Monday, August 23, 2010

NFL Preview: Day One- AFC East

A division that has long been owned by one team, the Patriots, has been in upheaval the past few years. From a surprise run to the top in 2008 by the Miami Dolphins to last year's upstart New York Jets who had a surprise 2009 with a 9-7 record behind rookie Quarterback Mark Sanchez. Will the Dolphins acquisition of Brandon Marshall make the Miami offense explosive enough to keep up with the Jets and Pats? Could the injuries and aging from the Patriots could mean a third AFC East Champion in three years or will Brady show that last year was just a recovery year from his knee surgery? Oh, and the Buffalo Bills...

The AFC East

Buffalo Bills

2009 Record: 6-10

The stellar numbers were too impressive to pass up. Almost 3500 career rushing yards, 1300 receiving yards, the only D1 player in history to score a touchdown in a season in 2009, and 42 career touchdowns... not including kick offs. An all purpose back that hadn't been seen since Reggie Bush. It's the kind of player than can change an offense, and it's CJ Spiller whom the Bills took 9th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The story of CJ Spiller's 2010 rookie season may unfortunately also be the story of the 2010 season for the Buffalo Bills. If CJ can excel in all roles he'll be called upon to play (running back, kick returner, back field receiver) the Bills may have a chance to produce some good numbers on offense, numbers that would certainly be better than their 30th ranked passing and 16th ranked running game in 2009. Should CJ be average or less, the Bills are in big... big trouble.

About the only thing to go right for the Bills in 2009 is their passing defense, ranking a surprising 2nd in the NFL. However, that could be due to the fact that offenses didn't need to pass when they could run rough shot all over the Bills defense and a running D that ranked 30th overall in the NFL. The Bills quite frankly won't be good in 2010. They are banking on youth and another bad QB pool. The good news is that it's a solid bet that the Bills will be getting their new franchise QB next year. I hope Jake Locker likes wings...

2010 Prediction: 3-13

Miami Dolphins

2009 Record: 7-9

Chad Pennington was on the ground again, clutching his shoulder. Fans of the game feared for one of the true nice guys in the game. Fans of the Dolphins feared for their season, already 0-2 and looked to be going 0-3. Back up Chad Henne soon proved to them that they had nothing to worry about. Finishing his first season of regular play, he ended 2009 with 12 TDs, 14 INTs with 2,878 yards passing in 13 games played. He proved an able passer. What he was missing was weapons to pass to.

Across the country in Denver, the Broncos All Star wide receiver Brandon Marshall was once again at odds with coach Josh McDaniels and this time the relationship wouldn't last. One week before the 2010 Draft, the Dolphins received Marshall for a 2nd round pick in that years draft and immediately signed him to a deal worth $47.5 million over 4 years making him the highest paid receiver in the NFL. This was a steal for the Dolphins considering last year's leader in yard, Davon Bess, had all of 758. In Marshall they had locked up a player in the top 5 in receptions for two years running.

The offense will be just fine in 2010, with their ever present strong running game and the new horse on receiving scoring won't be an issue for the Dolphins. Brandon Marshall will be a huge part of this. What's keeping the Dolphins from the Playoffs in 2010 is the defense, which won't show a marked improvement. While they'll be ranked better than 24th in passing and 18th in rushing, the improvements aren't enough to help them reach the post season again. They'll be better, but they won't be that much better.

2010 Prediction: 8-8

New England Patriots

2009 Record: 10-6

2008 was a year that was not the same for the Patriots. Not because they didn't have a winning record, they did. They went 11-5 and inexplicably didn't make the Playoffs. No, it was the first time in near a decade that they were without their star Quarterback Tom Brady after suffering a severe knee injury in the season's first game. Brady game back with a strong stat line in 2009 (28 TD, 13INTs, 4,398 yards) but his play was not his best.

The rust was showing from a year lost and his timing was a bit timid as he was protecting his knee early on. Add in the major injury to his safety net Wes Welker and various injuries throughout the year on defense to key players like OJ Mayo and , helped make the Patriots a 10-6 team but a flawed 10-6 team as their early loss to the Ravens in the Wild Card round of the Playoffs showed.

While the offense seems to be back on track this pre-season, Welker is still recovering from a serious knee injury, Randy Moss is a year older, and the run game is still a question mark. The injuries have already started on the defensive side of the ball, a defense which is tumbling between old and new. This is another flawed Patriots team, but one that is still coached by Bill Belichick. It's more of the same steady Pats in 2010.

2010 Prediction: 10-6

New York Jets

2009 Record: 9-7

The Jets really wanted their man in the 2009 NFL Draft. A new coaching staff meant ushering in a whole new era, and they were determined to ring it in with a new face of the franchise. They wanted the man with flash, with personality, and who could handle the New York spotlight. That man was Mark Sanchez. The Jets traded up 12 picks to nab him at #5 overall.

Sanchez payed immediate dividends in making the Jets marketable once again following the "retirement" of Brett Favre the year before. His appearances in various magazine, due to his model good looks, was followed up by solid play for a rookie quarterback. His numbers (12 TDs 20 INTs 2,444 yards) weren't gaudy but effective and included an improbable but message sending Week 2 victory over the New England Patriots at home. The Jets would run that wave all the way to the AFC Championship Game where they would lose to the Indianapolis Colts 30-17.

Coming into the off season a lot was expected and a lot was had. The trade for Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes from the Steelers and the signing of LaDanian Tomlinson gave the already effective offense an explosive potential. Further, the trade for Antonio Cromartie looks to give them a deadly corner combination with break out star Darrelle Revis... maybe. Will the Jets get Revis signed? He's been a hold out all year and could hurt the defense without him being there. The performance, though, does not depend on the defense. They will be stout, head coach Rex Ryan will see to it. The question becomes can Sanchez improve and utilize his strong offensive weaponry, or will he have a sophomore slump?

2010 Prediction: 8-8

AFC East Final Projected Standings-

New England Patriots: 10-6
New York Jets: 8-8
Miami Dolphins: 8-8
Buffalo Bills: 3-13

Bold= Division Winner
Italics= Wild Card team

Coming Thursday: AFC North

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