Polian's playoff contenders

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots should be in the playoff hunt once again. Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

I've learned over many years in the NFL that there are too many vagaries in a season to be confident making any preseason predictions. One change over the stretch of 16 games and you miss the mark. And this is particularly true with regard to a constant reality in the NFL -- injuries.

Two years ago last Saturday, I thought our Colts team was poised to challenge for another Super Bowl. That day I found out Peyton Manning would be out for the year. Instead of contending for a Super Bowl, we went 2-14 and we all lost our jobs. Whether it's a quarterback, a running back, a pass-rusher -- any major impact player -- if they go down, there's an impact for sure. And it's never good.

To that end, I don't really make preseason picks. Instead, I'll do here what I did as a GM -- analyze each team and designate for each a status based on all the analysis we've seen to this point.

In Week 4 or thereabouts we'll start to have a better feel for where every team in the league is truly heading, and we'll have a very good idea by Week 6. Anything before that is guessing, and I don't like guessing.

As I survey the league ahead of the 2013 season, I see 15 teams with at least some semblance of a title contender. I'll break them into three groups: legitimate contenders, question marks and risers.

Let's start with the five teams most likely to succeed in the coming season.

Legitimate contenders