Home > Uncategorized > And on to the AFC …

And on to the AFC …

Thanks to everyone for your input on my NFC picks … although no one called me anything remotely obscene or deprecating, which was a disappointment. Maybe I can thoroughly piss some of you AFC fans off today. To the predictions …

“Yikes” again — The ‘other’ worst of the worst

16. Buffalo

  • Why they’ll suck: Drafting C.J. Spiller in the first round (Ninth overall) was pretty mind-boggling, considering that the Bills seemed to have a need at every position except running back. And they didn’t release Fred Jackson or Marshawn Lynch. WTF? The only thing more confusing on the Bills side was the decision to bring in the ancient Chan Gailey as Head Coach. Were they more impressed with his past success (which is using the word “success” very loosely – 44-42 record with Georgia Tech) or his wisdom (i.e. age)? Either way, the Bills are going nowhere. Well, except maybe Toronto …
  • Why I could be wrong: I won’t be. The Bills are a lock for a distant last in a very competitive AFC East.

15. Jacksonville

  • Why they’ll suck: Just an unexciting group of players that took several steps backwards last year, and did nothing to improve in the offseason. Yes, Mojo-Drew will get his numbers (relax, fantasy owners) and Garrard will have his usual “meh” season (I’d give him 15 TD’s, 15 INT’s this year … meh), but the AFC South is only getting better as this team continues to get worse.
  • Why I could be wrong: Again, I won’t be. The Jaguars are going nowhere. Well, except maybe Los Angeles … (Thank you, thank you. I will now retire that joke.)

14.) Denver

  • Why they’ll suck: The Broncos season was derailed before it even began this year, with the loss of stud Linebacker Elvis Dumervil leaving them very short on the defensive side. They still have Brian Dawkins, who might go down as my favorite non-Packer player of all-time, but Dawks is a year older and his supporting cast, with the exception of Champ Bailey, will struggle. On offense, they brought into two superstar college quarterbacks that have little to no chance of making it in the Big Leagues. (Tebow looked atrocious in preseason, and, while Quinn doesn’t throw a lot of picks, it’s normally because his passes always seem to find the turf.) Couple that with the loss of Brandon Marshall, and this team looks destined to falter, despite the weak Division.
  • Why I could be wrong: Denver is a perennial over-achiever (see their 6-0 start to last season as evidence), and the Mile High crowd is usually good for a couple victories the home team doesn’t quite deserve. But I don’t see them even sniffing the playoffs this year. Hey, at least Jay Cutler isn’t their problem anymore.

13.) Kansas City

  • Why they’ll suck: Ya’ know, I almost talked myself into the Chiefs being respectable this year, what with them becoming the pseudo-Patriots and all. (Charlie Weiss and Romeo Crennel have been reunited as coordinators with Head Coach Todd Haley.) And while they may improve on offense with Weis at the helm and the emergence of running back Jamal Charles, this team just lacks firepower on Defense. I see an improvement from last year, but not a big enough one to make the playoffs.
  • Why I could be wrong: Just like in the NFC, the AFC West is that bad this year, and it’s possible a team could sneak into the playoffs at 8-8, which this Chiefs team is certainly capable of. If Cassell can have half the year he did in his lone starting season with the Pats, and Dwayne Bowe can transform back into the Dwayne Bowe we knew his rookie year, than they’ll have a shot at the Division. But it’s a longshot.

12.) Cleveland

  • Why they’ll suck: When Jake Delhomme is a clear upgrade from you what you had at Quarterback last year (and he is), that means you must have been truly terrible the year before. And the Browns were. And yet, they managed to pull it together at the end of the year and rip off four straight wins. Seriously, the Browns haven’t lost since December 6, 2009. Kind of amazing. And yet, the Browns still have a TON to improve on, and they’re stuck in an extremely tough Division. So, though I don’t see them improving on their win total from last year dramatically, I do think they will look a lot more competent on the field in 2010.
  • Why I could be wrong: Diehard Cleveland fan Paul Flannery has not cut his hair since declaring that he would SHAVE IT ALL OFF if the Browns won four straight at the end of the season, which, miraculously, they did. Paul sort of went the other way there, but he’s still got the lucky locks, and the Browns do have a pretty cake schedule at the beginning of the season. (At Tampa, vs. KC) Stranger things have happened, I guess …

“It’s doubtful” — The Mediocres

11.) Oakland

  • Why they’ll be mediocre: Quick note – I have six of the NFL’s West teams in the bottom eleven of the League. I think we need a realignment strategy. Anyways, Oakland will be better than last year because they got rid of Jamarcus “Sizzurp” Russell. I like Jason Campbell (though I’m not quite sure why), but he’s already damaged goods and we haven’t played a down yet this season. On the upside, Tom Cable hasn’t punched (allegedly) any Assistant Coaches yet this year, so that’s a solid sign.
  • Why I could be wrong: Again, this Division SUCKS. And the Raiders showed a lot of heart last year, subsequently becoming one of the hardest teams to pick. (How many suicide pools have they killed in the past two years?) If they can manufacture some sort of consistency as an overall group, this team could become as feisty as the emblem on the side of their helmets.

10.) Pittsburgh

  • Why they’ll be mediocre: Big Ben really let his team (and its fan base, and really the reputation of the male race in general, to be fair) down this offseason, and now that back-up Byron Leftwich couldn’t make it through the preseason without getting hurt, Dennis Dixon will be their starting Quarterback for at least the opener, and perhaps the first four games of the year. And this was a team that had a lackluster D last year, and they even lost some offensive firepower by letting Santonio “Super Bowl MVP” Holmes go to the Jets. Bad karma combined with a tough Division leaves me feeling not great about the Steelers this year.
  • Why I could be wrong: I feel like Mike Tomlin won’t allow this team to do worse than 7-9, and if Polomalu can stay healthy, the Defense will be ions better (especially in the Secondary) than it was last year. If Roethlisberger can come back firing in week 5, then the Steelers might have enough time to rescue the season and make a run at the Ravens and Bengals for the Division. Unfortunately, they’ve already got a big hole to deep out of.

“A fighting chance” – Solid, but probably not taking home the trophy.

9.) San Diego

  • Why they’re solid: Tumultuous offseason saw them shred some talented vets (Tomlinson, Cromartie, and more and more likely, Vincent Jackson), but the biggest problem is their ability to get over the hump. This team is good year after year, and yet they can’t seem to make the leap. Their defense is strong, and Philip Rivers (despite his mouth) has emerged into one of the best QB’s in the league. But when are they going to finish the job? This doesn’t feel like the year, especially with the Jets, Ravens, Patriots and (yes, even them) Colts all getting better, while the Chargers just seemed to have gotten worse.
  • Why I could be wrong: I might be short-selling the Chargers this year because, frankly, after a month living here, I’ve found SD fans to be sort of half-hearted and lame, and I’m taking it out on them in my predictions. I just hope none of them read this … (Which, obviously, shouldn’t be an issue.)

8.) Tennessee

  • Why they’re solid: I actually like the Titans this year, but I’m not sure they can become Super Bowl contenders with Vince Young as their Quarterback in this division. The AFC South is high-octane, and the Titans don’t really fit that mold and I can see them getting burnt against the Colts and Texans. That being said, they do have Chris Johnson, who is one of the few remaining running backs in this League that can keep his team alive, no matter the game. (Also, I lucked into CJ despite having the FOURTH pick in my Fantasy Draft. FOURTH! But that’s a whole different story. Sorry Chico.) And everyone knows how well they finished the season last year, which always bodes well for the final season. So we’ll see about these Titans … but going into the season, I have them third in the AFC South.
  • Why I could be wrong: Jeff Fisher is one of the best coaches in the league, and if they can start the way they finished last season, they might be in contention for a wild card spot late in the season.

7.) Miami

  • Why they’ll be solid: The addition of Brandon Marshall will definitely bolster an offense that took a few steps forward with Chad Henne under center. Also, Ronnie Brown is back and (supposedly) healthy, and the Dolphins have big, solid offensive line that can create gaps for whoever is in the backfield, be it Brown or Ricky Williams. Also, Tony Sparano has done a lot with a little in his first two years as head coach, and I think the ‘Fins will be a threat to take the Division crown in a top-heavy AFC East.
  • Why I could be wrong: There is very little room for error in the AFC this year, with not much separating the top eight or nine teams in the Conference. And with a tough schedule that includes trips to NY, NE, GB, Cincy, Minn. and Balt., a few losses may very well be all that separates a first round home game or missing the playoffs altogether.

6.) Houston

  • Why they’ll be solid: Will this be the year we’ve all been waiting for from the Texans? Who knows. But if Matt Schaub can become half the fantasy Quarterback he is in real life (He’s won far more games for his fantasy owners then he has the Texans), then Houston can do some damage. It will be interesting to see how rookie Arian Foster plays, especially with the Artist Formerly Known as Steve Slaton dying to get his starting job back behind him. Can you say “pressure?” Speaking of pressure, it’s now or never for head coach Gary Kubiak – if the Texans don’t make the playoffs again this year, he’s more canned than Bush’s Baked Beans.
  • Why I could be wrong: Everyone seems to be wrong about the Texans every year … why would this year be any exception?

5.) Cincinnati

  • Why they’ll be solid: T.O.cho. The two VH-1 superstars are ready to ball, and despite their ages (T.O. will be 37 by the end of the year, Ocho is 32, respectively), these guys are still two of the most in-shape athletes in the League. But will Carson Palmer be able to get the ball to them? Palmer has free-fallen from elite status every year since 2005, and now that he’s got a new weapon in T.O., it’ll be interesting to see whether he can have the comeback year Cincy has been waiting for. Lucky for the Bengals O, their D is more than solid, and was one of the best teams against the run last year despite lacking any big name players. This team plays well as a collective unit, and if they can improve on last year’s performance, they will be in the hunt come January.
  • Why I could be wrong: Same problems as Miami … tough schedule won’t make it easy to get off to a quick start like they did last year. But their D will keep them in a lot of games, and if T.Ocho can make some plays … well, it could be fun to see how this plays out.

“Watch out for these guys” – The Legitimate Contenders

4.) New England

  • Why they’ve got a shot: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Randy Moss. With these three guys, the Pats still remain legitimate contenders. Brady is now two years removed from an MCL tear, which he means he (finally) should be at full strength. If Moss can get over all the contract talk (or lack thereof, I should say) and just play ball, we could see more of the record-breaking 2007 Patriot offense. (And let’s hope so, as my fantasy team will live and die by Tom Brady this year.) The Defense was only average last year, which was a shadow of the unit that made the Super Bowl in 2007. (Not even … Vince Wilfork is the only notable Defensive player from that 16-0 team that is still on the roster.) However, the Pats seem to be building something with some talented young players, such as Jerrod Mayo and Brandon “That’s not me in that video” Spikes. Look for an improvement on both sides of the ball for the Pats this year.
  • Why I could be wrong: Moss could tank this season if he gets too sulky about his contract situation, the D, though talented, is unproven, and the Pats, as usual, still have a collective target on their back thanks to their now dwindling dynasty. We’ll see what happens.

3.) N.Y. Jets

  • Why they’ve got a shot: Now that Revis Island is back under contract, there’s really only one reason I can see the Jets faltering this year: Mark Sanchez. The Sanchise threw for 12 TD’s last year and 20 INT’s. This is a throwing league, and in order to get the ball down the field consistently, Sanchez will need to be much better taking care of the ball. That being said, he was a revelation in the playoffs last year, and with a year of experience under his belt (and a new toy to play with in Santonio Holmes … ya’ know, once he gets back from suspension), Sanchez will probably be asked to do just enough to keep his team in the hunt, something he proved he had the talent for last year. Also, the Jets signed a litany of offseason vets thirsty for a ring (Tomlinson, Cromartie and his eight kids, Jayson Taylor and Holmes), basically announcing via free agency that they’re in it to win it this year. They only came up one game short of the Super Bowl last year, and this team, on paper, is markedly better.
  • Why I could be wrong: They do fit the bill of a classically over-hyped team, and there’s a chance they caught lightning in a bottle last postseason. However, their Defense just seems to strong to me to not keep them in the Championship hunt. The Jets should be very, very strong this year.

2.) Indianapolis

  • Why they’ve got a shot: Because they’re the fackin’ Colts and they’ve got Peyton Manning, that’s why.
  • Why I could be wrong: A bad regular season for the Colts would be 10-6, which in all likelihood would still get them in the playoffs. And with this team’s experience (especially under center), you can never count Indy out of the title hunt. Look for them to be (unsurprisingly) a force to be reckoned with once again.

1.) Baltimore

  • Why they’ve got a shot: The Ravens loaded up in the offseason on the one thing they’ve always lacked: offense. The acquisitions of Anquan Boldin and, more recently, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, give third-year QB Joe Flacco some pretty solid new tools to work with. Combine that with their explosive running back Ray Rice and veteran receiver Derrick Mason, and the Ravens offense suddenly looks like one of the best in the League. Their defense is still top-notch, though they will miss Ed Rice tremendously at the beginning of the season. However, with a more balanced overall team, the Ravens will not only take home the AFC North, but are also my pick to take on the Pack in the Super Bowl.
  • Why I could be wrong: The defense was penalty-prone last year, and the offense turned the ball over more than you would hope for last year. But I think these flaws will be improved, and I really like head coach John Harbaugh to lead this team to January and beyond.
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