32 Team Preview With Super Bowl Winner: Part 1 AFC

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32 Team Preview With Super Bowl Winner: Part 1 AFC
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Time to whip out my inner Nostradamus so that you don’t even have to watch a second of Football this season. Why bother paying attention when my prophesies are about to predict the record of every NFL team, and who wins the Super Bowl? Sorry if I ruin the season for you by taking all the intrigue out, but you’ll still have fantasy football to keep you occupied.   

AFC West


Denver Broncos- 5-11 (4th)
The Good: Kyle Orton was better than anticipated in his first year coming over from Chicago, and he seems be confident in his ability to run Mcdaniels’ offense. Look for that to continue, although the Bronco’s are in deep trouble if he goes down with an injury.

The Bad: Lost in the hubbub of Tebow mania was the loss of two important parts of the Bronco’s D. League sack leader Elvis Dumervil is now out for the year, and their defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan, abruptly left after one year for the same position with the Dolphins. Some of those young Linebackers really need to step up if Denver wants to get any pass rush this year.

The Questions: 1) Ryan Clady, and the backfield’s health- Clady played against Minnesota, but the question still remains if he is going to be at 100% this year. Hopefully he is because he’s a great young player that the Broncos need. As for the backfield, Knowshon Moreno seems to be OK for the start of the season, but everyone else around him are dropping like flies. If this lack of continuity in the backfield continues then the Bronco’s will be very inconsistent on the ground.
2) Tebow… why?- Prove me wrong Tim, prove me wrong.

Why 5-11? There are too many question marks and injuries for me to believe this team will ever get off the ground. Josh McDaniels has succeeded in shipping out some solid playmakers from his lineup, but thinking that he can simply replace them all in one or two off-season is too much wishful thinking.

 

Kansas City Chiefs- 6-10 (3rd)
The Good: Tamba Hali suddenly showed up and sacked the opposing Quarterback 8.5 times in ‘09. To go with Hali, the Chiefs think they have a good young secondary that can grow together. I’m inclined to see it this way too as they added Eric Berry and Javier Arenas in the draft. The line play the post Larry Johnson era of last season was something to be excited about as chief’s fan, and Branden Albert is one of my favorite young lineman in the league.

The Bad: Tyson Jackson was supposed to be the rock of this defense, and now it looks like he might even lose his starting job. It’s not like the rest of the D-line did a whole lot last year either, and bad line play can make a young secondary look awfully bad.

The Questions: 1) Where’s the pass rush?- Besides Hali, who will supply any pass rush? If that defensive line isn’t doing its job, then other linebackers aren’t going to be spending much time in opposing teams backfields.
2) Can Matt Cassel bounce back from a rough last season?- He was knocked around and didn’t play particularly well. Chief’s fans better hope they don’t have a fragile mental muffin for a Quarterback.
3) Will the tandem of Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles work?- It should. Jones is a strong running veteran who should help to keep Charles healthy, as Charles does the same for him. Jones as the singles hitter and Charles as the home run blaster is ideal, but how consistent will the O-line be?

Why 6-10? I like this team, I really do, but the poor defensive line play, plus the questions I have about their passing game make it hard to predict anything over six wins, although I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they won seven or eight. But with all those question coupled with a few key injuries they could be looking at another four win season.


Oakland Raiders- 7-9 (2nd)
The Good: Addition by subtraction. JaMarcus Russell's exit from Raider land made them a better team, and the addition of a solid Jason Campbell at QB should help to keep the offense even keel. Zach Miller and Louis Murphy are two young pass catchers that the team expects to have big years, and if the line can keep Campbell upright, then they will. They still have Nnamdi Asomugha and added talent at linebacker in Kamerion Wimbley and Rolando McClain. If that new talent melds quickly with the defensive scheme, then the Raiders should be difficult to score on.

The Bad: The offensive line was pretty horrid last year, and not much change has occurred personnel wise. Campbell already has suffered a stinger after LT Mario Henderson was beat easily by a defender in their third preseason game. Now I hate to poor onto an already much discussed topic, but nearly all the dysfunction and instability in the organization can be directly linked to Al Davis. One of the most important people to the history of this sport has been the bad for the Raiders for many years now.

The Questions: 1) Will high picks Darrius Heyward-Bey and Darren McFadden break through?- Both players struck me as flashy pseudo football players, A.K.A. the kind of player Al Davis dreams about, and so far they haven’t proven they are anything but that.
2) Is this coaching staff in control or are they puppets of Czar Davis?- Who makes the calls on who plays and the overall flow of play calling? Hopefully these coaches are calling the shots without pressure from the man upstairs.
3) Why is this happening?

Why 7-9? The Raiders have been talking playoffs, but they can only go so far with that O-line. Looking at their schedule I could see them getting off to a fast start, then fading down the stretch. They’re putting plenty of pieces together on defense, so the future is bright, but it should take a while for the offense to catch up.

 

San Diego Chargers- 11-5 (1st)
The Good: Even with an off-season of losses, the Chargers still have Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, and a solid coaching staff. I don’t think this team is going to be spectacular, but they are going to take an us against the world mentality, and be a tough team to knock off. This franchise has been winning a lot of games for a while, and there is something to be said for that. It’s not like after losing a of couple people that they will forget how to win games.

The Bad: The offensive line is a big question. Who knows when or if Marcus McNeill will show up, and the LT position still doesn’t seem to be settled. The Chargers have been moving people around, and it may lead to a lack of continuity along the line. This will make Ryan Mathews job even harder as he tries to replace a Hall of Famer in his rookie season, and limit the offense’s ability to stretch the field if Rivers isn’t getting time to scan the field.

The Questions: 1) Is Antoine Cason the answer opposite Quentin Jammer at CB?- Cason wasn’t exactly solid last year, getting picked on often, but he appears to be on his way to replacing Antonio Cromertie. If teams target Cason as a weakness he needs to step his play making up or he will see plenty of receptions in front of him.
2) Can Antonio Gates draw enough attention to help other get open? The Charger’s don’t have a number one WR. They have a few solid players, but they can be shut down without another threat on offense to take the focus off of them. As a TE, can Gates do that? I think he can. He’s did it for nearly four seasons before the emergence of Vincent Jackson.   

Why 11-5? This team won’t be as good as last year. They just don’t have the offensive firepower, or the playmaking ability on defense to propel them to a special season. But they play in the AFC West, and get to play the NFC West, which should be more than enough to help them win over 10 games, and capture the division crown once again.

 

AFC North


Cleveland Browns- 4-12 (4th)
The Good: Center on through the left side of the offensive line is pretty darn good. They feel that they improved the right side of the line as well. If true, then the Browns will have a solid line to run behind. Mohamed Massaquoi is an up and coming receiver with lots of talent. And the linebacking core is a smart savvy veteran group.

The Bad: For the most part, the players along the defensive line are on the downsides of their careers. Shaun Rogers is still working his way back from an injury, and will only be a rotational player, after losing his NT job to Ahtyba Rubin. I highly doubt that the ends on the line will be able to take up blockers as needed in the Browns 3-4 D. The secondary is suspect, with a lot of hoping and wishing that certain players will step up, but that chances of that happening are slim without a pass rush to protect them.

The Questions: 1) Can Jake Delhomme stop throwing games away?- So Delhomme is supposed to come in without a Steve Smith at wideout, without a dynamic running back, and throw less picks? Let’s hope so, otherwise this could get ugly quick.
2) Who’s brining the pass rush?- Are Matt Roth and Marcus Benard the guys who Cleveland can count on to hit the Quarterback consistently with below average line play in front of them? They had 40 sacks as a team last year but appear to be on the decline.
3) Mike Holmgren’s personnel decisions.- He had a tough time in Seattle in that department, but he was also the head coach at the time. Now he can focus purely on evaluating the team.

Why 4-12? The Browns are making a commitment to getting better, but it will take many seasons to put a winner on the field. They lack depth, so an injury here and there can doom any chance of a respectable season. They were bad last year, and no one knows how high exactly Holmgren is on coach Mangini.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers- 9-7 (3rd)
The Good: This linebacking core could be the best in the league. Harrison and Woodley are already beasts, and if Timmons breaks out? Look out NFL. They have one of the best front 3’s of any 3-4 team, if not the best, making it a deadly combo of linebackers and D-lineman. Mike Wallace looks like the real deal, and should stretch defenses with his play making ability.

The Bad: I don’t have any faith in the Steelers offensive line to open up holes constantly for the running game, or to protect whoever is behind center. It’s going to be a real struggle to score this year in Pittsburgh. I’m also worried about their secondary. If Polamalu goes down, then that group will not recover. No one has really nailed down the left corner job, which they hoped Bryant McFadden could handle after trading for him from the Cardinals. But he struggled last year and it seems to be carrying over.

The Questions: 1) Can Dennis Dixon handle starting the first four games?- Dixon showed some good, and some bad, in his brief appearance last year, but what stood out the most was that he didn’t seem overwhelmed. He can handle starting those games, but can he win them?
2) Can the Steelers D rebound after last year? If Polamalu is healthy, then yes. If not, then not only will the defense crack, but there will be no playoff push in Pittsburgh.

Why 9-7? I know I talked glowingly about their front seven, but that offensive line is going to kill this team. The offense will be up and down, with more downs than ups. With a tough schedule, they stand to barely miss out on a double digit win season.

 

Baltimore Ravens- 9-7 (2nd)
The Good: Ray Rice should have a huge year, and the offense should actually be better than the defense for the first time in a long time for the Ravens. Their offensive line is full of bright young players, and adding Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh will boost their passing game. Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis, and Kelly Gregg will anchor the D, and Terrell Suggs is poised to have a bounce back year after a mediocre last year.

The Bad: Their secondary scares me, and not in the, “I wouldn’t want to face them,” kind of way. Domonique Foxworth is out for the year, and the two corners they are banking on starting are both coming off ACL tears. Ed Reed is out for at least the first six games, and they traded for Josh Wilson as if he will be a difference maker in the secondary. He won’t. He’s been struggling for years, and I have no idea why people think highly of him.

The Questions: 1) Can Cory Redding replace Dwan Edwards at DE?- If Redding can stay healthy he can be a heck of a player. He’s got more play making ability as far as getting to the Quarterback, but we’ll see if he can keep offensive lineman off linebackers.
2) How far will the defense fall without Ed Reed, and many of its stars a year older?- I feel that loosing Reed is a giant blow to this D. They need him back if they want to challenge Cincinnati. Even as Ray Lewis enters his 15th NFL season, he hasn’t slowed down a whole lot. His pass coverage is now a weakness, but he’s still an impact player.

Why 9-7? It’s the same problem I have with the Steelers- one unity will drag the whole team down. For the Ravens, it will be the secondary. Injuries have decimated it to the point of no return. The offense will keep them in games, and give them a winning record, but they will always be unable to break through, and really put together many back to back wins.

 

Cincinnati Bengals- 11-5 (1st)
The Good: That defense plays great together as a unit, and they have the best corner tandem in the league in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. This really opens up the rest of the D to focus on stopping the run when you have two great cover corners on the outside. Signing T.O. is big in that a certain team with a shut down corner can’t take Chad Ochocinco out of a game and leave no one else for Carson Palmer to throw to. Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers are both up and coming linebackers. Jermaine Gresham could bring an element to the Bengals offense that hasn’t been seen in quite some time- a TE threat.

The Bad: Cedric Benson has had a rough offseason, and it could potentially carry over into the regular season. Carson Palmer seemed to lose arm strength as the season wore on last year. Whether this was from the torn ligament the year before or not, I’m not sure, but what I do know is that behind Palmer on the depth chart are a couple of guys Cincinnati fans hope they never see.

The Questions: 1) Will the offensive line be even better after returning all five starters? Continuety is the most important thin on the O-line, so letting five good players work together for over a year is big for this team.
2) Will Antwan Odom be an impact player after coming back from tearing his Achilles and an illness that caused him to lose 20 pounds?- Well, he’s put the 20 pounds back on, but it usually takes players two years to recover from Achilles injuries. It’s something to monitor because he was leading the league in sacks last year before he got hurt.

Why 11-5? The Bengals have added more firepower at wide receiver, and a rookie TE that could open things up even more. The defense should still be good, and it better be with the Ravens offense getting even better. They are poised to be a real good team, beating you through the air, on the ground, and with their D.


AFC South
 

Jacksonville Jaguars- 5-11 (4th)
The Good: Marcedes Lewis should have a break out season after a great camp, and Mike Sims-Walker may be the number one wideout they’ve been in search of for years. The line should be much improved with some of their young talent a year wiser, and Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the most dangerous backs in the game.

The Bad: The defense is going to be pretty terrible this year. There is a lot of talent on the defensive line, but even the coaches don’t know who will step up, and who will fizzle out. The linebackers are the strength, but with a poor line in front, and a secondary in which no one seems to wants to start at safety, it’s going to be tough for them to make any plays.

The Questions: 1) Pass Rush?- They drafted Derrick Harvey a couple years ago but he’s been coming along slowly, and who else is there really?
2) How can the Jaguars mask there makeshift secondary? Their DB’s are put together with duct tape and chicken wire, and I have no idea how they are going to prevent teams from throwing all over them without a pass rush.

Why 5-11? The offense should be more competitive and stable, but the defense will let them down, and the offense isn’t explosive enough to keep them in it. They are still a Jack Del Roi team, so toughness will bleed out these players, but without talent, there isn’t much hope.

 

Tennessee Titans- 7-9 (3rd)
The Good: They’ve got the most explosive back in the league with Chris Johnson, and a solid cast of TE’s and WR’s. They went 8-2 after Vince Young was inserted as the starter at QB, and they are still feeling the confidence of that run. There isn’t a lot of depth behind the starters on the offensive line, but the starters are one of the most solid groups in the NFL. The secondary looks forward to a bounce back year after a down ‘09.

The Bad: Kenny Britt hasn’t exactly shown a large level of commitment this offseason, which doesn’t bode well for him becoming the number one at receiver. The defensive line has some talent, but overall is unproven.

The Questions: 1) Will Vince Young finally become the Quarterback the Titans hoped?- He led them to an 8-2 record, and threw the ball better than he ever has as an NFL player, but he still needs to prove he can do it over a 16 game schedule.
2) Can Jason Jones stay healthy and help this pass rush?- The team leader in sacks last year was Jacob Ford with five. Jones could get more than that if he can stay on the field and out of the training room.

Why 7-9? Teams will wise up and find ways to slow down Chris Johnson’s production. They might not slow him down very much, but I doubt he puts up the same numbers as last year. Vince Young is still a big question and they need the Quarterback position put to bed, which I have little faith in Young to do. The defense is trying to work its way back to just being solid, let alone dominant. They also play in a tough division with the Colts, and my breakout team.
 

Houston Texans- 12-4 (2nd)
The Good: This team is poised for huge things, and I think they make good on it this year. Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson is a deadly combo, and now they get tight end Owen Daniels back from injury. The offensive line is plenty solid and have the breakout player of the year running behind them in Arian Foster. Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans will be house hold names after the year, and their young CB tandem of Kareem Jackson and Glover Quin is promising.

The Bad: Brian Cushing. How could anyone be surprised he was taking steroids? The buzz even before he was drafted was that he was a user at USC. No surprise. He is a cheater, and I hope more guys like him get weeded out.

The Questions: 1) Can Schaub cut down the interceptions?- He didn’t throw a huge amount last year, but with the potential of a consistent running game, he should be able to cut down on 15.
2) Can Amobi Okoye finally become the player they drafted him to be?- How good would that line be if Okoye really stepped it up this year and became a problem for opposing offensives? He’s lost a lot of weight in an attempt to get quicker and reach the Quarterback more often.

Why 12-4? This team has everything you need to dominate, explosive offense with the threat of the run, and a good run stopping team that looks improved in its pass defense. My bold prediction for this team is that they will still be swept by the Colts, but go 12-2 against everyone else.
 

Indianapolis Colts- 13-3 (1st)
The Good: Peyton Manning, no explanation needed. With Anthony Gonzalez coming back from injury, the Colts have four wideouts defenses will have to keep track of. They added TCU pass rusher Jerry Hughes in the draft to back up the already dangerous DE’s  Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Colts plan on sticking with the run this year, and they have to be better after finishing dead last last year in total rushing yards. And perhaps the biggest thing is Bob Sanders back healthy. With him, that D is above average.

The Bad: There isn’t much to put here except that a good (committing to running the ball) may actually turn into a bad if they are still unable to do so with any consistency.

The Questions: 1) Can Bob Sanders stay healthy? As great as he is, he does have a huge weakness, and it’s his ability to stay healthy. Luckily the Colts have learned to live without him, but they are obviously better with him.

Why 13-3?  Because this team went 14-2 last year without a rushing game, or Bob Sanders for most of the year, and now they have Bob back, and what promises to be a better rush attack. Not much is stopping them.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills- 2-14 (4th)
The Good: C.J. Spiller is an exciting player, and should end up being a really good running back. The secondary is by far the best unit on the team. Second year player Jairus Byrd is a particular bright spot.

The Bad: The offensive line was horrendous, and then they added former Raiders tackle Cornell Green who shouldn’t be starting for anyone. QB is still in issue, and Lee Evans has produced less and less the last couple seasons. The defense is trying to switch to a 3-4, but it will take them a while. They don’t have the right linebackers, and with no pass rush from those LB’s they are pretty much wasting their best unit in the secondary by forcing them to cover for days. And I still don’t get the Chan Gailey hire. What has he ever done to merit being an NFL head coach?

The Questions: 1) Can anyone look at this team with honest unbiased eyes and give me a scenario that leads to five or more wins for this team?

Why 2-14? That offensive line is the worst in the league, they don’t have the personnel to run a 3-4, they have very little offensive firepower, Chan Gailey is the head coach, and their owner is becoming more Al Davis like every day. Sorry, but I do not BILLieve.

New England Patriots- 9-7 (3rd)
The Good: Tom Brady, next subject. They still have Bill Belichick calling the shots, and the last time I checked, that’s a good thing. Julian Edelman showed plenty of potential last season, so even if Wes Welker isn’t at 100% all year, it shouldn’t be a huge drop off. Vince Wilfork is the anchor of the defense.

The Bad: The running game leaves a lot to be desired, and the whole Logan Mankins holdout is not going to help. The secondary is inconsistent, and starting CB Leigh Bodden is out for the year. They struggled stopping the run, and rushing the passer last year, which is something they didn’t seem to address in the offseason. The loss of Ty Warren is going to hurt this D badly.

The Questions: 1) Will Randy Moss turn into the little pouter he became in Oakland? All along he’s said he wouldn’t get upset with the Patriots, that he knows it’s a business, but now he comes out saying he is frustrated and upset. Pats fans better hope he doesn’t shut down.
2) Can Belichick pull his magic again to overcome roster with underwhelming talent? He’s done it before, won the division, and playoff games, with players who even he didn’t think were special. Can he do it again with little pass rush and the injuries they’ve sustained?

Why 9-7? The injuries, especially on defense, and something that most teams would not overcome, but this is the Patriots, and that’s why I have them going 9-7. Any other team with no pass rush, and inability to stop the run, injuries to starters, no run game, and an upset number one receiver would go 5-11, so it’s better than they should do.
 
 

New York Jets- 10-6 (2nd)
The Good: The offensive line is solid to more than solid in 4 out of the 5 spots. Once Santonio Holmes gets back from suspension, and gets more reps with Mark Sanchez, it will open the offense up having a legit number one receiver. This team is built on defense, and they stand to have another great season. Their secondary is a perfect mix of cover men, ball hawks, and big hitters. The D-line should be even better with Kris Jenkins back, and the tandem of Bart Scott and David Harris at ILB is one of the best in the league.

The Bad: The LG spot needs to be nailed down after the departure of Alan Faneca, and no one has been able to do that so far. The offense struggled in the preseason, and if Mark Sanchez is headed for a sophomore slump, then the Jets’ offense is in for a really bad season.

The Questions: 1) Can Shonn Green replace Thomas Jones’ production? Green had a solid rookie regular season, but exploded in the playoffs. Now the starter, there is no question whether he has the talent, but will he hit a wall later in the season?
2) How mush did the Revis holdout hurt this team? I doubt it hurt them at all. Revis’ agent, and the Jets were both using the media to jostle for position, and the media *cough* ESPN *cough* ate it up.

Why 10-6? This team should have the best defense in the NFL, but how slowly along will the offense come? I feel it’s going to take a while for them to get it all together, especially Sanchez. This will cost them some wins early in the season, but they can bounce back.

 

Miami Dolphins- 11-5 (1st)
The Good: The Dolphins are the epitome of the stereotypical “team.” In fact, you could call them the new Patriots. They have a system, they plug whatever players in, and they play as a seasoned cohesive unit together. Now that doesn’t mean you don’t need some firepower, and that’s what they added when they got Brandon Marshall for a couple of second round picks. A physical freak, and one of the best in the game, it’s only a matter of time before Chad Henne is spoiled by his presence on the field. Adding Karlos Dansby to the defense made them far more dangerous.

The Bad: Sean Smith lost his starting CB job, and Yeremiah Bell is the only starter in the secondary to have more than one year of starting experience. Defensive lineman Phillip Merling is out for the year, and he was expected to be a key contributor this season.

The Questions: 1) Can Ronnie Brown stay healthy? He’s always getting hurt, and the Dolphins are lucky Ricky Williams has been as solid as he has been. I hope he bounces back, because he’s fun to watch.
2) Will Anthony Fasano have a bounce back year? People thought he would break out last year, but that didn’t happen. With Chad Henne in his second year, and Marshall opening things up for other receivers, Fasano should be able to find more space to operate.

Why 11-5? Adding Marshall really puts them over the hump, and combined with a healthy Ronnie Brown makes that offense more dynamic than it’s been in a while. They’ve got a solid plan, and the players who buy into it, making them a steadier team than any in the AFC east.

Review:


1 seed- Colts

2 seed- Chargers

3 seed- Bengals

4 seed- Dolphins

5 seed- Texans

6 seed Jets

 

Wild Card Round

Bengals (3) vs. Jets (6)
The rematch ends the same way as last year.

Dolphins (4) vs. Texans (5)
Not only do the Texans get to the playoff for the first time ever, but they win too.

 

Divisional Round

Colts (1) vs. Jets (6)
The Jets finally shut up when Manning beats them in Indy.

Chargers (2) vs. Texans (5)
Two in a row! Chargers suffer more playoff disappointment.

 

Championship Round

Colts (1) vs. Texans (5)
The Texans still can’t get by the Colts.

Check part 2 for NFC and Super Bowl winner!

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