Monday, September 6, 2010

2010 NFL Predictions - AFC East

New England may have won the division last year, but the New York Jets are the AFC East team everyone is talking about heading into the season. After a one point loss at Miami in week 13, the Patriots went on a 3-1 run to close out the year to hold off the hard charging Jets. If you look a little closer at the way the season ended, a we may be witnessing a change of guard in the division. After being beaten handedly in Foxboro, the Jets won five of their last six, including a 37-0 thumping of the playoff bound Bengals to close out the regular season. The Patriots limped in by picking off weak teams from Carolina, Buffalo, and Jacksonville for their three final wins. Miami faded down the stretch, losing four of their last six, including each of their last three. Buffalo, once again, wasn’t a factor.

Predicted order of finish

1) New England Patriots
The Patriots can’t afford to start off slowly. They face the Bengals at home in week one and then travel to the Jets. A few weeks later they start a huge three game stretch at home against Baltimore, then at San Diego, and finally a return home to host the Vikings. How they fare in their first 7 games of the season should give an indication of how their season will play out. I think they struggle to generate a pass rush once again this year and that they start to look a little older. Will they still have enough to hang on? It’s really hard to go against Brady, Moss, and Belichick. I won’t.

Reasons for optimism –
-Brady to Moss combination is still one of game’s best
-Vince Wilfork was re-upped to a five year deal in the offseason
-The developing duo of Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung at safety

Potential pessimistic pitfalls –
-Wes Welker proves to have come back too soon from his ACL injury
-Defense fails to do better than 23rd in sacks once again
-Jets steal their mojo in week 2 matchup and never let go of early season momentum

2) New York Jets
They’re a trendy pick this year, and even I had them first at first. Then I thought about it a little more. Rex Ryan’s mouth, the play of this team down the stretch in ’09, and the Hard Knocks show have painted a bright bulls eye on this team’s back. They won’t sneak up on anyone this year, and a ton is going to be expected out of Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene. Will they perform? I believe Greene has a solid year, but is Sanchez going to step up and be a difference maker instead of a caretaker? I think a big key to them making a run at the AFC East title is having their tougher games at home (BAL, MIN, GB, HOU, CIN). Coming out on top in most of those will be key to their success, but I think it will eventually be too much to overcome.

Reasons for optimism –
-A strong finish to ’09 gave the team a lot of confidence and momentum heading into this year
-Dustin Keller emerging late last year as a reliable weapon for Mark Sanchez
-David Harris, an emerging stud ILB, and NT Kris Jenkins healthy and focused

Potential pessimistic pitfalls –
-Sophomore slump for Mark Sanchez
-Shonn Greene can’t cut it as a workhorse
-Too much publicity for a team that is more style than substance at this point

3) Miami Dolphins
The backfield reeks of disappointment to me, and I foresee an appearance or two of “Bad” Brandon Marshall when things start going south. If everything falls right (Chad Henne progresses, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown stay healthy, Marshall is happy, Karlos Dansby dominates, and the second year corners make plays) they could contend for the division with the Jets and Patriots. I think one or more of these doesn’t happen, and it leads to a disappointing year for the Fins.

Reasons for optimism –
-Acquiring one of the game’s elite WRs for two second round draft picks
-Chad Henne’s impressive first season as starter in ‘09
-The additions of playmaker Karlos Dansby at ILB and rookie Jared Odrick at DE

Potential pessimistic pitfalls –
-Early communication issues between Henne and Marshall lead to long term problems
-Yet another Ronnie Brown injury
-Lack of growth by starting sophomore corners Vernon Davis and Sean Smith

4) Buffalo Bills
If it all does indeed start up front, then the Bills are in bad shape. Whoever’s running the football is going to have to earn it, and I expect QB health to be an issue at some point. They’re deep at two positions (RB and CB) and weak everywhere else. It’s hard to see them not finishing in the basement again.

Reasons for optimism –
-The Disco Biscuits will be in town Thursday, September 9
-The draft is only 8 months away
-At least Terrell Owens is gone

Potential pessimistic pitfalls –
-Aaron Maybin continues to look like a waste of money, providing zero help on the edge
-The lack of even decent talent across from Lee Evans causes his numbers to drop for a second year in a row
-The rebuilt defensive line gets pushed around and offers no help to a weak second level

Conference Awards
MVP (best talent in biggest role) – Tom Brady (QB, Patriots)
Offensive POY (most impressive season) – Shonn Greene (RB, Jets)
Defensive POY – Karlos Dansby (ILB, Dolphins) (Revis would be too easy)
Offensive ROY – CJ Spiller (RB, Bills)
Defensive ROY – Jared Odrick (DE, Dolphins)
Offensive Breakout Player – Brandon Tate (WR, Patriots)
Defensive Breakout Player – Patrick Chung (SS, Patriots)

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