For those of you who missed Part 1, go to my page to view my NFC predictions. For the rest of you, here are your AFC division prophecies:
- New England
Patriots – Yeah, yeah. I know. Easy pick, right? Well, it wasn’t an easy pick for me. While I think the Dolphins are a much better team this year than they have been in the past, their Coach, Nick Saban, has not proven that he can consistently win in the NFL, but more on that when I talk about the Dolphins. However, having said that, the Patriots have the track record and the experience to take down the AFC East once again. I say this even with Deion Branch sitting out training camp, because Deion Branch will return to the team by mid-season in order to partake in a high enough percentage of games and practices for this year to count toward his last year on contract. But Branch’s return does not even guarantee that Bellichik will be inspired to play him after he has sat out for 4 or 5 games. Yet the return of Rodney Harrison to the Pat’s secondary, and having Teddy Bruschi head up the middle of the linebacking core for an entire season, will make the Patriots a much more viable defense. While that side of the ball is actually very thin, even at that very linebacker position, the starters are still very talented and well accustomed to the Patriot’s defensive schemes. Also, the addition of Lawrence Maroney, and the anticipated play of Patrick Cobbs are going to be great assets for the Patriots offense. The loss of wide receivers could have stalled the “O,” but Maroney’s big play ability will allow Corey Dillon to rest up and do his bruising at will, and Cobbs’ Larry Centers-type play will give Brady a passing threat out of the backfield. Look for the Patriots to re-establish themselves on defense. They will not put up a lot of points with the loss of Givens, and the possible loss of Branch, but Brady will find a way to perform at last year’s level despite the losses, and the defense will reassert its dominance on defense.
Dolphins – Nick Saban has built a very formidable contender for the AFC East. I honestly believe that the talent level, and even the scheme, is superior to that of the Patriots, but Saban has no track record of being able to coach a team through the entirety of an NFL season so I can’t give him the AFC East. The defense has always been there for the Dolphins, the problem is that the offense is usually far behind. This year though, the upgrade at Quarterback is supposed to turn this underachieving squad into a playoff contender. The AFC East is a very deep conference, however, Miami is in the weakest division of them all, and could even steal a game or two from the Patriots, thus leading me to declare that Miami will be in the playoffs. Daunte Culpepper will play up to his talent level, and you can expect Ronnie Brown to continue to be the bruiser he was last year, and the force Ricky Williams once was.
- Buffalo Bills – This team is a mess. I would say that they could look forward to their #1 overall pick next year, if it weren’t for the last place team in the division. So as it stands, the Bills don’t have much to look forward to in the next year. They drafted a safety, so you can discount and potential showing signs. The QB position is nothing special either. They brought in a veteran in Hollcomb, but he looks like he is worst than the younger QB. McGahee is probably the one positive thing on the offensive side of the ball, but with little blocking in front of him, no threat of the pass, and a defense that promises to make sure Buffalo is always behind, will lead to another disappointing season for ole Willis.
- New York
Jets – The Jets have no running back, no tight end, a young offensive line, no receivers, and what is for the most part, a dead arm quarterback. End result? The jets have no offense. There defense however is bright, and in fact, their defense should be enough reason for me to have them finishing ahead of the Bills in this division. However, you heard it here first! The Jets will be the first team to not score an offensive touchdown for an entire season!…Okay, that’s a little bit of a stretch, but you get where I’m going with it. But honestly, what is to stop teams from bring 5 and 6 men in the rush and playing man free in the secondary on every play. The Jets will not pick up the blitz, and the running backs won’t even sniff the line of scrimmage. They have their work cut out this year, but at least they can look forward to that #1 pick!
Ravens – This team is going to be the best in the conference. Move over Colts, because Stevey McNair is in B-more! The Ravens have just inserted the missing piece to their beautiful puzzle. Anybody remember that 2001 Ravens Super bowl Team? What did they have? A great defense…a rookie running back…
wideouts…and a game managing quarterback. McNair? A game manager? Not in the least! He’s much more than that, and you can count on the Raven’s playbook opening up tremendously this season. They have all the weapons on offense, including a true #1 receiver in Derrick Mason, and a great tight end in Todd Heap. Jamal Lewis, no matter how scarred, is going to be much better than he was last year, or even in his rookie year with the Ravens. You can count on the defense returning to its dominance. Losing Will Demps hurts, but it only takes the right scheme to cover up a weakness at free safety. The Ravens do not seem to be weak at any position, and you can count on them going a long way in the playoffs.
lost a lot of ammunition this off-season. Losing Jerome means that either Willie Parker will have to stand the test of an enduring season-long Steelers rushing attack, or Duce Staley will have to resurrect himself back to the player he once was. Like that’s gonna happen? The Steelers also lost “do-it-all” receiver Randle-El and plan on replacing him with a rookie. The passing attack was never beautiful in
, so you can only expect that it will be worst this season (and that’s not good if the rushing game will be worst, too). The defensive secondary was a big problem for the Steelers last season. For a team that won the Superbowl, that has to have been one of the worst secondaries I have ever seen on a championship team, other than the Circus Show Rams. Add that to the fact that they lost their best secondary player in FS Chris Hope, and you end up seeing that the reigning champs are lucky to be in second this season.
Browns – The Browns are actually quite talented this year. And having Romeo Cornell as their coach certainly means that they will be well coached, especially on the defensive side. I expect the Browns to be solid runstoppers, and to defend the pass much like the Patriots do, with an array of schemes and match-ups that favor the specific talents of the defense. Look for the offense to be much better than last year. Even though Charlie Frye does not look like a great quarterback to most, he reminds me of Tom Brady. I think that Frye will finally get a grasp of the offense, and with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow returning to the lineup, there is a great chance that the Browns can score quite a few points with Reuben Droughns pounding it up the gut.
Bengals – The Bengals have no defense. And from what I can tell, they did nothing to improve it this season either. They will not get that many turnovers again this season, and they have lost their leading tackler, so they are likely to be even worst at stopping the run at the outset of the season. Even if Carson Palmer bounces back from his injury, it is going to be hard for them to win games if they constantly have to make up for what the defense lacks. Rudi Johnson is a formidable part of their offense, and the Bengals were fortunate enough to be able to use him because their D kept forcing turnovers. If those turnovers don’t come this year, and they won’t, count on the Bengals returning to “Bungality” once again.
Colts – Another season, and thus that means another 10+ win year for Peyton Manning. I don’t want to take anything away from his consistent winning, but he is getting pretty redundant. He really needs to perform in the playoffs this year. But putting that aside, he will have another great regular season, that will go moderately uncontested by any divisional foes.
might try to make a run at first place, but I’ve got a surprise for you.
Texans – The Texans made all the right moves this off-season. They did not fall for the illusion and draft another back that has the same skill set as the one they already have, they went out and got another wide receiver and tight end, they improved the O-line, the helped out the D, and they have a great schematic coach. Look for the Texans to do big things this season. They won’t be in the playoffs, but they will make tremendous strides on the offensive side of the ball. As long as they protect David Carr, and they will by getting him out of the pocket more, they have the weapons to match any offense. With Dante Robinson’s ability to cover any receiver in the league, the Texans have a good chance to be a solid defense if Mario Williams can command attention on the edge.
Jaguars – I really like what I saw from the Jaguars in their preseason opener. Just when everybody thought their passing game went out the window with Jimmy Smith, they throw 3-60 yard passes in the game. But I think the regular season will bring them back to reality, and thus a lack of a passing attack and the usual 50% season from Fred Taylor will result in a disappointing season for the Jags. There defense is solid, unfortunately, they are very weak against the pass, which is odd considering their offense is very weak throwing the ball as well.
Titans – The Titans have very little talent to improve upon. I am a big fan of Jeff Fischer as a coach, but he has sat by and allowed McNair, George, Mason and Samari Rolle leave this team. It seems to me that the Titans just cannot keep high profile teams, and now they are suffering the repercussions of poor free agency play. They do have a lovely young draft pick. You may have heard of him….Vince Young is his name. He will add a spark to this team once he becomes the starter over Volek. The Titans Defense mine as well be full of rookies as there is not much to be proud of other than a pro-bowl end and a great linebacker in Keith Bulluck. Here’s another team looking forward to next year’s off-season.
Broncos – The addition of Javon Walker will bring an added surprise to the Bronco attack. If he can get healthy again, and my sources say he will, then Walker and Rod Smith will offer two great route running threats to the Bronco passing attack.
will be the difference between this team winning the West and finishing in 3rd. They have always been able to rush the ball and that will continue to be a non-factor. The defensive side of the ball is quite strong, as they have always been great run stoppers, and Champ Bailey is a solid lock down corner. The only problem on defense is that teams tend to pick at the side away from Bailey, and they often have plenty of success. The Broncos will have to fix that problem if they want to succeed in the playoffs, but their rushing game will win them the division.
- San Diego
Chargers – Phillip Rivers will get it done. Despite his inexperience he is going to be a great player in this league, this year! Much like Eli Manning did last year, Rivers will come in with little experience but a ton of talent and plenty of time having mastered the playbook. The weapons he has on his team will be vital to his success, but when you have the best Tight End and the best Running back in the league on your team, I would say your talent is quite sufficient. The defense is a great run stopping unit. They do struggle with the pass, but from year to year they have shown improvement, and this year I expect the Chargers to get it done in the secondary. The Chargers are playoff contender, and if the league doesn’t watch out, they will blind side the playoffs.
- Kansas City
Chiefs – This team is supposed to have the best running back, a better defense and a better coach. But in reality, they have a running back who returns to a diminishing offensive line, a defense that is entirely unproven, and a coach that has had trouble with the offensive side of the ball. But it won’t be Herm Edwards’ fault that the Chiefs don’t live up to their billing this year. Nope, but you can blame their potential failure on letting their fullback go, and the fact that Larry Johnson will actually get tested this year, because he now has a bulls-eye on the back. Everybody else in the world has the Chiefs going to the AFC championship game or something, and unless the whole team plans on buying tickets, everybody else is wrong.
Raiders – I’m tired of writing now, and so I won’t waste much ink on this team. While I do believe they are headed in the right direction, all signs point to failure this season. I honestly do believe that they could win the NFC West with this lackluster squad, but they don’t play over there. How unlucky. However, luck is often a result of hard work and dedication, and too bad for the Raiders that you often get the luck you deserve.