AFC East 2009 Preview:
1) Patriots 12-4 **Clinch Division
2) Dolphins 10-6 *Wildcard
3) Jets 8-8
4) Bills 5-11
Here is the analysis in order of which they finished in the division in 2008.
1) Miami Dolphins
They Had a storybook season in 2008 accumulating an 11-5 record and clinching their first playoff berth since 2001 and a division title. Even though they raised some eyebrows, their given schedule last season was one of the worst in the NFL, 118-138.
This year they face a more difficult schedule of 152-104. Not taking anything away from head coach Tony Sparano, but any team can gain momentum playing late season games against San Fran, Seattle, Saint Louis and Kansas City.
However, the Dolphins generated an unorthodox form of offense last season implementing reverses, direct snaps, misdirection and running backs throwing the football.
Comeback player of the year and Dolphin's QB, Chad Pennington said after a game, "We'll take it, we'll take the win. Dosen't matter how you win. It's hard to win in this league. So we'll take em' any way we can get them."
With leadership attitude like that, it seems the Dolphins are on the right track. Sparano is staying with the Dolphins as is V.P. of operations and franchise builder, Bill Parcells despite the recent sale of the Dolphins franchise.
The combination of leadership and determination to be winners among Pennington, Sparano and Parcells will really push this team of average talent to be winners.
With the 25th pick in the draft the Dolphins took Vontae Davis, an exceptional athlete at corner. His upper body looks comparable to a linebackers. His 4.4 speed gives him the ability to cover like a shutdown corner and hit like a linebacker.
Expect the Dolphins to take another legitimate run at the playoffs as a wild card (pending the play of an injury recovered Tom Brady).
2) New England Patriots
New England had a disappointing start to the 2008 season last year with Tom Brady tearing his ACL against the Chiefs so early in the season.
They were romped and stomped by the Dolphins a couple of games later but then gained momentum as former backup QB and Current Chiefs QB (How Ironic) Matt Cassel, stepped up and had a very productive season which almost led to the Brady-less Pats to a playoff birth.
Cassel threw for over 3,700 yards and 21 TD in 15 games. However, he was recently traded this off season to the Chiefs for a second-round pick. This transaction declares their faith in Brady to have an instant bounce back from the injury. The season rests in his hands.
If Brady returns to his original form, expect the Pats to take the division in a 12+ win season. If not, they are not deep at the QB position with Kevin O' Connell being the most experienced back up playing in two blowout games for the Pats completing just four passes.
The Patriots are still the Patriots, regardless of their QB situation. They proved this last season. They have a powerhouse, Super Bowl worthy defense and a potent vertical passing game with play makers Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney.
Expect the Patriots to Win the Division.
3) New York Jets
What looked to be a storybook season to future hall of fame QB, Brett Favre, turned out to be a nightmare. Even though the Jets started strong, they could not finish out their road games on the West Coast to clinch a playoff berth.
The retirement of Brett Favre has left the Jets priority at finding a starting QB. Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge (Not big name players) are all in a "competition" for the starting position. The starter will most likely rest in Clemens' arm.
Clemens is the most experience out of the three but only has thrown for an unimpressive 1,555 yards and a 5-11 TD to INT ratio. This is why they traded up for former USC Qb Mark Sanchez. He has all of the leadership qualities you can ask for in a Quarterback, not to mention his skill set.
He is very accurate and has the arm strength when needed to put the ball in tight places.
On the contrary, the Jets have added praised defensive coordinator Rex Ryan from the Baltimore Raves who led an elite defense deep into the playoffs. With the acquisition of Ryan comes defensive talent from the Ravens.
The addition of previous Ravens, Jim Leonhard and linebacker Bart Scott, look for the Jets to have a tough defense. Corner backs Darrelle Revis and Dwight Lowery combined for 32 passes defended and 6 interceptions last season, can provide solid play and will be the returning starters.
Expect the Jets to finish third in the division with a .500 record or slightly better. They will need to count on their defense to win games if Culter is not signed.
4) Buffalo Bills
What can you say about the Bills? They only added to the unusual season last year in the NFL. After an impressive 4-1 start to the season they looked as if they can make a run at the playoffs until ending the season with a disappointing 3-8 run.
With an unexpected start and end to the season, you can't really predict will the Bills will end up especially with the bitter sweet acquisition of Terrell Owens. He can either make or break this team, most likely will break it reflecting on his past two teams (Eagles and Cowboys).
The Bills are deep at receivers with speedsters Josh Reed, Lee Evans Roscoe Parrish and play maker T.O. Look for the Bills to have a single back shotgun formation spreading all four receivers and having a ground threat with Marshawn Lynch and up and comer, Fred Jackson.
Trent Edwards will be the determining factor in the Bills success this year. He has the arm, but will T.O. get into his head if he doesn't get the ball enough? Maybe? Probably.
The Defense for the bills is pretty solid with veteran DEs Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay while Paul Posluszny locks down the middle with solid run defense. Terrence McGee is an experienced corner along with a ball hawking secondary
The Bills had one of the worst picks in the draft. Not only did they lose their pro-bowl tackle, they left it as a gaping hole on their depth chart. Their draft didn't make sense.
Expect the Bills to struggle in the division and have an overall record under .500.