Thursday, September 1, 2011

NFL Previews: AFC East Preview

With the calendar turning September, and the 2011 NFL season getting set to kick-off, I figured now would be a good time to start our NFL Divisional Previews/Predictions. Since we don't have time to go through and list off each starting position player and what not, we'll just name order in which we think the teams will finish, why they'll do so, as well as the key players on each respective team.

We'll be starting in the AFC East and finishing in the NFC West, so here we go:

AFC East

New England Patriots - 1st Place

Key Starters: QB Tom Brady, RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis, WR Chad Ochocinco, WR Wes Welker, TE Aaron Hernandez, G Logan Mankins, WR/RB Danny Woodard

Defensive: DE Shaun Ellis, NT Vince Wilfork, DE Albert Haynesworth, LB Jerod Mayo, CB Devin McCourty, SS Brandon Merriweather, CB Leigh Bodden

Offensively, I actually am expecting more out of the Pats than a lot of people. I think #85 will find his niche like Randy Moss did and just make guys like Welker and Deon Branch that much better. If they gave Hernandez starter's minutes, the guy would be a top-5 tight end, not doubt. The running game is a little questionable, but bowling ball Ellis and utility man Woodward are nice compliments to each other. The Pas have put together a very nice defense (I'm hoping so for my fantasy team's sake as well), as they have a tough front with Ellis, Wilfork and Haynesworth and interception machines McCourty and Bodden at corner. The big question for their secondary will be the health of Bodden who had 5 picks and 60 tackles in '09, but missed last season.
Prediction: 13-3

New York Jets - 2nd Place
*Wild Card*

Key Starters: QB Mark Sanchez, RB Shonn Green, RB LaDanian Tomlinson, LT D'Brickshaw Ferguson, C Nick Mangold, WR Santonio Holmes, WR Plaxico Burress.

Defense: Darrelle Revis CB, Antonion Cromartie CB, Calvin Pace LB, David Harris LB, Bart Scott

The Jets lost a big part of their defensive front when they let Shaun Ellis slip into the hands of the Patriots, but Rex Ryan believes in rookie Muhhamed Wilkerson. Still though, this team revolves around that defense and it hurts them to loose a key cog like Ellis. What they have done, however, is improve the passing game by bringing in the mercurial, talented Plaxico Burress to give Sanchez a nice big red-zone target. They also still have LT sharing the load with Green running behind a brick wall of an offensive line, so they'll be just fine, even if they are just an ordinary passing team again.
Prediction: 11-5

Miami Dolphins - 3rd Place

Key Offensive Players: QB Chad Henne, RB Reggie Bush, RB Daniel Thomas, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Davone Bess, C Mike Pouncey (R)

Defense: LB Kevin Barnett, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Cameron Wake, CB Vontae Davis, SS Yeremiah Bell, S Chris Clemmons

Miami really will rise or fall with the play of quarterback Chad Henne. They tried to get Kolb, they shot for Kyle Orton, a few different times, and missed, and figured they'd be better off with Henne again for a year. They've surrounded him with the same cast of characters from a year ago, but the running game should be more dynamic. Reggie Bush will give the young QB an outlet when he's under pressure and both Bush and rookie Thomas should be upgrades to their predecessors. The real question for Miami lies up front on both sides of the line, where they really could go either way. They should be a fun team to watch with all their different sorts of weapons though. On defense, Cameron Wake is a force and should carry the front 7.
Prediction: 7-9
Buffalo Bills - 4th Place

Key Offensive Players
: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Stevie Johnson, RB Fred Jackson, RB C.J. Spiller, WR Roscoe Parish

Defensive Players: DE Marcell Dareus (R), NT Kyle Williams, LB Shawn Merriman, CB Terrence McGee, FS Jarius Byrd

A lot of football insiders like the Dolphins to improve in this division and finish 3rd, but I really like the direction Buffalo is headed. If they could move to LA and get some fan support and actually attract some talent, but for now, they have to stick with who they draft and they're making out great. Stevie Johnson developed into one of the top receivers in the game last year, and Spiller looks just itching to bust out himself. Fitzpatrick isn't the prototypical QB, but is effeceint, accurate and has a big strong arm. Defensively, Byrd fell off a bit after his 9 interception season in '09, but I expect him to be a big-time playmaker. I also think Merriman is ready for a career re-juvenation in Buffalo. He's only 27 and certianly isn't washed up. Look for a monster year from the dude. Weeks of
Prediction: 5-11



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