2012 AFC Preview
The evil genius that is Bill Belichick has a simple message, but how he does it is so ahead of the curve. Score more points than the other team. How he does that is always changing meaning that he can never be completely stopped. Think about their WRs; Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman are all about the same WR. They run good routes, have good hands and are quick. Their big TE are used in the red zone and their running backs are used as an extra blocker. The defense is young and has some talent, but their biggest goal just has to put pressure on the QB to force turnovers. They aren’t going to be shutting out teams but that isn’t necessarily the goal. It’s more bend don’t break. There isn’t that much competition this year in the East so it is theirs to lose as always.
The Bills are decent in about every area. They aren’t really great at any position, they might not even be good at any aspect, but they’ll do enough to win some games. They might have an advantage at RB with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller being a good duo, but Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson are fortunate to have Chan Gailey as their coach who has given this team some direction and promise on offense. Mario Williams obviously the prize of the free agent pool takes care of a huge need which is getting to the quarterback which they ranked near the bottom in sacks last year. The Bills need to stay healthy as they don’t have much depth, but have enough talent and what looks like an easy enough schedule to win a few games this year.
Forget Hard Knocks. The Jets need their own reality show. It has everything you could want. The dreamer in Rex Ryan, the crazy guy in Antonio Cromartie, the fights which is everyday at camp, even sex appeal with Tim Tebow taking off his shirt. Enough about the new reality show coming soon to Fox Timmy and the Jets though. Antonio Cromartie told reporters that he was the 2nd best WR on the team. He might be the second best offensive lineman on this team the way they are blocking. The Jets got their number one running back in Tim Tebow, even drafted a blocking WR in Stephen Hill (didn’t know that was a thing) and forgot that needed guys to block for them. Their defense is still rock solid and they continue to add little pieces here and there, but there might be games that their defense outscores their offense.
Quick quiz. Name the last Dolphins QB to throw for more than 20 TD in one year. Dan Marino would be correct back in 1998. To say the bar at QB is set pretty low for Ryan Tannehill would be like saying Bob Saunders is injury prone. Another quick note on the WRs Tannehill will be throwing to this year. Minus Brandon Marshall who is no longer on the team, Brian Hartline was second on the team in receiving yards. Yikes. Best of luck to you Tannehill. Reggie Bush who was handled with kids gloves last year has some help at RB with Daniel Thomas. The defense is decent for the Dolphins ranking 6th best in points allowed. Don’t get too excited though as they were only 15th best in total yards and the loss of Yeremiah Bell and their DT Kendall Langford, means this team is in full blown rebuilding mode.
It might have finally dawned on someone in Pittsburg that maybe the reason why your 6’5 240 built like a linebacker QB is constantly hurt might be because he is running for his life on every play. Their first two picks were on the offense line and while this will help the injury to David DeCastro was just bad luck. This line is still young and Big Ben will still be watching his throws from his back more often then he likes. If fireworks on the field aren’t enough I’m sure there will be plenty from Todd Haley the new offensive coordinator on the sideline. Haley likes to run the show and the ball but he’s going to need some consistency from a RB while Mendenhall recovers from a torn ACL. Something that will shock everyone I’m sure that this defense is good. They have had a top 5 total defense for 5 years in a row. After awhile it must just get boring being that good.
Really they could be first in their division like last year. Every year you hear that this is the last hurrah for these guys and they better do it this year or it will never happen again. Apparently Ed Reed and Ray Lewis never get this memo. The only reason I don’t have them ahead of Pittsburg is Terrell Suggs got in touch with his inner Bron Bron and might miss the entire season because of hurting himself playing basketball. They lost a little bit in free agency, but they did have a good draft and they continue to just keep turning out good OLB at every turn. Joe Flacco needs to take the next step and become a winning QB and not just a game management QB. While turning around and handing the ball off to Ray Rice will be his main job, he will still need to come up in the clutch to continue deep in the playoffs.
The surprise team of last year is coming back with a lot of young talent. They have their franchise QB, they have their star WR, a good offensive line and a defense that plays more as a unit then individuals. This team could very soon take over as the pride of the AFC North, but I don’t just see it this year. The combo of Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott isn’t particularly frightening and Dalton did falter against good teams last year. There is a lot to like about this team, but one thing that I don’t like is how their schedule shapes up at the end of the year. Last five games are @SD, DAL, @PHI, @PIT and BAL. I don’t know who didn’t slip a $5 bill to the guy making the schedules but this team better win early if it wants a chance at another playoff spot.
Every year I talk about how few WRs there are on this team and every year I point out the same bad numbers. This year’s token WR is Greg Little. He led the team with 61 receptions for 709 yards and 2 TD. I’m pretty sure there was TEs for the Patriots who had better games then Little’s season, but what does management do to fix the issue? Get a 28 year old rookie QB of course! It couldn’t be the fact that the Browns haven’t had a WR with more than 900 yards in a season since 2007. The defense is the only thing holding this team together as they finished in the top 10 last year in total defense. All four wins last year were where the opponent was held under 20 points. If there is any silver lining to this team, it’s the fact that Trent Richardson should give the defense a break and help an offense that only averaged 13 points per game.
I think this is the most complete team in the NFL right now. They have a solid QB, maybe the best RB, a top WR and a defense that surprised everyone. The only thing standing in their way is staying healthy. The biggest problem last year was when they turned to a 3rd string rookie QB and he didn’t pass with flying colors. Who knew? Here’s a little fun fact. Andre Johnson played only 7 games last year and was the leader WR that is still on the team. Owen Daniels led the team last year in receptions and yards which were not that impressive with 54 and 677 respectively. The Texans need to find another option in case Johnson does go down again this year. Their defense ranked second last year in total yards and I don’t know if they are going to put up the same kind of numbers but this is a contender this year if the main pieces stay healthy.
The Titians were a bit of a surprise last year. Finishing 9-7 was a good year for a team that struggled on offense as much as they did. Let’s look at the players. Jake Locker is taking over at QB who he had to battle out in pre-season against a not so impressive Matt Hasselbeck. Kenny Brit is coming off an ACL injury and has had 8 run-ins with police since he was drafted in 2009. Chris Johnson wanted a huge contract last year, got a really good one and then took every game just to get over the 1,000 yard mark. That leaves Kendall Wright who is their first round pick from Baylor at WR who might give them a spark since he has homerun ability. Since the Titans didn’t make many offseason moves they will have to rely heavily again on the defense which was top 10 last year in points allowed. They will be happy with a wildcard spot but their main focus is to develop Jack Locker.
A lot of people thought that Blaine Gabbert played scared last year and there were times that it looked like he was about ready to put in his two weeks’ notice after some of those games. Who wouldn’t be scared though when your leader in reception yards was Marcedes Lewis with 460 yards? No, that wasn’t a misprint. 460 yards led the team last year in receiving yards. To put it in even more perspective Maurice Jones-Drew nearly had as many total yards as everyone combined who caught a ball last year. Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson will at the very least give Gabbert someone competent to throw to. But hey, if Gabbert does decide that football just isn’t his thing they always have nearly acquired Chad Henne to get everyone’s hopes up and then crush them the next drive.
This might sound strange, but I thought that Indianapolis made the wrong decision by letting go of Manning and drafting Andrew Luck. I understand that Luck is once in a decade talent, but you might be able to get first round draft picks for the next decade considering what the Redskins gave for RGIII. There are so many holes on this team it’s hard to know where to start. We don’t know if Donald Brown is worth anything at RB, the WRs could be a bit frustrating for Luck, the offensive line is alright, but that needs some improvement. The defense is always a concern and Mathis and Freeney aren’t getting any younger (31 and 32 respectively), their secondary is a mess. So just to sum it up, they need a lot of help, but Luck distracts from that, he is going to be that good.
No, they haven’t looked very good in the preseason, but their new coach Romeo Crennel doesn’t get out coached on the defensive side very often. If you think there is much game planning going into preseason games, you haven’t watched many preseason games. The team is back and healthy, but they have to stay that way. Their starters though can give both offensive and defensive coordinators migraines. Having to game plan against Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe, even Peyton Hillis looks like he has some legs back. On defense it doesn’t get much easier with Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry and Brandon Flowers all play makers. Matt Cassel can’t win many games himself but shouldn’t be asked to either. The biggest difference for why the Chiefs get the nod here is the ease of schedule compared to the rest of the division. It’s not a cake walk, but some very winnable games.
This team probably has the best team to win the division. What they don’t have is a coach competent enough to get them there. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs in the last two years and they have had the best team in the division both of those years. Phillip Rivers has to be one of the most persuasive speakers to have been able to save Norv Turner’s job. There is no reason to think that a switch went off in his head where he now realizes that he needs to be a better coach. Their biggest problem is turnovers. Phillip Rivers is a great QB, and can make average WRs look like Pro Bowlers, but when the pressure is on, he Romo’s it. Romoing: Definition: Finding new ways to singlehandedly lose a football game. The team as always for what seems like the last decade has had plenty of talent, but they need to put it all together if they want to make a serious run this year.
What? I thought they were just handed a playoff spot when they signed Peyton Manning. People thought this team might be one of the favorites to win a Superbowl. The biggest difference though for Manning might be his environment. He goes from playing in a dome for at least half a year to Denver where the temperatures get around 0 and snow is almost as common a Mark Sanchez interception (he threw at least 1 interception 12 out of 16 games). Also Manning’s stats outdoors aren’t exactly out of this world. Granite, they were road games, but a career 148 TDs to 96 Int. Additionally you have a less than stellar offensive line, little depth at WR and on defense with DJ Williams one of their best playmakers will be suspended for the first 6 games. Their schedule to is brutal were they could actually start 1-5 (Pittsburgh, @Atlanta, Houston, Oakland, @New England and @San Diego). Yikes.
The streak is alive! If you read last year’s AFC preview I made the point that Oakland has not had a QB throw for more than 15 TD’s in one year since 2005 with Kerry Collins. I think with Palmer that streak might finally be broken….maybe. Palmer is going to throw a lot but to his own WRs is another question. Maybe I don’t have enough confidence in Palmer but it has been several years since we’ve seen a good Carson Palmer. The biggest wild card is Darren McFadden. This guy is probably the most talented RB in football; we just haven’t seen him long enough to give him that title. He is entering his 5th year in the NFL (doesn’t seem that long) but he’s only had 553 total rushing attempts. He is really their only chance of this team being relevant this year in order to have a balanced offense otherwise expect Palmer running after the other team a lot.