To get you fully prepared for the unofficial start of the 2012 NFL season, we're ranking every team from worst to first in the weeks leading up to the opening of training camps.
Every day, we'll be previewing two teams, one from each conference, analyzing them from top to bottom and giving you all you need to know to be an informed fan. What's the major storyline heading into camp?
What's the key training camp battle to watch? Who's the young guy to watch? Is there any hope?
Today's two teams: The Denver Broncos and the Philadelphia Eagles.
No. 10: Denver Broncos
Training Camp Site: Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre, Englewood, Colorado
Training Camp Start Date: July 25
BetOnline.com Preseason Super Bowl Odds: 12-1
What I Like About You: Theres an elite NFL starting quarterback in town. And a darn good defense. Top to bottom, the Broncos have the most talented roster in the AFC West.
What I Dont Like About You: Peyton Manning hasnt been hit in a football game in 18 months, and there are questions on the offensive line, in the backfield and the safety spots.
The Burning Question: Will Peyton be Peyton? The doctors have cleared him, hes looked wonderful in minicamp, and all the Broncos receivers are floating on air this summer (Note: I was with Demaryius Thomas last week and couldnt wipe the smile off his face). But Manning hasnt been in a real game since the 2010 season. He hasnt played with this offensive line or these receivers. He hasnt been sacked yet. Is Manning going to be the 90 million man the Broncos franchise expects him to be? Or will he be a shell of his former self? Well find out awfully fastDenver opens with Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Houston, three punishing defenses.
Key Training Camp Battle to Watch: Free and strong safety: Rahim Moore vs. Quinton Carter vs. Mike Adams: There are two spots to fill here, which could cause some concern in Denver this summer. Adams was a quiet free agent pickup who may end up starting at one of the spots on opening day. Both Carter and Moore were 2011 draft picks that had their moments, but also showed glimpses of inconsistency. With no more Brian Dawkins setting the tone, it means that everyone in the defensive backfield will be expected to step things up another notch.
The New Veteran in Town: Jacob Tamme, tight end: Everyone expected a mass exodus of former Colts to join Manning in Denver, but that wasnt the case. Dallas Clark went to Tampa, Jeff Saturday went to Green Bay, Pierre Garcon went to Washington, Joseph Addai went to New England and Reggie Wayne stayed put in Indy. The one guy who did get aboard the Manning Express was Tamme, the young tight end who had great success with Manning in the teams 2010 campaign.
The Young Gun To Watch: Eric Decker, wide receiver: There are no two happier men in the state of Colorado this month than Decker and teammate Demaryius Thomas. Though both players have been respectful in comments about their time with Tebow, theyre both set for giant statistical bumps in receiving categories, across the board. Since his rookie season, Manning has never failed to have at least one Pro Bowl receiver on his team. Decker had 50 receptions a year ago his first healthy season as a pro and could near the century mark this season. Hes got good hands, solid speed and incredible toughness across the middle.
Schrager Prediction: This team will go as far as Manning takes it, and anything short of the AFC championship game has to be viewed as a failure. Tebow got these guys to the divisional round a year ago. By signing Manning for 90 million, the Broncos essentially pushed all their chips to the middle of the table. The pressures on. I think they edge out the Chargers in the AFC West but fall to either the Steelers, Ravens, Texans or Patriots in the playoffs.
Final Prediction: First place, AFC West
No. 9. Philadelphia Eagles
Training Camp site: Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.
Training Camp Start Date: July 25 Preseason
BetOnline.com Super Bowl Odds: 10-1
What I Like About You: The Eagles finished the 2011 season incredibly strong, bring just about everyone back and are flying under the radar this offseason.
What I Dont Like About You: An inconsistent offensive line without its best player (Jason Peters) for the season, a lack of depth at wide receiver and the inevitable Michael Vick injury to be named later.
Burning Question: Is this the year we actually see "The Dream Team?" The much-publicized 2011 "Dream Team" Eagles got off to an even more highly publicized rocky start and found themselves staring at an all but definite losing season at the start of December. And then they went on a tear, winning their final four games, including backbreaking losses for the Jets and Cowboys. Now, all the talk about the NFC East seems to be centered around the Super Bowl champion Giants, the revamped Dallas Cowboys and the RG3-led Redskins. All the while, the Eagles bring just about everyone from last years squad back, have had a full offseason to prepare and arent saying a word.
Training Camp Battle to Watch: Strong safety, Kurt Coleman vs. Jaiquawn Jarrett vs. O.J. Atogwe: The Eagles have one of the leagues best young free safeties in Nate Allen. His counterpart at the strong safety position is currently anybodys guess. Colemans a fine player and got a lot of action last year, but is by no means a shoe-in for the starting gig. Jarrett was a second round pick in 2011, but he hasnt played like one either in actual game action or practice. The wildcard is the veteran, Atogwe, a guy they picked up off the scrap heap last month. Hes been around the block, but still might have some good football left in him. Watching tape, he was actually pretty darn good on Washington last season.
New Veteran in Town: Demetress Bell, offensive tackle: The Eagles offensive line was terrible through the first few weeks of the season, only to pick it up and finish strong in 2011s second half. Jason Peters played at an All-Pro level throughout. Alas, Peters injured his Achilles, meaning hes out for the 2012 campaign. Insert Bell, a guy who had a nice, albeit quiet, career in Buffalo. Hell start at left tackle and will be expected to pick up Howard Mudds blocking scheme right away.
The Young Gun to Watch: Mychal Kendricks, outside linebacker: The Eagles linebackers were awful last year. This offseason, the team focused on upgrading the position, trading for DeMeco Ryans to man the middle and drafting the versatile Kendricks early in the second round of Aprils draft. Kendricks could be a star. A 6-foot, 240-pound tackling machine, he played all over the field for Cal in 2011, ending up as the Pac 12 conferences Defensive Player of the Year. Dont be shocked if hes starting opening weekend.
Schrager Prediction: This is a young, motivated and incredibly talented NFL team. Across the board whether its Trent Cole and Jason Babin, or Nnamdi Asomugha and DeSean Jackson there are Pro Bowl-level players just about everywhere. It took a while for Philly to get going last year, but once it happened, the Eagles were one of the best teams in all of football down the stretch. I think they'll pick up where they left off last December and be real Super Bowl contenders in 2012.
Final Prediction: Second place, NFC East