Everyone and their mothers believed that 2008 would be the season of redemption for the New England Patriots. The almost perfect team that entered training camp from the season before looked poised to salvage the Super Bowl loss to the Giants in 2007, with a Super Bowl win in 2008. Then the Patriots played the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 and Tom Brady was lost for the season.
So here we are, ready to begin training camps for the 2009 NFL season. Because I am not from the future, I cannot foresee future events, especially injuries which affect a team as much as Tom Brady's knee. However, I will give it my best shot to predict what will happen in the 2009 AFC East.
New England Patriots:
Tom Brady is back. Randy Moss and Wes Welker still have many years left in the tank. The offensive line is still top five in the league. Their offense alone will allow the Patriots to win at least 8 games.
Their defense did lose Mike Vrabel who, along with Tedy Bruschi, was the heart of that defense for many years. Bruschi is a shell of himself but Jerod Mayo and Adalius Thomas should provide substantial tackling ability. Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour are still upfront so I would believe it is safe to say this is the Patriot's division to lose.
Prediction: 12-4 (1st AFC East)
Can Mark Sanchez run this offense efficiently and become a superstar in the League? That remains to be seen. However, the Jets have the best rushing attack in the AFC East with reigning AFC rushing champion Thomas Jones getting a bulk of the carries, speedster Leon Washington changing the pace, and bruising rookie Shonn Greene giving Jones a blow and punishing defenders. The offensive line returns all five starters from last year's squad as well and they will need to be huge because the Jets have only one legitimate Wide Receiver, Jerricho Cotchery. New Coach Rex Ryan has stated this will be a run-first team which makes Sanchez's or Kellen Clemens' starting quarterback job a lot easier and takes pressure off of the WRs.
Kris Jenkins is still an All-Pro against the run. The addition of Bart Scott will give David Harris a playmate. Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes of the secondary are among the best at their respective positions in the game today. The question of the defense is Vernon Gholston. His play could be the difference between a playoff berth and an early season exit.
Prediction: 10-6 (2nd AFC East)
Trent Edwards is the man in Buffalo. Not Terrell Owens. It is Edwards' offense and I believe he will not have any problems with TO in just one season. Owens and Lee Evans provide an excellent 1-2 combo of size and speed. Look for Edwards to have a breakout season. Oh yeah, the Bills have Marshawn Lynch running the ball, too. The offensive line however does have question marks.
Marcus Stroud, Paul Posluzny, and Donte Whitner will lead the Bills defense which should be the weakness of this mediocre team.
The addition of Owens will not be enough to end the Bills playoff drought.
Prediction: 8-8 (3rd AFC East)
I know, I know, how can I have the defending AFC East Champions finishing last in the division this upcoming season? The answer is simple. I am a Jets fan and I know Chad Pennington when I see him. He pulled off a magical season last year in what was probably the weakest the AFC East division in recent memory. Dolphins fans, do not get used to it.
Pennington is an average NFL quarterback, at best. Nothing more, nothing less. Solid. The Dolphins won at least three games to my count last year because of the deception of the Wildcat formation. Sure, they will use it again this season. But this season, other teams will be ready for it and other teams will use the formation themselves.
I look for Ronnie Brown to have a great season and Ricky Williams to disappear. This team has no Wide Receivers, a sub-par offensive line (although Jake Long is the MAN at Left Tackle), and a sub-par and inexperienced defense (other than you, Joey Porter). They will not be pushovers, but they will not make the playoffs for a second straight year.
Prediction: 7-9 (4th AFC East)
The AFC East will again be one of the stronger divisions in the NFL in the 2009 season. Like I said before, a lot of things can happen (e.g. Tom Brady's knee) over the course of a season. Rex Ryan could choke, Chad Pennington could be great, TO could win MVP, and Tom Brady could have lost his touch by missing last year. But all of those events have the odds stacked against them, leading me to believe that they won't happen.
But then again, maybe Mo Lewis will return from retirement, knock somebody out and change the whole dynamic of the NFL.
Hey, it could happen.