The Patriots, the bullies of the NFL last season, are battle weary (Super Bowl and unbeaten-streak hangover) and are entering the season with a depleted secondary. The '08-'09 AFC East divisional winner is changing uniforms.
Buffalo Bills (12-4)
The Bills were riddled with injuries last year, and they were desperately signing players off the street during the whole season. The team went through some serious growing pains last year, but they are now poised to strike quickly in the NFL standings.
The Bills have one of the easiest schedules, and the fact that they don't play a divisional rival until Week Eight gives the coaching staff an extended training camp.
The added height and weight to both sides of the ball gives the Bills a very balanced team.
Potential: top-10 NFL offense with a top-five NFL defense.
NE Patriots (8-8)
The bullies of the NFL last year are in for a rough time. The Patriots ran up the score on their opponents without mercy. In martial arts, you allow your opponent to tap out; but the Patriots just kept laying the beating on.
The NFL brotherhood took notice and will make the Patriots pay, as every team will be ready to lay a hurting on them. The Patriots are the targets and Tom Brady is the bulls-eye. Tom Brady won't finish the season.
Not helping the patriots is a hangover (Super Bowl and undefeated streak) with a depleted secondary.
NY Jets (5-11)
The Jets overachieved in the 2006 season and overvalued their player personnel in the process. When you talk about a team's strengths, starting with their secondary, LBs, and then OL, in that order, you know you're in rough shape.
Eric Mangini will discover that he can't make a living by just beating the Patriots and will be fired at the end of the season.
Miami Dolphins (4-12)
The Dolphins will finally hit rock bottom after losing the first eight games and then going 4-4 in the last eight games of the schedule; giving Dolphin fans some hope for next year.
Management will weed out which players they will keep for the following season. After three seasons, Bill Parcells will find another NFL team in crisis and play super hero again; stealing management and players from the Dolphins for his new team.
Key Positions for Buffalo Bills:
QBs: Trent Edwards is undervalued and overlooked. He took an unexpected starters job in early season, after having only second-string snaps in training camp and preseason.
Expect Edwards to be fully prepared this coming season, and the poised Edwards will be difficult to rattle for opposing defenses. J.P. Losman is still an exciting QB that can bring the whole house to their feet. His consistency has plagued him, making him a possible trade target or decent backup. Progress is not out of the question.
RBs: Marshawn Lynch will explode for 18 TDs and 1,800 multi-purpose yards. Fred Jackson has shown an ability to carry the ball consistently. Wright needs to make an impact in the preseason for playing time.
WRs: James Hardy is a talented red-zone threat that will take some heat off Lee Evans. Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed will work the underneath. The WRs have the ability to be part of a very dynamic offense.
TE: Derek Schouman moves very well for a big player, and he catches and blocks as well. He will make a noticeable impact in the red zone.
OL: The OL took unnecessary heat last year because of poor QB play and play calling. The center position was a weakness for the Bills last year and still is a major concern. LT Jason Peters has to decide if he loves football more than money by showing up in good faith for camp.
DL: Key additions of Marcus Stroud and Spencer Johnson will give the vastly improved DT unit (Williams and McCargo) added waves of QB pressure and penetration. Last year's injuries affected the DEs the most. Expect Aaron Schobel and the boys to rebound
LBs: The word "NASTY" is the only way to describe the Posluszny-Mitchell-Crowell trio. John DiGiorgio played his heart out last year and will add great depth.
CBs: First round pick Leodis McKelvin is a luxury that the Bills could have only dreamed of last season. He's capable of replacing the PR, KR, and either CB. It would be great to see the Bills have McKelvin target Patriots WR Randy Moss in Week 10.
This will allow him to gradually ease into the Bills' roster and give him a goal to shoot for in mid-season. The Greer-McGee tandem progressed throughout all of last season and will only get better this year.
Safety: Ko Simpson returning will make life easier for Donte Whitner, who was the anchor of the defense last year. Whitner had so many new faces around him that it affected his play making ability.
Whitner has taken on the role of " Mother Goose" to a couple of Bills this season, and his leadership and dedication is seeping through. Why did the Bills "reach" for Whitner in the draft again?
Coaching Staff: Defense coordinator Perry Fewell is probably the most underrated in the league; he's in the top-five with creativity, game planning, and obtaining maximum player effort.
Bobby April will rebound in special teams after having his cupboard left bare all last season with all the injuries. Players were drafted specifically for him this year. Turk Schonert is the rookie offensive coordinator that talks about adjusting the play calling to his QB. It sounds like he's been doing that job for years.
Coach Dick Jauron will be a front-runner for Coach of the Year!
Key Positions for the NE Patriots
QB: Tom Brady will be the NFL trophy for every NFL defense. Since there is no such thing as "running up the score", there is no such thing as "tackling to injure". Brady won't finish the season, but he's still a great QB!
RBs: Laurence Maroney's explosive collegiate form never translated into the NFL, and his stand-up style will put him more on the DL than in the end zone. Maroney and Morris won't carry the Patriots on their backs with their average play.
WRs: Wes Welker and his ability to "turtle" on almost half of his short passes gives him great durability. Welker is extremely fast, and he is a smart player that uses the QB slide effectively to extend himself physically late into games.
Randy Moss is a man among boys, talent-wise, but he hasn't had anything to complain about in Patriots paradise. We'll see when Brady goes absent towards the end of the season.
OL: Tops in the NFL last year, but the NY Giants showed in the Super Bowl how to tire them out by rotating their DL
Defense: The depletion of their secondary, and their LB's taking a notch down, will open the field up for opposing teams. LB Adalius Thomas really needs to step-up.
A spotty Patriots defense will be exposed with too many holes to cover, and they won't be able to get off the field at will like last year.
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