AFC East: A Preview of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The AFC East, in most people's opinion, is all about two teams. While it may be the home to the ever dangerous New England Patriots and the New York Jets, the division offers an interesting look into the state of the NFL overall.
Here is a rundown of the AFC East and how things should play out.
Once upon a time in a land not too far away, lived a team that once was the quintessential face of the AFC's might. Now those are only memories, and the once great team has gone into a long slumber.
The Buffalo Bills troubles have been consistently mounting and continue to accumulate as this team, captained by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, faces another major uphill battle to become relevant again.
Ryan Fitzpatrick must be a magician because he has made due with very limited opportunities and talent. I think the loss of Lee Evans leaves Fitzpatrick only one target that has the ability to make plays on a consistent basis, Stevie Johnson. Don't think this matters much as defenses will concentrate on Johnson, mostly due to the lack of threat that Roscoe Parish possesses.
Meanwhile, the running attack is headed by disgruntled Fred Jackson, whom is only slightly above average and unproven C.J. Spiller who needs to have a year worth remembering. Neither of these two are as capable of supplying a consistent ground game between the tackles.
Defensively, the Bills seem able to hold their own despite losing some talent here. The bottom line is the issues in all aspects of this team and the schedule they face make this team 3-13.
The Dolphins are another team in transition. The problematic areas of this team lay at the quarterback position. The Dolphins do not possess a threatening quarterback on their entire roster.
Chad Henne, Matt Moore, and Kevin O'Connell are going to wind up being caught in a revolving door unless the club can bring in a free agent quarterback to bring some stability here.
The addition of Reggie Bush will sell tickets, and this will mostly be where his benefit will shine through. Outside of an attraction for fans, the injury prone Bush is not the back we all thought he would be out of college.
Despite his ability to catch passes and run screens effectively, Bush has never been a back that fared well in between the tackles. He will have an impact, albeit a limited one.
Brandon Marshall leads the receiving corps that is nothing to be very concerned about, especially when you have such ineffective quarterbacks throwing the ball. Don't expect to see much play-making going on here, as they are average at best.
Defensively, the Dolphins offer a group that has yet to see its full potential and have been trying to improve. The issue here is when the defense is on the field more than the offense—it's only a matter of time before they break down.
The Dolphins have major issues and once again will not be relevant in the division. Look for the Dolphins to end up at 6-10.
New York Jets:
This team is always the bride's maid and never the bride.
After disheartening campaigns that ended just short of the Super Bowl, the Jets look to pick up where they left off and hope the third time is the charm this year.
Mark Sanchez is set to shine in the NY limelight, eclipsing Eli Manning as the top quarterback in New York. He has grown and shown that he can make plays when they count, and the only thing he was lacking in years past was the receiving corps. That has changed!
In the backfield, Shonn Greene looks to establish the main ground game with LaDanian Tomlinson providing support. If Grreene starts to stumble and has issues with the lead role, look for Tomlinson to quickly become the featured back.
Different from last year, Sanchez will be throwing to Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress who returns from a stint in prison. Although Sanchez had Braylon Edwards last year, his unsure hands certainly hurt this team, and the depth at this position was a little thin.
Derrick Mason offers a nice No. 3 wide receiver option, and Dustin Keller will be effective again in the tight end position.
The defense is as solid as ever, and I don't see any issues with this unit.
The Jets are favorites to win the division and possibly make the Super Bowl, and with their schedule in 2011, I see them finishing at 12-4.
New England Patriots:
I never believed in being on the Patriots bandwagon, and I won't start riding it now.
Tom Brady is Tom Brady and I think all you have to say is he'll be fine. The only way this team stutters is if his offensive line doesn't give him enough protection.
The running game should be another interesting year of running back by committee, even though Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis is considered the starter. We all know this team likes match-ups and the coaching staff will not change their approach this year either.
Wes Welker and Chad Ochocinco are about as similar as fire and ice. Although Welker has been the most reliable receiver the Patriots had over the years, this year will bring more challenges to him as the position he serves will allow for more defensive accountability.
I have always considered Chad Ochocinco dangerous, and I think he'll offer Brady a lot downfield, but I feel that he is not as good as his hype dictates, thus leaving plenty of opportunities for Brandon Tate and Deion Branch to capitalize.
Look for the tight ends to be used in most of the schemes the Patriots use in the offensive sets.
Defensively, the Patriots operate as a well oiled machine but have a slight weakness in the secondary. Look for teams to exploit the cornerbacks as often as they can when the running game isn't going as planned.
Overall, see the Patriots finishing behind the New York Jets in this division and ending up at 12-4 with the tie breaker going to the head to head match-ups between them.
The AFC East offers two of the top teams in the AFC and, for that fact, possibly the NFL.
This season should bring more of the same excitement and drama as the Jets and Patriots go punch for punch and chase a Super Bowl Championship!
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