Here are my predictions for the AFCE this year:
Patriots: 11-5. Many are counting them as a team on the decline, mostly because of question marks surrounding a ton of rookie additions (specifically at WR). Historically, there is more proof that Brady and his WRs will be just fine. In fact, the majority of the seasons Brady has started, 1 or more of the his top targets did not play an NFL snap with him during the previous season. Even more, not one of Brady’s top 3 targets in 2007 were on the team the previous season. (Granted, 2 of the 3 were elite NFL talent, but they did make history without any time together before then). On defense, not much is changed. Tommy Kelly has shown some flashes and SHOULD help with a little bit of interior rush. A healthy Jones is a huge bonus, and Rob Nink proved last year he’s a legit starter. Having a full offseason with Talib will do them wonders as well, as they should spend less time in the sub this year and more time sending in the blitz. The LB corps is (in my opinion) on of the best overall corps in the NFL.
Miami: 9-7. Lots and lots going on here. Tons of talent everywhere. A few holes. Some question marks. Tannehill seems like a good QB with lots of promise. His passing numbers last season when under pressure were shockingly impressive for a rookie. However, his consistency with time to pass is questionable, despite improvement as the season progressed. My biggest issue for Tanny is that he’s going to be under a ton of pressure this year. I’m not convinced Miami is settled at LT (and now there are pretty big concerns about G), and the departure of Bush leaves Tanny without a reliable set of hands to ditch the ball to. Speaking of Reggie, he did manage right around 1000 yards last year. Can Miller and Co. pick up the slack and provide a spark there? We’ll see. On defense, the secondary seems like it could be their biggest improvement. They’re fast. Same for the LBs/DE. Fast. Pass coverage should be improved overall. Up front, a lot seems to depend on Jordan. Wake will make his noise, but what about Jordan? He hasn’t had a ton of time with the team and many are saying he was drafted on potential and is somewhat of a project. I think they’ll need something out of him this year. As for the defense overall, another question is whether they’ll maintain the stout run D they fielded last year. A big portion of Miami’s offseason seems to have been predicated on the pass D, but how will that balance out overall? In the end, Miami has the potential to be very, very good, but I wonder if there are just too many moving pieces? Lots and lots of talent, but can they put it all together in time for a pretty rough first half schedule.
Bills: 7-9. Talent-wise, I think this team is better than this prediction. However, they’re starting the season after sustaining a few hefty blows at the last second. Byrd is hurt. Kolb is out. Manuel will likely start, but missed valuable reps. We’ll see how that goes. If he can put it together, Buffalo will field an offense with the potential to be lethal. They are simply fast. One largely overlooked piece they have is Fred Jackson, who is flying under the radar because Spiller is finally getting the much deserved attention he’s earned. That’s a very solid one-two punch, provided Freddy Jax comes out relatively healthy. The defense is actually what could kill my prediction. They underachieved so bad last year, that it makes Byrd’s injury seem like they won’t even field a defense this year. Not true. There’s a lot of talent there, but what about LB? Huge question mark for sure, but I just don’t see how this defense won’t improve. Overall for the Bills, I suppose my biggest questions are at the most important places: QB and coaching. I know several people here in Florida who have watched Manuel play since he was in HS. They say he runs very hot and cold. A few weeks he looks like a sure-fire talent, then follows up with the dud. Then we have the coaching staff, which had a ton of turnover. The best part for the Bills is that these coaches simply CAN’T BE WORSE than their predecessors.
Jets: 6-10. QB, QB, QB…..aka Sanchez, Geno, and Brady freaking Quinn. I just don’t understand. Why Quinn? Why now? The ONLY thing Simms didn’t do this preseason was turn the ball over like it’s going out of style. So, Sanchez gets hurt right after Geno, and the answer ONE WEEK before the season starts is to ditch the only decent looking QB on the team and opts instead for Brady freaking Quinn? Okay, enough on that…..for now. So at RB the Jets have a pretty solid corps. I like the addition of Chris Ivory. He’s a pounder, but can he stay healthy? Goodson was also another very solid addition, but how much will be able to contribute this year? Balil Powell is the wildcard. I think he’s going to be a gem. Time will tell. On another note, how effective can the running game really be? Unless Geno completely figures it out in the next few days, why would any DC in the NFL allow them to run when you can dare them to pass instead? Again….Sanchez, Geno…..Brady freaking Quinn. Oh, and who do they pass to? I’m convinced Holmes is going to bail once they begin to struggle. Hill has talent, he just needs to put it together. Winslow is a very talented TE, but the knees are done. They’ll spend more time resting him than playing him. On defense, I have to say I’m at a total loss. They didn’t have Revis last year and still managed a very respectable defense, so counting him as a loss isn’t statistically advantageous at this point. The real question is whether or not Cromartie can pull off another great year and if Milliner can emerge across from him. At LB, I’m just not sure. Those with experience are slow. They’ll need someone to emerge. The pass rush should be interesting this year as well. Per the norm, Ryan will get to the QB. But, without Coples….who can do it consistently? Overall, the Jets are a team in transition. Rex Ryan’s mouth says “I’m the HC”, but his actions and his body language says he’s already quit on the team. I don’t see many W’s for the Jets this year.