Monday, August 31, 2009

NFL 2009 Preview - AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Last Year: 7-9

The Bills left side of their O-line seems very up in the air at first glance, and is the reason no one expects anything from the Bills. Elite pass protecting LT Jason Peters is gone. But when the dust settles, the O-line looks mediocre, not terrible. Langston Walker is no Peters, but he'll take over at LT and be mediocre. Rookie guards Wood and Levitre are very promising but will probably be mediocre as rookies. Hangartner can be a decent center, and Brad Butler is back at RT. This is nothing worth panicking over. Terrell Owens is a shell of his former self, but a change of scenery should help him, and he's still an improvement at WR for Trent Edwards. I'm not the biggest fan of Trent, but he surprised me last year, and could take another step forward this year. Lee Evans will benefit from TO's presence as well.

Marshawn Lynch is a beast of an RB who has yet to live up to his potential. He'll have to wait until Buffalo's 4th game to try to do that this year, thanks to his 3-game suspension. He improved in the passing game last year and should continue to grow into a star. His backup, Fred Jackson, has actually posted a higher ypa than Lynch the past two years, and is equally helpful in the passing game.

The main change on defense was replacing Jabari Greer with Drayton Florence. Bills defense should be mediocre once again.

Overall, Edwards may take another step forward, but that should be cancelled out by the loss of Jason Peters. This team played at a .500 level last year and will again this year.

2009 Projected Record: 8-8

Miami Dolphins

Last Year: 11-5, AFC East Champs

Wildcat was the big story for Miami last year, but give a lot of credit first to the O-line, and second to Chad Pennington. He was very efficient last year, and seems really comfortable in this offense. Ronnie Brown was in amazing form before he tore his ACL in 2007, and I think he'll recover more of that form this year. The Dolphins have a mess at WR. Ted Ginn will start, but I think he's a year away from becoming a good starting WR. Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and Greg Camarillo are also in the mix. Anthon Fasano has established himself as a solid, balanced tight end.

Defensively, the Dolphins lost Vonnie Holliday, but have had Philip Merling waiting in the wings. They also lost starting corner Andre' Goodman, but spent their first two draft picks on corners. Gibril Wilson will be an improvement at safety over the departed Renaldo Hill. The defense was average last year and the goal is to be average again this year.

The wildcat won't be as surprising this year, and usually when teams breakout like this from a disaster season, they regress the next year. .500 seems likely.

2009 Projected Record: 8-8

New England Patriots

Last Year:11-5

This team won 11 games without one of the most important players in the game, Tom Brady. That alone makes them the super bowl favorites since Brady has recovered from knee surgery. The Brady to Randy Moss connection was unstoppable 2 years ago, and will still be a threat on every play. He'll still have Wes Welker underneath, and now veteran speedster Joey Galloway is in the mix.

There's a lot of people in the mix to get carries for the Patriots, but they'll all have a great O-line to run behind. Sammy Morris was the best of the bunch last year, Laurence Maroney only made it 3 games last year, and Fred Taylor has been added, although his best days are behind him.

The defense is massively in flux, and the end result looks very average. For the record:

IN: Leigh Bodden, Shawn Springs, rookie DB's Patrick Chung and Darius Butler
OUT: Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Ellis Hobbs, Deltha O'Neal

With just an average defense, adding Tom Brady to complete a terrific offense won't get the Patriots back to 16-0, but it will get them comfortably into the playoffs.

2009 Projected Record: 13-3

New York Jets

Last Year: 9-7

Brett Favre didn't have much success here last year, so it's hard to expect any rookie to step in and have success. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were a pair of rarities last year - successful rookie QB's - but you can't expect that out of Mark Sanchez. Jerricho Cotchery will be his #1 WR. He struggled last year with Favre at QB, but is a solid starting WR. Gone is receiver Laveranues Coles. The jets other receiving options are young deep threat David Clowney, young possession receiver Chansi Stuckey, converted QB Brad Smith, and 2nd-year pass-catching TE Dustin Keller. Not the most impressive group in the world, but there's some potential.

Thomas Jones made his first pro bowl last year at age 30, and seemed to be the main beneficiary of Favre's presence. He may face more stacked boxes this year, but he'll have to keep being the hammer. Leon Washington is an excellent return specialist, 3rd down specialist, and weapon in the passing game, but the Jets would be wise to keep him concentrated on these roles. The Jets drafted unimpressive looking rookie Shonn Greene, who I don't expect to be much of a factor.

Rex Ryan is the new head coach, so naturally, the Jets have changed schemes to a "Rex Ryan" style defense. The problem is, he doesn't have the weapons in New York that he enjoyed in Baltimore. He did bring in a few though. Bart Scott will boost the front 7, while Lito Sheppard and Brian Leohnard have been added to shore up the secondary. The defense will still be good, but in this transition year, there will be more big plays - the good kind and the bad kind.

Sanchez and Ryan might be expected to be this year's "Flacco and Harbaugh" or "Ryan and Smith," but they should be given a year to settle in.

2009 Projected Record: 7-9

Current Division Future Odds:

(Disclaimer: I don't bet futures or suggest you tie up money for that long)

9/10/2009 7:30 PM Odds to win the 2009 AFC East Division
901 New England Patriots -400
902 Any Other +300
9/10/2009 7:30 PM Odds to win the 2009 AFC East without NE Patriots
903 Miami Dolphins +205
904 New York Jets +205
905 Buffalo Bills +125

Just risk 100 turnips on the patriots, and hope Brady stays healthy.

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