AFC East Pre-Season Predictions
The NFL has grown to become the most popular sports league in America. Many factors contribute to this phenomenon that has left MLB in the dust. There was a time fans heckled one another over America’s Pastime, but not as much today…why? The NFL has taken us all in and sites such as www.thesidelinereport.com bring us together all year-round. There is nothing more fun than giving your predictions and having the fans argue, ridicule and attack you. Without further delay, let us get into some serious predictions:
First all, you must promise to not use my inside information to your advantage when making your predictions in about four weeks.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins had an historic spending spree prior to last season. Lots of “ready” talent was signed. This created a “win-now” pressure-cooked atmosphere in South Florida. As we all know, it didn’t quite turn out that way, and as result, the GM lost his job, as well as the OC. There is a tremendous amount of expectations now resting on the shoulders of HC Joe Philbin.
This off season, the team has tried to regain some form of a running game by signing Knowshon Moreno and a brand new OL. The Dolphins are a team that in any other year is positioned to win and challenge for the playoffs. The QB is entering year 3, and he has shown some signs of possibly improving enough to finally get to the postseason. (Quarterback Ryan) Tannehill has to improve his footwork, and has to learn to get the ball out quicker. He tends to hold on to it too long, resulting in sacks. Last year’s OL was bad; however, a year 2 QB should have know when to throw the ball away.
Like I said, any other year this team wins 10-11 games; they have that much proven talent on the roster. However… it is quite a task to bring in five new starters on the OL and expect great things early. Pouncey being gone all but dooms this unit. It will take a good eight games to see any kind of cohesiveness, and by then it may be too late. Philbin is on the “hottest” seat in the division, and a slow start will doom him. Add to that the fact that he has shown “NO ABILITY” to lead the locker room together, and by week 9 the Dolphins fans will be singing “Suck for anything that can play for us.”
What will change my mind in 4 weeks: A very good showing by the OL in all four preseason games, and obvious growth every week, together with an improved Tannehill and running game. In that case, I would say Dolphins 10-6. If the opposite happens, I would be inclined to say 6-10
New York Jets: The Jets had a surprising 8-8 record last season while starting rookie QB Geno Smith. The team revamped their offense by signing Eric Decker, Jacoby Ford, Chris Johnson and drafting Jace Amaro. Geno was awful a year ago, but did show signs of progress in the last quarter of the season. That strong finish has the Jets coaching staff excited about his potential. The defense was solid and improved in the off-season. Many would argue that CB is weaker, but the only piece gone is Antonio Cromartie, and last season “Cro” was less than pedestrian.
The Jets also signed Michael Vick to help Geno in his growing process. The young QB’s growth is imperative, even to be able to finish at 8-8, especially since this season the schedule is tougher than a year ago. The WRs must take three steps forward in order for the offense to improve. Chris Johnson may be the joker in the equation; he would like nothing more than to make the folks in Nashville regret his departure.
What will change my mind in 4 weeks: Geno MUST cut down on his mistakes and get the ball to the guys wearing green/white. If Geno has made strides, 60% completion rate, more TDs than INTs; and if the new weapons (Amaro, Decker, Johnson) all pan out, I will be inclined to go as high as 9-7, but those are big ifs. If Geno is “last year’s” version and the weapons are not much better, and the defense has not improved, the Jets will finish 6-10.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills are a total enigma. This is a team that has flirted with a good season for many years, only to fall short. Last year they played three QBs at different times because rookie E.J. Manuel was not able to remain on the field. The team has released big mouth locker room cancer Stevie Johnson and drafted the best WR in this class, Sammy Watkins. The OL remains a big question mark, and although it is not as big a mess as the Dolphins line, this is an area that may hold this team down.
Gone is one-year hero DC Mike Pettine, and in comes “Dirty” Schwartz. It remains to be seen if Pettine’s departure will have an effect on this very opportunistic defense. The biggest loss may be in the form of departed safety Jairus Byrd; he had been a very unhappy player for the last few years, and he did finally get his money elsewhere.
The Bills are very talented, but none of it will matter if E.J. doesn’t remain healthy. If he is healthy, there are still questions about his abilities, since we really didn’t see him very much so far. Manuel must grow and be productive for the is team to “finally” make the playoffs.
What will change my mind in 4 weeks: If E.J. Manuel and the OL show signs of improvement, than this team has an opportunity to make some noise. I think the rest of the defense can make up for the loss of Byrd and (injured LB) Kiko Alonso, but the offense MUST be much better than a year ago. If this happens the Bills will win 10 games. However, if E.J. is not as good as expected, or is injured again, and the OL falters, or the defense suffers without Pettine, than this team may go 6-10 at the very best.
New England Patriots: The Patriots, unfortunately for the rest of us AFCE fans, are still the team to beat, unless something happened to Brady (do not think I’m wishing an injury). This team has dominated all century, except for that one year Mr. Brady was hurt. Last year, this team decided to be cheap and part ways with Brady’s favorite target, Wes Welker. In return, for not much less money, they signed Danny “often injured” Amendola, and he didn’t disappoint; he was hurt…again. The receivers were below average, and on another team they would have been awful (thank you, Tom). Gone is their running game from a year ago, but…
For some reason after many years of neglect, Belichick (the once defensive genius) has decided that he must upgrade the unit. It must have been the beating they took at the hands of all-time nemesis Peyton Manning, but regardless, this defense is now legitimate. In comes a familiar face, cornerback Darrelle Revis and very good compadre in cornerback Brandon Browner. With the emergence of second year OLB Jamie Collins, and the hope that Vince Wilfork and Mayo both return to their pre-injury form, the belief is that this unit, and not Tom and his unknowns, can bring this team back to a title game. TE Rob Gronkowski must remain healthy for a change; if he does, the Patriots can be deadly, the same way they were in the early portion of this run (circa 2003).
What will change my mind in 4 weeks: An injury to Tom would drop this team to 7 wins because backup QBs Mallett, Garoppolo and Quinn are just not that good. If the defense is as good as expected, and the OL can remain healthy, together with a healthy Gronk, this team will finish 14-2 and possibly win the SB. However, if injuries accumulate like last season, or Vince and Mayo are not themselves and Collins doesn’t emerge, than this team will finish 10-6.