A quick run-down:
The Chargers were upset big by the Panthers in the closing seconds, Pats lost Tom Brady for the year (and the mass suicides have begun in Boston), and the Colts defied expectations by laying down to the Bears. That leaves the AFC wide open, or does it?
The Patriots still have enough firepower to invade a small country, with Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Adalius Thomas, Lawrence Maroney, and the capable Matt Cassel at the helm. There shouldn't be much of a drop-off, though Cassel will likely make several mistakes, typically expected of a first-time starter. I'll peg them at maybe 12-4, but remember how Drew Bledsoe lost his job and Brady took it. Naturally, the same won't happen this year, Brady being a New England institution and all. However, look for every GM in the league to take a long hard look at Cassel. If somebody make the Pats an offer they can't refuse (Ocho Cinco? Anquan Boldin?), it wouldn't be impossible to imagine Cassel shipping out via trade. This would effectively sink the Patriots, of course, because 3rd-stringer Kevin O'Connell is a huge question mark, likely incapable of leading them to any playoff success. We don't know if Cassel can do that either, but he's learned from Brady for 3 years. I'll take that as "experience".
The Colts simply looked ugly today. They were overwhelmed by the toothless Bears offense, led by juggernaut Kyle Orton. The offense wasn't great either. Chalk it up to rustiness caused by not playing in the preseason, or another year on the bones of Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning, but they should kick into gear and scratch through the tough AFC South for a playoff berth later this year. 11-5.
Ditto for the Chargers. The only thing that really concerns me with this club is injuries. They've shown they can slug through and be competitive with a good team (last year's AFC Championship, anyone?), but with a staggered Shawne Merriman, Nick Hardwick, and Marucs McNeill and questionable LT, Philip Rivers, and Antonio Gates, this team could be shipping into some rough waters. Don't forget, though, that they won 7 straight to claw into the playoffs last year. Anyways, they should respond to the patchy play and cries for Norv Turner's head and finish around 13-3.
Anybody else is on the periphery. Jets? Questionable. Steelers? Same. Bengals? Dream on. Only the Jags have shown they can stand up with the cream of the crop, and they're nursing a few question marks of their own.
This league is much muddier. That's all I have to say about that. About 10 of the 16 teams could be contenders, and it's far to early to figure that bit out right now.
It's way too early to pick the Super Bowl right now, but I'm going to do it anyways.
A fairly pedestrian pick here as the Chargers top the Cowboys 23-14.