Patriot Pat says...
Critics have truculently said that the AFC East will be weaker this year, in that it will be facing off against tougher opponents. That may be true that they are facing tougher opponents, but that sentiment should as well be applied to those teams that are playing against the AFC East—a division which I believe we should affectionately term the AFC "Beast."
Gone are the days of peace during the Patriots' parade to victory, and this battle should be one that will last for many years to come. Certainly things will be more interesting in the coming years.
Although it is four months prior to the beginning of the regular season, I feel comfortable in making my presumptuous predictions. That is based on there not being any seriously unforeseen events coming until then—barring any injuries, for example—that would change my mind.
After taking a seriously in-depth look at each of the team's current situations, schedules, and opponent's situations, I have come to the conclusion that the AFC East will be the beast of the league.
New England Patriots—2008: 11-5 | 2009: 12-4
Of course—the Patriots fan predicts the Patriots. Isn't that what you are all saying right now? Well, in all seriousness, how can you not? The Patriots are coming off an offseason that is unparalleled in recent memory.
Tom Brady is returning from a serious knee injury, and has used his time off to allow other lingering injuries to heal completely. He is testing better physically know than he has in years.
They have revamped their secondary, and may even still add a veteran linebacker to an already impressive corps.
Their offense will continue to impress, and their defense has room to improve upon from last year.
I won't get into the Patriots' situation so much in this article, but be on the lookout for a comprehensive look into the Patriots' roster situation as we head into training camp during the coming months.
New York Jets—2008: 9-7 | 2009: 11-5
The fans in New York should be proud of their team headed into the 2009 season. The team's strongest aspect last year was its defense, and they have made huge progress in making it even tougher.
They started with stealing defensive mastermind Rex Ryan away from the Baltimore Ravens. Then they continued their defensive building by trading for DB Lito Sheppard and signing free agent LB Bart Scott.
Defense wins championships, right?
They also took the draft as an opportunity to aggressively pursue the only missing piece of the puzzle in my mind—quarterback. Last year, Brett Favre was just terrible. He consistently made atrocious decisions in key situations, and was generally reckless with the ball.
I fully expect Sanchez to start ahead of Clemens. Even though he is a rookie, and performances like Flacco and Ryan's of last year are uncommon, he will have similar success this year. He is a smart player who will adapt quickly in my opinion—no matter what his former coach, or all you pessimists think.
Why would I feel so strongly about this? Well, to be frank, I am fearful of the Jets in the coming years.
Miami Dolphins—2008: 11-5 | 2009: 10-6
The creator of the Wildcat will have a new toy to play with in Pat White. The Wildcat as it is known now will have a different look in 2009, in my opinion.
Bill Parcells took over the Dolphins and in one year turned a 1-15 team into an 11-5 team. Some people will argue that was on the virtue of an easy schedule, and even though they do have a harder schedule this year, I am expecting the Dolphins to perform admirably.
The Dolphins travel north into colder weather only once the last half of the season. That trip is to Buffalo where I plan on seeing them win. The other three away games in the last half of the season are in Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Carolina.
I think they handle Tennessee this year.
Buffalo Bills—2008 7-9 | 2009: 9-7
The Bills offense should stop nothing short of being termed a stampede this year. The receiving combination of a healthy Trent Edwards to Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, along with Marshawn Lynch and Dominic Rhodes on the ground, will lead to some serious yardage and points.
As history will show us however, offense will not solely get the job done.
They did draft Aaron Maybin, who will provide some pass-rushing ability for coming years, and along with former first round pick Donte Whitner heading up their defensive backfield, their passing defense should improve from their 12th in the league ranking.
They did not make many moves to improve against the run, and that will be a big weak point as it gets deeper into the season.
The downfall for the Bills this year will be their division record of 3-5.
Buffalo have to watch out for predators like the AFC Beast.
Losses: New England x2, New York Jets, Miami x2, Tennessee, and Indianapolis.
Don't get me wrong, the entire league is full of extremely strong and determined football teams, but, if you ask me, the strongest division is the AFC Beast.
Their difficult schedules will only solidify this point by the end of the year.
Andrew Cahill is a true Boston sports fan. Check out his Web site, "Patriot Pat's Patsies."