach: Gary Kubiak

2007 Record: 8-8

2008 Projection: 7-9
Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson play well together. If the Texans can strengthen their offensive line, the aerial duo will do a lot of damage. (Schaub threw 7 TDs and 3 INTs with Johnson in the line-up, 4 TDs and 6 INTs without). Chris Brown will help bolster the running game, especially if the O-line can prevent early penetration.

Outlook: Houston will be average, but they have pieces in place for a solid run in 2009 or 2010.

Indianapolis Colts

Head Coach: Tony Dungy

2007 Record: 13-3

2008 Projection: 12-4

Peyton Manning missed the entire preseason due to offseason surgery. He is expected to play the regular season, but it may take a few weeks for him to get back to his normal, superstar self. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison, if healthy, should help soften the blow, as would running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes.

Outlook: Barring significant injuries, the Colts should win their division and prime themselves for another deep playoff run.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Head Coach: Jack Del Rio

2007 Record: 11-5

2008 Projection: 12-4
Looking to build upon last season, the Jaguars maintained most of their team, which made it to the second round of the AFC playoffs. Quarterback David Garrard proved he can be a big-game quarterback when he brought the Jaguars from behind against the Steelers in a hostile playoff game at Heinz Field.

Outlook: With that, Garrard should keep Jacksonville on track for another solid season.

Kansas City Chiefs

Head Coach: Herm Edwards

2007 Record: 4-12
2008 Projection: 2-14

In another rebuilding year, the Chiefs may be the worst team in the NFL. With star players such as Priest Holmes, Trent Green and Willie Roaf all but gone or forgotten, and sack champ Jared Allen now in Minnesota, the Chiefs have very little fireworks on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Brodie Croyle has a weak offensive line, but rookie defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (fifth overall) should win defensive rookie of the year honors.

Outlook: Kansas City will challenge Miami for the worst record in the NFL.

Miami Dolphins

Head Coach: Tony Sparano

2007 Record: 1-15

2008 Projection: 4-12
Talk about a drastic makeover for the league’s worst team in 2007. Gone are familiar faces such as Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor and Marty Booker. In the fold are promising players such as quarterbacks Chad Henne and Chad Pennington, rookie left tackle Jake Long (first overall pick) and head coach Tony Sparano.

Outlook: New coach, new system, new players, same outlook – no playoffs. Yet, expect the new-look Dolphins to win a few games for Sparano.

New England Patriots

Head Coach: Bill Belichick

2007 Record: 16-0

2008 Projection: 14-2

Tom Brady will be able to play despite a reported injury, and most key players are returning. The secondary is solid, and the linebackers are as good as ever. Brady and Randy Moss should be productive again on offense.

Outlook: Another 16-0 season is unlikely, but anything less than another Super Bowl appearance will be a disappointment.

New York Jets

Head Coach: Eric Mangini

2007 Record: 4-12

2008 Projection: 9-7

With Brett Favre in the fold, expectations are high. The Jets also revamped the defense. Yet, if they don’t get off to a fast start, all the changes will be for naught.

Outlook: Favre will make the Jets playoff contenders early. If he can keep it up, the Jets may sneak in.

Oakland Raiders

Head Coach: Lane Kiffin

2007 record: 4-12

2008 Projection: 6-10

JaMarcus Russell will finally start as quarterback. Joining him in the backfield is rookie running back Darren McFadden and 1,000-yard rusher Justin Fargas. Despite a weak run defense, the Raiders’ secondary is solid.

Outlook: Expect a roller coaster season. Oakland will challenge Denver for second place in the weak AFC West.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin

2007 Record: 10-6

2008 Projection: 10-6

The Steelers did not change much of their roster, but they will struggle to improve upon last season. Pittsburgh’s schedule includes New England, San Diego, Indianapolis, Dallas, NY Giants, Tennessee and Jacksonville.

Outlook: Pittsburgh will finish no worst than second in the AFC North, and make a respectable playoff run.

San Diego Chargers

Head Coach: Norv Turner

2007 Record: 11-5

2008 Projection: 12-4

Shawne Merriman bypassed season-ending surgery to play on two torn ligaments. The Chargers, who also have LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers, may lose out on another opportunity to make it to the Super Bowl if Merriman’s risky decision goes awry.

Outlook: San Diego will dominate the AFC West, but without a healthy Merriman, an appearance in Super Bowl XLIII is unlikely.

Tennessee Titans

Head Coach: Jeff Fisher

2007 Record: 10-6

2008 Projection: 9-7

Vince Young will struggle to get the Titans back in the playoffs, since management did not bring in the weapons he needed to improve. Defensively, Tennessee will be above average and will keep them competitive.

Outlook: Tennessee did not add enough talent to catapult them past other improved teams in the AFC, meaning the Titans will miss the playoffs.


Arizona Cardinals

Head Coach: Kevin Whisenhunt

2007 Record: 8-8

2008 Projection: 9-7

Kurt Warner was dubbed as opening day starter, yet the Cardinals are far from the “Greatest Show on Turf.” Helping him are Larry Fitzgerald, Edgerrin James and Anquan Boldin. On defense, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will add some punch, despite the departure of Calvin Pace. Matt Leinart needs to get his act together; otherwise the Cardinals are back to square one in 2009.
Outlook: The NFC West is weaker, and Arizona should steal some division games with Warner at the helm. Arizona should challenge Seattle for the division crown.

Atlanta Falcons

Head Coach: Mike Smith

2007 Record: 4-12

2008 Projection: 5-11

In its second season post-Mike Vick, the Falcons are in complete rebuilding mode. Atlanta made a few good moves in the offseason, signing Jason Elam, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner.

Outlook: With a weak schedule and weaker division, Atlanta may start off strong. Yet, it’s hard to win with one rookie and two weak veteran quarterbacks.

Carolina Panthers

Head Coach: John Fox

2007 Record: 7-9

2008 Projection: 7-9

The loss of Jake Delhomme last season was devastating, but there is promise behind the O-line. Keeping the Panthers competitive will be Matt Moore, Steve Smith, D.J. Hackett and Muhsin Muhammad. Defensively, Julius Peppers, Charles Godfrey and Dan Connor lead the charge.

Outlook: Quarterback issues remain as Delhomme tries to come back from his injury, and Moore is talented yet unproven. The Panthers will likely miss the playoffs, and Fox may be out of a job.

Chicago Bears

Head Coach: Lovie Smith

2007 Record: 7-9

2008 Projection: 10-6

Chicago did well in the 2008 Draft, filling in major voids on offense and defense. Fourth-year quarterback Kyle Orton was given the starting job over Rex Grossman, who may be in his last season as a Bear. The defense is much improved.

Outlook: If the Bears stay healthy, they should break the 10-win barrier and challenge for a playoff spot.

Dallas Cowboys

Head Coach: Wade Phillips

2007 Record: 13-3
2008 Projection: 12-4

Dallas may be the NFC’s best team. Most of the team remains intact, and quarterback Tony Romo is still the team’s leader. Signing Adam “Pacman” Jones was risky, but it may pay off. Zach Thomas will be a steady force on defense, while Terrell Owens will still light it up on offense.

Outlook: A Super Bowl contender, the Cowboys play in a tough division that includes defending Super Bowl Champion Giants, Washington and Philadelphia. Any more than two losses in six divisional games will be disastrous.

Detroit Lions

Head Coach: Rod Marinelli

2007 Record: 7-9

2008 Projection: 5-11

With few upgrades to one of the league’s worst defenses, the Lions will struggle to stop teams again in 2008. The only highlights on offense are wide outs Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams.

Outlook: Detroit will steal a few games, but the playoffs are nowhere in sight.

Green Bay Packers

Head Coach: Mike McCarthy

2007 Record: 13-3

2008 Projection: 8-8

Aaron Rodgers finally gets to start under center. He has a solid offense to support him and a highly ranked defense to keep the Packers competitive. Rodgers is the x-factor, though.

utlook: The Packers will have an up-and-down season with Rodgers, but the season won’t be a failure with at least eight wins.

Minnesota Vikings

Head Coach: Brad Childress

2007 Record: 8-8

2008 Projection: 9-7

The true test for the Vikings this season will be whether Tarvaris Jackson and Adrian Peterson will improve upon last season’s numbers. Minnesota’s defense is solid.

Outlook: Minnesota picked up a few solid players in the offseason, and retained most of its key players from 2007, meaning they should compete for a wild card berth.

New Orleans Saints

Head Coach: Sean Payton

2007 Record: 7-9

2008 Projection: 10-6

The Saints have one of the most favorable schedules this season, with only five teams who face a weaker combination of opponents.

Outlook: With a solid offense lead by Drew Brees and Marques Colston and an upgraded defense, Reggie Bush may be the weakest link on a team that should win its division.

New York Giants

Head Coach: Tom Coughlin

2007 Record: 10-6

2008 Projection: 9-7

Not only did the defending Super Bowl champs lose Michael Strahan on defense, but his replacement, Osi Umenyiora, suffered a season-ending injury during a preseason game.
Outlook: With such severe blows on defense, the Giants will be hard-pressed to defend its unlikely championship, even with Eli Manning.

Philadelphia Eagles
Head Coach: Andy Reid

2007 Record: 8-8

2008 Projection: 11-5

If defense wins games, then the Eagles should be fine this season. With a solid defensive core led by Trent Cole, all that remains is for quarterback Donovan McNabb to step it up on offense.

Outlook: If McNabb is healthy and consistent, Philadelphia should make it into the playoffs and at least challenge Dallas for the division crown.

St. Louis Rams

Head Coach: Scott Linehan

2007 Record: 3-13

2008 Projection: 3-13
Marc Bulger is still starting at quarterback, but Isaac Bruce bolted to San Francisco, and Torry Holt is a shell of his former self. Top draft pick Chris Long has to be an impact immediately on an average defense.

Outlook: These Rams are looking more like the Los Angeles version of the early 1990s, and will struggle to win games in 2008.

San Francisco 49ers

Head Coach: Mike Nolan

2007 Record: 5-11

2008 Projection: 4-12

Alex Smith needs help, so the 49ers brought in Mike Martz and his complicated offense. His playbook is so complicated, Smith will unlikely improve in 2008. At least the defense will feature phenom Patrick Willis, but he won’t win too many games by himself.

Outlook: Winning more than five games will be spectacular, as Smith will need almost two seasons to learn Martz’s offense.

Seattle Seahawks

Head Coach: Mike Holmgren

2007 Record: 10-6
2008 Projection: 9-7

The window is slowly closing for Seattle, which features an aging quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck. Rookie Lawrence Jackson will help bolster an already deep defensive line.

Outlook: Hasselbeck has enough to win the division, but will not go beyond the second round of the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Head Coach: Jon Gruden

2007 Record: 9-7

2008 Projection: 8-8
A distant though possible playoff team, the Bucs’ defense will keep its playoff hopes alive well into November.

Outlook: With Jeff Garcia taking over the reigns at quarterback, Tampa Bay may sneak into the playoffs by challenging for the division title.

Washington Redskins

Head Coach: Jim Zorn

2007 Record: 9-7

2008 Projection: 6-10

Jim Zorn gets to try his luck at replacing Joe Gibbs, and he has enough talent on offense (Clinton Portis, Jason Campbell, Antwaan Randle El) to institute his West Coast offense. But the Redskins’ weak pass defense will hurt them.

Outlook: In a division that includes up to three playoff teams, the Redskins will be the odd man out.