Tag: afc east

NFL 2015 preview: Are there two playoff teams in the AFC East?

Predicted Finish

New England Patriots (10-6) (4th seed; Wildcard Round)

Buffalo Bills (10-6) (6th seed; Wildcard Round)

Miami Dolphins (9-7)

New York Jets (5-11)

For the first time in a long time, the AFC East is going to be a very competitive division. I see three of these teams finishing with winning records, with a wild, down-to-the-wire finish likely to occur.

Let’s face it, until the Patriots get “overthrown” in the AFC East, you’d be crazy to pick against them. And deflated balls or not, Brady suspension or not, New England will once again be the favorites in the division. Not so with the AFC East overall, however, as the departure of Darrelle Revis will have a major impact on New England’s defense and the ridiculous DeflateGate scandal has rather clearly been a distraction to Patriots.

I have the Buffalo Bills making a significant jump up this season, but consider this: They have a great attacking defense, one of the best running backs in the NFL, an above-average receiving corps, and a group of total question marks at quarterback. Rex Ryan has gone to the AFC Championship game with less.

This will likely be a make-or-break year for the Dolphins and (sorry Miami!) I have them falling short. Their defense will be ferocious, and they don’t have a big question mark at quarterback. But the problem is Ryan Tannehill — he isn’t a question mark, but he’s not an exclamation point either. He’s just there, and I don’t think he’s enough to elevate the Dolphins quite high enough.

Bringing up the rear are the hapless Jets, who wanted to at least answer the remaining questions about Geno Smith. Consider Smith’s getting himself punched in the face for being an asshat all the answer you need. This guy is a marginal talent at best. Having a head full of manure does not drive up his stock price.

In the postseason, I have New England falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Bills losing to the Denver Broncos in the first round of the playoffs, but the show in the regular season should more than make up for a lack of postseason heroics.

Games to Watch:

Week 1 – Pittsburgh @ New England:  Brady’s suspension is lifted! He’s going to come out angry, and this will be a fun one to watch. Plus, it’s the first game of the season. Watch it.

Week 3 – Buffalo @ Miami: The Dolphins’ first six weeks are games against the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, and a bye week. Week 3 they host the Bills. If they win it, they could start the season 5-0.

Week 7 – Buffalo @ NY Jets: Rex Ryan’s return to New York. All you need to know.

Week 12 – New England @ Denver: It seems like I say this every year, but you’re only going to get so many more chances to see Brady vs. Manning. Don’t miss even one of them.

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Is Rex Ryan going to put the Buffalo Bills over the top?

It didn’t take Rex Ryan long to earn a second shot at a head coaching job. He didn’t even have to leave his division. Some of the first words as Buffalo Bills coach were that his team was going to be a “bully”.

It’s pretty clear at this point that he is trying to replicate the success he had early in New York, with an all-world defense and a giant running game. It’s also becoming more clear that Rex is set on taking chances on guys that don’t have the best past. He gave a second, or even third chance to multiple players. He understands that it’s not often that a coach gets scooped up by a division rival as fast as he was.

Moves like the ones he’s making does raise question marks. Just check out this Buffalo cartoonist’s rendering of the Bills offseason.

 

While that drawing is a little over the top, the moves the Bills made could pan out for them in very big ways. Enter possibly the most controversial player they brought in, Richie Incognito. The troubled guard is filling a giant hole for them on the offensive line and Ryan already praised him multiple times throughout camp, saying he may be their toughest lineman.

via rantsports.com

via rantsports.com

Incognito’s been out of the league since 2013 because of the Miami Dolphin bullying scandal. Now he’s been picked up by a division rival and if any coach can create an environment for him to excel in, it might be Rex Ryan. Incognito will be a vital part of an offensive line thats going to need to make some space for LeSean McCoy and Fred Jackson.

Percy Harvin was traded from Seattle after allegedly being a locker room problem and fighting with a few of his teammates. He’s not in line to be a starter and will take up his usual gadget role in the offense. Ryan obviously didn’t have any problems with him in New York last season, and his signing should open up a crowded ground and pound offense. For a team with a viable threat at quarterback, Harvin can create in a variety of different ways. Still, we’ll see what happens off the field with him.

The entire team is filled with players on second chances. Even second-round draft pick Ron Darby and fifth-round pick Karlos Williams had major red flags coming out of college. Still, Ryan and the Bills took a chance on him, figuring the risk was worth the reward. Their most recent acquisition may have been the one that turned the most heads.

nfl_g_enemkpali01jr_C_600x400

(via ESPN.com)

They signed the now-famous IK Enemkpali, just a couple of days after breaking Geno Smith’s jaw. Like Harvin, Ryan must of liked him enough in New York to sign him after an incident like that. Rex even joked about it during a speech before a joint practice with the Browns.

“We claimed IK Enemkpali,” Ryan said to the Bills in a statement, ” I wouldn’t bring him here if I didn’t think he could really come in and fit in with us. I need your help to welcome him to the team like he’s any other player.”

The linebacker is the type of player to fit in with the team they have been building. Talented and ready for a second chance. He may not factor in a whole lot on an already stacked defense, but the singing epitomizes what Ryan is trying to do.

Maybe the cartoon rendering is so far off after all. Their offensive line coach, Aaron Kromer is suspended for the first six games of the season, for allegedly punching a teenager in the face over a beach chair.

via bleacherrepport.com

via bleacherrepport.com

If all these moves work out, Ryan may have his most talented team yet. The defensive line is better on paper than any of the years with the Jets and with McCoy and Watkins the offense has two of the leagues premiere players at their positions.

If Ryan got Mark Sanchez to the AFC title game, it will be as big as a test getting either Tyrod Taylor or Matt Cassel into the playoffs. E.J. Manuel is the only quarterback that Rex didn’t bring in himself and his currently third on the depth chart. It’s going to come down to Cassel or Taylor. They do have the pieces around them, and if Rex stays true to what he said earlier, they could run the ball around 40 to 45 times per game.

And that may be enough to be a better version of his early Jets and contending with New England for the division is very possible.

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Patriots Are Still Kings: AFC East Preview

One of these days, the Patriots AREN’T going to play in the AFC Championship game.  Hell, one of these days they aren’t going to win this division or even make the playoffs, but that’s not likely to be any of the days that comprise the 2014 season or postseason.

The Pats will still be kings of the East, but they probably don’t have the juice to get back to the Super Bowl.  On offense, the loss of LeGarrette Blount will pose a challenge to the running game to maintain its solid performance in 2013.  Rob Gronkowski’s health issues (not to mention the long-since-gone Aaron Hernandez’ absence) will be mitigated by the presence of Tim Wright, who caught 54 balls for Tampa Bay last season, but overall the receiving corps still lacks punch.

The defense will be better with the acquisition of Darrelle Revis and several other key upgrades, but enough to overtake Denver?  Probably not.

Instead, I look for New England to remain the second-best team in the AFC, but no more than that.

As expected, the Miami Dolphins focused on improving their offensive line, which was both awful and got decimated last season.  It figures to be better this season, although the first year together for a revamped offensive line is rarely perfect as it takes time for players to gel.  I’m unimpressed with the addition of Knowshon Moreno too.

Moreover, the Dolphins got worse on defense, especially in the secondary, and my prediction of 8-8 for them is less a function of my belief in Miami’s ability than it is a comment on how pedestrian the rest of this division is.

I may not be predicting a leaps and bounds type improvement for the Buffalo Bills this season, but I do like the direction this team is headed in.  They gave up too much to get Sammy Watkins, but that doesn’t mean Watkins won’t turn out to be a great addition to the offense.  His presence, coupled with a needed upgrade to the offensive line, should help EJ Manuel continue to develop at the QB position.  Look for good things from this unit.

On defense the Bills have probably taken a step back, but not a giant one.  Moreover, they were probably smart not to spend huge bucks to keep Jairus Byrd when they weren’t going to contend with or without him.  If I had to pick one team I’d like to be BESIDES New England in this division, it would be the Bills.

The New York Jets are a team that is likely headed for a complete rebuild.  Michael Vick will either make Geno Smith or he won’t, but either way the Jets lack weapons on offense, and the big money they spent for an aging Chris Johnson is a head scratcher.

On defense, the team continues to sink talent-wise and it is a tribute to coach Rex Ryan’s scheme that the unit continues to outperform expectations.  That can only get you so far.  The Jets take a couple more steps back this year.  Bank it.

Predicted Finish:

New England Patriots (11-5) (3rd seed; AFC Championship game)

Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Buffalo Bills (7-9)

NY Jets (6-10)

Games to Watch:

Week 3 – Kansas City @Miami:  You will learn a lot about the Dolphins from a game like this one, taking on a good-but-not-great Chiefs team at home, early in the season.

Week 7 – NY Jets @New England:  The first Jets/Patriots game of the year is almost always a barn burner, no matter where it’s played.

Week 9  – Denver @New England:  I don’t know how many more times you will get to see Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, but you’re crazy if you miss any of them at this point.

Week 13 – Cleveland @Buffalo:  The Bills got spanked at Cleveland last season.  The Browns will be a tough out again this year, and by week 13 you may well see Johnny Football under center.

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The AFC East is the Patriots to lose. Again.

afc-east-preview-new-england-patriots-miami-dolphins

The once mighty AFC East has really fallen off.  Even the perennial Patriots aren’t quite the team they used to be, and I’m guessing only the division winner gets to the postseason this year.

Predicted Finish:

New England Patriots (11-5) (2nd seed; AFC Championship game)

Miami Dolphins (7-9)

Buffalo Bills (6-10)

NY Jets (5-11)

(more…)

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