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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

AFC Preseason Power Rankings - AFC East

We wrap up the AFC power rankings with a look at the AFC East. It looks like there will be two playoff teams coming out of the East again, so let's break down the numbers and see where everyone stacks up.

4. Miami Dolphins - There is a reason that Bill Parcells decided to retire officially when he did. This team is in a rebuilding stage, even though they don't want to admit it. Unless a miracle happens, this will be Tony Sporano's last season with the Dolphins. Offensively, they made a stir in training camp with talks of Kyle Orton joining the team, but when that fell through, fans turned on Chad Henne, which we will see through out the season. Every time he overthrows a receiver or throws a pick, expect the boo-birds to come out in Miami. The team decided to part ways with long time backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, so say goodbye to the Wildcat in Miami. Newly acquired Reggie Bush will be the focal point in the backfield this season, splitting carries with rookie Daniel Thomas. I like Davone Bess at receiver, and you never know what you're going to get with Brandon Marshall. They have a solid offensive line, but that's about it offensively. On the other side of the ball, Cameron Wake is a force off the edge, but beyond that, they have very little to get excited about. Jason Taylor is back for his 72nd season with the Dolphins. Ok, maybe that's exaggerating a little, but doesn't it feel that way? They have a decent secondary, but going against Brady twice a year and the Jets receivers twice a year, it's going to be tough to keep up. If the Dolphins were in the NFC West, they might win the division. But sitting in the competitive AFC East, I have them finishing 5-11 at best.

3. Buffalo Bills - The cardiac kids. The Bills lost 6 games last season by a touchdown or less. This means they could have easily won 10 or 11 games right? Looking at the other 6 games they lost, they were blown out pretty badly. Chan Gailey decided to pass on all of the quarterbacks in the draft and stick with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. They did add Brad Smith to the roster, so he should add a dimension of excitement that the Bills have been lacking. He can line up under center or at wide receiver, not to mention return kicks for them. Beyond Stevie Johnson, the Bills really have no depth at the receiver position, after trading Lee Evans away before the start of preseason. So far, their first round pick from a year ago C.J. Spiller has been a bust, and comes into the season behind Fred Jackson on the depth chart. On paper, there doesn't seem to be too much to get excited about. On defense, they are stout up front, led by Marcel Dareus. They are a little long in the tooth at LB, but Shawn Merriman has looked good in the preseason, so there is some hope there. The secondary is solid, so it will be interesting to see how the Bills fare this year. The division is strong, so that goes against them. Playing the schedule that they have this year, I have them winning 6 games. I like a solid backup. Next year, I suggest getting a franchise quarterback. Maybe Andrew Luck will be under center in Buffalo next year.

2. New York Jets - To no surprise, Rex Ryan has already guaranteed a Super Bowl victory...again. One of these years, Rex is going to be right. He has a lot to be optimistic about this season. Mark Sanchez finally looks like he's making strides to be the franchise quarterback for the Jets. They made sure to bring back Santonio Holmes with a huge contract, and added 6'5" Plaxico Burress. After 3 catches for 66 yards and a TD this week, he looks like he'll fit in quickly. The Jets are very deep at RB, so concerns of a drop off for Tomlinson aren't very high.
Defensively, they have the two of the best corners in the league in Revis and Cromartie. They will lock down most receivers every week. Passing on Nnamdi and keeping Cromartie was the better move for the Jets, because it gave them money to sign some key players that they needed to keep. Bart Scott and David Harris are great linebackers, and will anchor that defense this year with Calvin Pace in the middle at nose tackle. The Jets have some difficult games on the schedule, but I still see them winning 12 games this year and going deep into the playoffs again.

1. New England Patriots - As long as Bill Belichick is running this team, they are going to be at the top of this division. It doesn't matter if Brady goes down. They still won 11 games when Brady got hurt. Look how good Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet look. It's not coincidence that all of these quarterbacks are playing well. Belichick is a genius and can win with any player under center. Not to take anything away from Tom Brady, because he's done great things there. But if he were playing for another team, there's a good chance we would have never heard of him.
Offensively, this team is stacked with weapons. Looking at the depth chart, Ocho Cinco is listed as the third receiver, so that tells you the talent that's on this team. They have two young tight ends that could both be pro bowlers. They have a strong offensive line so it doesn't matter who is in the backfield, they can get 5 or 6 yards a clip. Defensively, Haynesworth and Wilfork are going to clog the middle, so don't expect too many teams to run on the Patriots. Jared Mayo is one of the better linebackers in the NFL, and they have a solid group of young players in the secondary. Believe that Belichick WILL get the most out of Haynesworth, Ocho Cinco, and anyone else he brings in to revive their career. They have only gotten better from their 14-2 record a year ago, so expect them to do much of the same this season. They will win 14 games again this year and have a first round bye in the playoffs with home field advantage throughout. Circle October 9th on your calendar. The Jets and Patriots match up and should both be 4-0 coming into the game. This rivalry will determine the winner of this division.

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