September 06, 2005

Let’s Play Some Football 2005: AFC Edition

I have to truncate these some. They won’t be very detailed, but since I often get details wrong, nobody misses much.

1. New England Patriots

The only question with the Patriots is how far they go. They’re unquestionably the class of the division, and probably of the AFC. There are a couple holes though: How will Chad Brown and Monty Beisel replace Ted Johnson and Teddy Bruschi? How will the team click without longtime coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis?

2. New York Jets

The J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS have quetly built a very nice team. Chad Pennington gets to throw to Laveranues Coles again as well as last year’s big free agent signing Justin McCariens. Even better is the return of suddenly ageless and indestructible Curtis Martin. Does anybody else remember that when Martin came out of college he was considered injury-prone? The big question with New York: Has Herm Edwards figured out to play with his gut instead of over-thinking.

3. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo has a hellacious defense and a potentially dominant running back. They also have a rickety offensive line and an untested quarterback. Tell me again how this was Drew Bledsoe’s fault. JP Losman, the new QB, has a bad reputation as me-first guy. That won’t do in Buffalo, as his #1 priority is feeding tailback Willis McGahee. Losman will have to learn quickly too, the offensive line can only hope to be mediocre.

4. Miami Dolphins

Are things so bad in Miami that they need to start Gus Frerotte? When the only other options are AJ Feely and the immortal Sage Rosenfelds… yeah, they are that bad. New Coach Nick Saban will try to retool the offense around Ronnie Brown and the returning Ricky Williams. The Dolphins’ defense isn’t bad, but this team will struggle to score points.

Division Winner: New England Patriots
Wild Card: New York Jets

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts

Payton Manning and his teams can beat anybody but the Patriots. That doesn’t figure to change as the Colts haven’t changed much. They still have awe-inspiring offense featuring Manning, RB Edgerrin James, plus a loaded wideout corps led by Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. They’re also still undersized on defense, with Dwight Freeney, David Thorton and not much else.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

Has anybody been paying attention to how good Jacksonville’s defense is? Certainly not Jaguar fans, who have yet to sell-out the season opener against Seattle. The Jag defense is strongest up the middle, starting with tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, middle linebacker Mike Peterson and safety Donovan Darius. With improved cornerback play, this could be the best defense in the AFC. They’ll need it too, as the offense is still pretty rickety. Byron Leftwich still struggles with inconsistency, and second-year man Reggie Williams needs to step up.

3. Houston Texans

David Carr deserves combat pay for playing behind this line. Another year, another 49 sacks for Carr, who has been sacked an unbelievable 140 times in three seasons. The line isn’t any better this year, as the only change on the line is the insertion of the ageing Victor Riley at left tackle. Carr does have a nice tailback –if healthy- in Domanick Davis and a superstar receiver in Andre Johnson. The defense is fine, assuming (and this is a big one) that Phillip Buchanon can solidify the corner across from Dunta Robinson.

4. Tennesee Titans

Hey, haven’t you been cut yet? This is the most common greeting between Titans, as a cap-abetted bloodletting has occurred. In the past 24 months the Titans have lost Eddie George, Derrick Mason, Justin McCairens, Kevin Carter, Robaire Smith, Jevon Kearse and Samari Rolle. In their place is ex-Bill Travis Henry and a ton of youth. It might be a long year for Coach Jeff Fisher and new offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Despite the presence of Steve McNair and Henry, Chow may have had more talent on offense with the USC Trojans. The defense is almost ludicrously young, but it is talented.

Division Winner: Indianapolis Colts
Wild Card: None

AFC North

1. Baltimore Ravens

The defense is set, led by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, in addition to dynamic talents like Terrell Suggs and Chris McAlister. The offense is close too, with stud tailback Jamal Lewis (though he may be slowed by off-season prison time) and receivers like Desmond Mason and rookie Mark Clayton. The line is excellent, led by perennial All-Pro Jonathon Odgen and tight end Todd Heap. Wait… something’s missing. Kyle Boller has to step up and become at least an adequate quarterback. Everything else is in place.

2. Cincinnati Bengals

Yeah, it’s probably too high for the Bengals. Yeah, they’re probably a year away. Yeah, I know the Steelers won like, 27 games last season. I just look at this team and think: Damn…Carson Palmer is right on schedule at quarterback. Rudi Johnson is workhorse running back. Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmanzedah are dynamic wideouts. The line is tremendously underrated and one of the best in football. The defense has been retooled with young, scary-fast types like Odell Thurman and Madieu Williams. They might be a year away…but they might be right on time.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethisberger won his first 15 starts in the NFL, which is just remarkable. He wasn’t particularly flashy, but in the Steelers’ offense he isn’t supposed to be. This is the definitive grind-it-out team, and they did just that behind Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley running for a combined 1700 yard plus. Big Ben has very nice targets to throw to like Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El, who will be a starter with the departure of Plaxico Burress to New York. The defense was a monster last year, and could be again. The linebackers, with Joey Porter, Larry Foote, James Farrior and Clark Haggans, might be the best in the NFL. The corners are weak though, and old too.

4. Cleveland Browns

The reborn Browns have not been pretty, under either Chris Palmer or Butch Davis, save for a single trip to the playoffs under Davis. After collapsing last season, Cleveland seems to get it at this point, hiring GM Phil Savage from Baltimore and Romeo Crennel from New England. Crennel and Savage first improved the team’s professionalism, cutting a swath of unproductive high draft picks like Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren, and picking up vets like QB Trent Dilfer and lineman Joe Andruzzi. Savage also drafted gamebreaking wideout Braylon Edwards, who will provide Dilfer an inviting target for bombs. The Browns aren’t the most talented team – in fact they’re probably the least talented team in the NFL- but they will be no fun to play.

Division Winner: Baltimore Ravens
Wild Card: Cincinnati Bengals

AFC West

1. San Diego Chargers

Marty Schottenheimer might be the best regular-season coach in the NFL. Unfortunately for Charger fans, he’s certainly not the best playoff coach around. San Diego just blew it against the Jets last season, a bitter end to a storybook year. The Chargers return their important parts: LaDanian Tomlinson is the best back in football, Drew Brees is another year more experienced, and their no-name defense is tough and fast.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs tried keeping the same players and upgrading their coaching on defense in 2004. It didn’t work. Now, they’ve wised up and given coordinator Gunther Cunningham toys to play with like cornerback Patrick Surtain, and linebackers Derrick Johnson and Kendrell Bell. The defense still has a way to go, but if it can improve to average, KC can win. The offense, behind Priest Holmes and Trent Green, is still potent. The Chiefs are still lacking at wideout, despite the presence of Tony Gonzalez. A team with Eddie Kennison, Samie Parker and Freddie Mitchell doesn’t scare anyone.

3. Denver Broncos

When a team finishes with the fourth-best defense in the NFL, they usually don’t go and pick up guys from a 4-12 team. Yet that is what the Broncos did, signing or trading for Cleveland’s defensive line of Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Mike Myers, and Ebenezer Ekuban. Ekuban and Myers are pluggers and Warren and Brown are high draft picks that haven’t done a damned thing over their careers. Picking them up should show how desperate Mike Shanahan is at this point. His offense hummed in 2004 behind his handpicked QB Jake Plummer, yet the team never seemed to click. It won’t this year either.

4. Oakland Raiders

Well, the Raiders will certainly be more interesting this season. They picked up this Moss guy from Minnesota, he could fit in well. Or the team could implode again. On paper this is a much-improved offense with Moss, Jerry Porter and running back pickup LaMont Jordan. The line should be better as well, as second-year man Robert Gallery needs to start living up to his potential. On defense the Raiders were awful in 2004, and might not be much better. Nnamdi Asomuigh and Fabien Washington replace Phillip Buchanan at corner. Washington is a blazingly fast kid who made about three plays his entire career.

Division Champion: San Diego Chargers
Wild Card: None

AFC Champion: New England Patriots

Posted by Frinklin at September 6, 2005 09:42 PM | TrackBack
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