Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Preview: AFC East

I've been dragging my feet to do these AFC Previews, but we're about two weeks from NFL season so it must be done.   The AFC, total, is a few good teams and a whole lot of rubble.  The NFC was more fun to preview because of all the potential and upside, but it's also true that we'll see potential and upside in the AFC, just not as much.

The AFC East, in particular has very little to no upside across the board.  Even the division favorite Patriots incurred some serious losses this year.  We need not speak of what happened to Aaron Hernandez, one tight end, and it doesn't look good for Rob Gronkowski, another tight end, in the early going.    Interestingly, the Wide Receivers on the team, overall, might be as good or better than a year ago.  I tend to agree with others that the loss of Wes Welker might be overblown.    Did Welker make Brady's offense or was it the other way around?  I side with the latter.  

To replace Welker, the Patriots signed FA Danny Amendola, a terrific receiver in his own right from the St. Louis Rams.   Ultimately, the offense should be at a level similar to where they were a year ago.  It's also hands down the best overall offense in the East.  The defense has been slowly drafting better, and I think you could even say run defense is not terrible.  Coaching is excellent under Bill Belechick's hand.  This looks like a Patriots kind of year again.  Here's a quick look at the other teams.

Jets.  I figure, as far as Geno Smith for QB, you might as well try it out.  Let Sanchez start a few games and then transition to Smith depending on how the year goes.   The Defense looked awful a year ago, but I think this year, they got a bit of a boost with draft picks Milliner and Richardson.  For the Bills, they got burned badly with the huge contract they gave to Mario Williams.   Adding to the frustration, their QB Draft Pick E.J. Manuel of Florida State is hurt and will miss the preseason.   I don't really know *what* they do well, honestly.  Maybe nothing.    The Dolphins are said to be a team on the rise and I agree with them.   Wallace is a much needed playmaker for their offense and Ryan Tannehill has the peripherals to become a pretty good quarterback.  Here's our predictions for the East in 2013:

1. Patriots.  The Pats are reminding me of the Atlanta Braves lately in that their division title is sitting on a table just waiting for them.  When you look at who they compete against, there's no reason to think differently this year.  Brady and co. operate an efficient, pass heavy offense that still hasn't been defeated consistently, ALTHOUGH it tends to thrive most against weaker teams.  Defense is still a problem, but the expected 4 wins they'll get from their division will lay a groundwork for a solid 10+ win season.  As long as Brady is healthy and well protected, he'll be reliable.

2. Dolphins.  Yes!   I'm buying into the hype.   Good talent with this offense with Mike Wallace on the field.  Wallace is a speedy player with good hands, as we saw in Pittsburgh.  Tannehill ought to have an 80+ QB rating,   Defense might be all right for Miami.   One setback for the Dolphins is Dustin Keller's leg injury which wipes him out for the season.

3. Jets.   I don't think the defense is getting enough credit.    It doesn't have the name brand value that it used to, but NY should be all right with Milliner taking Revis' place at CB.   The Jets might still be in some of these games so just expecting them to finish 2-14 is silly.  Jets are good for at least 6 wins, but they won't have much say in the division due to their weak offense.  IF Geno Smith pans out, they might surprise some folks around the NFL, but it's too early to declare that outcome now.   One other guy to watch... Guard Willie Colon... he has NEVER been reliably healthy during most of his Steeler career.  If he can play all 16 games this year, I salute him, because he's pretty good otherwise.

4. Bills.  This franchise continues to time and time again not get it.   First they sign a borderline quarterback to big money, said quarterback hits the tank, and their next move is a desperation draft of E.J. Manuel who wasn't even that good in *college.*  Regardless of Manuel's health you have to wonder who's pulling the strings in Buffalo.  Their defense was pretty brutal, their OFFENSE was especially brutal.  Everything about the Bills is brutal this year.  Last place.

Up next!  AFC North Preview.

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