NFL Preview: AFC

Steve O Speak

AFC East:

1. New England Patriots

2. Miami Dolphins*

3. Buffalo Bills

4. New York Jets

The Patriots right now are in control of this division with Brady back and some key additions to the secondary and running back positions. I don’t think New England will run away with this division though. I think both the Dolphins and Bills will contend for the first half of the season. I’m not to worried about Miami facing a tougher schedule this season, I still think 10 wins is something they are capable of attaining. As for the Bills, the addition of T.O. should help them, but probably won’t get them over the hump this season. Even though I love the Jets defense, its hard to imagine that they can win more than 6-7 games with a rookie quarterback and no real top wide receivers.

AFC North:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Baltimore Ravens*

3. Cleveland Browns

4. Cincinnati Bengals

In some ways the Steelers might be better this season then they were last year during their Super Bowl run. They are healthier and more balanced at running back, and should have an improved offensive line. They also put an emphasis on special teams this off season, and with the return of punter Daniel Sepulveda, their biggest weakness last season should be a strength this year. The Ravens are a good team that should only be getting better as Flacco matures. Their defense is still top notch and this could be the year their offense matches their production. It should be a neck and neck race to the finish again to see who wins the North. The Browns need to decide on a quarterback (it should be Brady Quinn), and start developing for the future. Right now they are a team that lacks direction and any chance of contending for the North. The Bengals are very similar to the Browns in their ineptness. Palmer is back, but this isn’t the same team he led to the playoffs a few years ago. There is some reason to hope for a better future, but not much hope for this season.

AFC South:

1. Indianapolis Colts

2. Tennessee Titans

3. Houston Texans

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Colts may have lost their all-time leading receiver, but Manning shouldn’t have any problems finding someone to throw to with Wayne, Clark and Gonzalez all still there. Adding Donald Brown at running back to go along with Addai, should give the Colts a more balanced offense. I think that while the Titans will compete for a wild card spot, they are going to come up just short this season. They have one of the best running games in the league, but I can’t see Kerry Collins putting up another year like the one he had last season. The Titans needed to add more play makers at wideout and I don’t think Nate Washington will be enough of an addition (I’m not a Kenny Britt fan and I think he could end up being a bust). On defense Haynesworth left some big shoes that so far remain unfilled. While they will still be a good defense, I doubt they will be as dominate. The Titans defensive backfield also remains an area of concern, without any true bona fide star. The Texans are a team on the rise, and could surpass Tennesse this year. If Schaub can stay healthy and Slaton and Andre Johnson play like they can, Houston will be tough to beat and will surprise some teams this year. Their defense gets better every year, and could end up being the best in this division. I think it will be a rough year in Jacksonville, they have some offensive talent in Jones-Drew and Holt, but until Garrard shows consistency this team will be in trouble. Their offensive line should be much improved, but their is still some concern at guard. On defense the Jags have so much talent, but haven’t lived up to their high expectations. I don’t see them finishing better than 7-9 unless Garrard proves he’s an NFL starting quarterback.

AFC West:

1. San Diego Chargers

2. Denver Broncos

3. Kansas City Chiefs

4. Oakland Raiders

This is by far the worst division in the NFL. The Raiders, Chiefs, and Broncos could all end up drafting in the top 5 next April (which is pretty bad for Denver since they traded that pick to the Seahawks). The Raiders have major questions at just about every position except running back and corner back. This team lacks all direction and I think it will be tough for them to win more than 3-4 games (and don’t be shocked if those are against other division opponents). The Chiefs have a lot of work to do, their ‘Fanchise’ QB is injured (and ineffective when he was playing), their offensive line is pretty awful, and their running back situation is murky at best. They do have some talent at running back in Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles, but they were horribly inconsistent last season and will need to improve this year. They do have one star in WR Dewayne Bowe, but without a second receiving option his numbers will likely decline. Kansas City’s defense isn’t in much better shape than their offense. They have a few guys with potential, but the reality is they are going to be running a 3-4 defense with 4-3 personell. Denver is another team with their own host of issues. Their best player (Brandon Marshall) is suspended and doesn’t want to play for them.  They took a page out of the Chiefs playbook and changed their defense to a 3-4 without the players to do so.  And they have a rookie coach who is in way over his head. The Broncos offense this year could be anemic. Without Marshall and Cutler, Denver’s big play ability has taken a hit. While I like Orton and think he can lead the troops, right now the Broncos resemble F Troop more than an actual military machine. Their offensive line is weak in the interior and outside of Eddie Royal there isn’t a good play maker on offense. Knowshon Moreno has some talent, but I don’t know if he’s the answer for Denver. On defense the Broncos do have some hope, especially with Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins in the secondary. Their front seven is weak outside of Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams. The Chargers should run away with this division, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they are 6-0 against the rest of the West. The Chargers have a ton of talent on offense, and will have no trouble scoring points all season. Their defense still has a few question marks, but on paper they are a team capable of challenging for a Super Bowl berth.

Offensive Player of the year: QB Peyton Manning. Even without Harrison its hard to bet against Manning. He is poised to shatter just about every passing record in the books. He should have a big year this season, now with the added depth at running back. Runners up: Tom Brady, Andre Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew

Defensive Player of the year: DE Mario Williams. There are a number of obvious candidates, but Williams has gotten better every year and I think this year he proves once and for all that he was the best player in the 2006 draft. Runners up: Ed Reed, LaMarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu

Offensive Rookie of the year: OT Michael Oher. Its not a sexy pick, but I don’t think another offensive player will have the impact that Oher will have for the Ravens. He should shore up their line and will likely be a part of every play during their Super Bowl push, how many other rookies can say that. Runners up: Donald Brown, Mark Sanchez

Defensive Rookie of the year: DT Fili Moala. The Colts last year had talent at defensive end, linebacker, corner back and safety, the one thing they lacked was a run-stopping, offensive lineman occupying defensive tackle. They might have found exactly that in 2nd round pick Moala. He’s not going to get double digit sacks or be voted to the Pro Bowl, but he fills the Colts biggest need. Runners up: Larry English, Brian Cushing, Conner Barwin

Related Articles

Chicago Bears News: Six Undrafted Rookies Signed, Getsy On Team’s Receiver Room, Early 2022 Predictions

Bears Bring In Six Undrafted Rookies For Tryouts, Waive Six Six Players   The Chicago Bears are bringing…

Read More about Chicago Bears News: Six Undrafted Rookies Signed, Getsy On Team’s Receiver Room, Early 2022 Predictions

How NIL Rights Impact Canadian Players

It wasn’t all that long ago the NCAA announced that there would be changes coming to the NIL…

Read More about How NIL Rights Impact Canadian Players