I just want to preface this AFC East preview with a disclaimer. I do have a questionably large amount of love for Brett Favre right now, but I refuse to let this crush lead to any sort of biases towards Brett or any of the New York Jets players in this extremely unbiased article. Thank you, and let's get on with the fun. I know that by now any lazy Sunday football fan has already picked up an NFL Preview issue, but I would like to put my own two sense in. That's the beauty of open source sports writing people. I'm going to do a little offense, defense, special teams preview action for all 4 teams followed by my prediction for where they will finish, closely followed by my "Very Voyeuristic" Award for players i'm keeping a close watch on, and top it all off with the "Big Bad Bold Prediction" award just for purposes of pure unadulterated fun. I will write about one team per day, I have class to attend people. Let us begin with the New England Patriots, shall we?
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS:
- Offense- You're looking at essentially the same absolutely dominating, record breaking offense from last years (almost) perfect season. Tom Brady, the Golden Boy who threw for a record breaking 50 TD's does have a bit of injury speculation surrounding him, but I don't see that as any sort of problem. The Mystery Man from Marshall, Randy Moss is back to show everyone that he wasn't just a one-hit wonder, and unfortunately for the rest of this division, the one two punch of Brady to Moss doesn't show any signs of stopping. I expect Brady to throw for 42 touchdowns and Moss to catch 19 of them this year. Oh and wait, let's not forget about arguably the best 3rd down receiver in the game last year, Wes Welker. It's crazy to me how successful Jabar Gaffney has been as a third option, and lookfor him to get more touches now that Donte' Stallworth is a Brown. The offensive line has an average weight of 300 pounds and with a huge chip on their shoulder, it doesn't bode well for opponents. If you think Nick Kaczur's drug arrest is going to stand in the way of this behemoth's, think again. I'm not a huge Laurence Maroney fan this year, after he only averaged 4.5 YPC on 189 touches last year, but all the "experts" are saying that this could be his monster year. I really think that new addition Lamont Jordan is going to steal some touches and TD's from Maroney in goal line/short yardage situations. Ben Watson, stay healthy buddy, it can only help.
- Defense/Special Teams- I had a few big questions about the New England Patriot defense this offseason. Their linebacking crew was getting geriatric and on top of that Junior Seau was released, Asante Samuels left and is now the most overpaid player defensive player in the NFL (it's ok Joey Porter, you've been replaced) and so did corner Randall Gay. What was this dynasty going to do? But in typical Belichick fashion they signed two under the radar free agents in Jason Webster from Buffalo and Fernando Bryant from Detroit. They also signed a pretty decent safety in Tank Williams from Minnesota and drafted safety Brandon Meriweather from Miami and cornerback Terrence Wheatley from Colorado in the second round. With Dom Capers in to perfect the 3-4, this could mean trouble for opposing offenses. I don't know if a lot of NFL fans knew about these signings, but I feel as if it is actually an upgrade from last year. Even though Bryant only had 2 INT's compared to Samuel's 6 INT's, I feel like he is a better tackling corner who doesn't always go for the big play. I like the combo of Bryant and returning starter Ellis Hobbs, but I think that Terrence Wheatley may see more playing time than Hobbs. They return all starters on a D-line that is at times immovable and gets after the quarterback with Richard Seymour's apprentice Ty Warren giving opposing quarterbacks nightmares. The aging linebackers got a boost when Jerod Mayo, and interior linebacker from Tennessee and a physical freak was also drafted. Stephen Gostkowski was 21-24 kicking last year and I expect the same kind of consistency again this year from him. The only question is who's going to return kicks, but I think the edge goes to Ellis Hobbs; it's too risky to throw Welker out there.
- Prediction-No perfect season this year either Bill, sorry about your luck. Even though they have a Krispy Kreme soft schedule against the NFC and AFC West, I look for San Diego to knock them off in week 6 and Pittsburgh to take them down in week 13. They will go 14-2, clinch the AFC East, avenge their loss to the Steelers in the Divisional Round, take down the Chargers in the AFC Championship, and finally they will get their date with the Cowboys in Super Bowl XLIII and hoist the Lombardi in Raymond James Stadium. Damn you and your cut off sweatshirts Belichick.
- Very Voyeuristic Award- I'm secretly hoping that Dom Capers recognizes the gifted athlete that he has in Brandon Meriweather and allows him to get a lot of playing time. He has a great teacher in Rodney Harrison and he is athletically gifted enough to play corner or safety for this football team. Put him in as the nickelback and watch him shine baby.
- Big Bad Bold Prediction- Tom Brady goes down with a freak elbow injury in Week 12 of the season and backup Matt Cassel finally gets his time to shine. In a crazy flashback moment that reminds us all of the Patriots first Superbowl under Tom Brady in XXXVI, Matt Cassel leads the Patriots to another Lombardi and in Brady fashion, promptly shouts "We F***** Did IT!" Tom Brady is never heard from again and goes out in regular Drew Bledsoe fashion.