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Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 AFC TEAM PREDICTIONS & PREVIEWS.

AFC EAST


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

The Good: Added a pair of physical press corners in the elite Revis & huge Browner, Now Bill can be blitz happy again. Tom Brady is a legend and he can still lead them to another ring.
The Bad: Belichick's ginormous ego has jettisoned another Patriot team leader for nor kowtowing to his slightest whims, Logan Mankins joins, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, and Richard Seymour in a long line of Patriot greats cast aside for even daring to question Emperor Bill. At least with Seymour he got a kings ransom ,He got bery little for Moss. basically a lesser Welker in Amendola . Tim Wright and a mid-round draft pick maybe nothing or a lot depending on what Wright and the player they take with that pick do, but jettisoning a still good player, and well liked leader right before the season probably won't help the locker room. It would probably take the loyal Brady to do it. ,so its very unlikely , but I pray a locker room revolt finally comes and deposes Bill the dictator. A brilliant coach? Yes, but also a man who has forgotten loyalty has to go both ways. Belichick still hasn't tried to get Brady the big #1 receiver he has lacked since Moss left and this interior O-line could get Tom killed. 
Prediction: 12-4 Division Title
Barring a Brady injury this team should roll to another division title and playoff run. Since every team in the division is in a rebuilding mode they could probably still win 8 or 9 games even if he got hurt, but any Superbowl hopes would be dashed ... unless Garropolo is thew Brady. Billy would love that. He could dump Tom for some draft picks and play a cheap QB. .


NEW YORK JETS

The Good: Rex Ryan is probably the best defensive coach in the game and his players have his back. A really strong front seven on defense, Geno Smith's growth is likely & Vick is a good backup, and they gave home some good weapons in Eric Decker, Jace Amaro, and others.
The Bad: Free agent losses & misses , cap casualties injuries, and underdeveloped draft picks at corner have made this position a major weakness. Add an O-line who's best players( Mangold and Ferguson) had down years in 2013 and who are now in their thirties needs to be rebuilt. I don't like paying Chris Johnson a lot of money when he didn't run well behind a better line in a better offense last year.
Prediction 8-8: I believe in Rex , that front seven, and Jace Amaro cab play 500 ball in a week division..


MIAMI DOLPHINS

The Good: Richie Incognito and Johnathan Martin are both gone. Shelly Smith is an upgrade at one guard spot , if Mike Pouncey can heal quickly , added to Pro-Bowler Branden Albert & 1rst rounder Ja'wuau James could turn a weak O-line into a strength. Between the draft and free agency this whole roster has been upgraded.
The Bad: Coach Joe Philbin is on the hot-seat, their main owner seems to be half Jerry Jones - half Daniel Snyder. Poncey is already hurt.  Mike Wallace still hasn't shown a #1 wide receivers hands or route running, despite the paycheck of one. Ryan Tannehill still hasn't developed enough to lay claim to the title franchise QB. This is probably the last chance for Philbin & Tannehill in Miami, At the very least at least I think at least one of them is gone unless they make the playoffs.
Prediction:7-9.  I just don't have faith in Tannehill , Philbin, or Samson Satelle.


BUFFALO BILLS

The Good: A good front seven, A big physical O-line and a stable of running backs to control the clock. A weak enough division that If EJ Manuel takes a step forward they could actually make a playoff run. A stable of talented receivers led by the explosive Sammy Watson that can turn short passes in:to big gains.They stoped giving away home games to Canada.
The Bad: EJ Manuel injury proneness is becoming a problem You can't grow into a franchise QB if you can't stay in the field(Sam Bradford 2?) . They gave up lot for Watkins(next years #1) and if they don'y perform well that could be another top 10, maybe even top 5 pick. That not only puts extra pressure on Watkins, but if a new owner comes in he probably cleans house. A job without a #1 pick in a small market isn't as attractive to top GM and coaching candidates as others. Losing their best secondary defender and ball hawk Jairus Byrd is going to hurt them.
Predction:: 6-10 : It all depends on EJ's growth and health. Right now his inability to stay healthy and throw down field makes me doubt they move forward.


AFC NORTH



CINCINNATI BENGALS

The Good: The Bengals are stil the most talented team in the division , had another great draft, and have been to the playoffs 3 years in a row. AJ Green and Vontaze Burfict are elite talents. The Bengal trait of taking guys who fall for character reasons has paid off, with about 50% becoming the players they could be, Marvin Lewis and his staff should be commended. Geno Atkins returns from ACL surgery. Even at 90% of what he was pre-injury he changes their entire defense.
The Bad: The Bengals lost some very good players to free agency this year. . have lost in the first round all 3 years in the playoffs, and they paid Andy Dalton even though he has been inconsistent and has never played well in the playoffs.  Mike Brown's cheapness is legendary. If he was smart they wouldn't have tried to make it work with the cheaper Andy Dalton.
Prediction:10-6; Division Title: The rest of the division got better but I still think the Bengals squeak by to a division title and the playoffs. Unless Dalton gets better in the clutch, or his arm suddenly gets stronger I see them failing in the postseason again


PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Good: Pittsburgh's defense had gotten really old, but the last couple of years they have had a infusion of youth. The O-line has also improved and this is Big Bens contract year. This blend of youth, young veterans,,  and core leadership old guys has the mix of a playoff team. Adding Ryan Shazier's speed and athleticism, next to Lawrence Timmons on the inside gives them a tandem to rival Willis & Bowman in Frisco and Kuechly & Davis in Carolina. The schemes and  tricks they can pull now are huge and I am sure Dick LeBeau is salivating.   This was also the best draft they have had in a long time. They have big power running backs and explosive receivers to open it up.Troy Polamalu, Mike Tomlin , Dick LeBeau, and Kevin Colbert are all among the best at what they do. 
The Bad: In the past this team has not done well without Big Ben or Polamalu . They are 32 and 34 years old respectively. Despite asking for a big WR for years they only gave Ben 2 big guys with suspect hands(Heyward-Bey & Bryant)and 2013 6th rounder Justin Brown.
Prediction:9-7:wildcard If this team gets into the playoffs healthy they can make a Superbowl run, but they lack depth, so I doubt it.


BALTIMORE RAVENS

The Good: After their second Superbowl victory the 2 best leaders(Ray Lewis & Ed Reed)  in franchise history were gone. They have spent the last 2 off-seasons rebuilding their linebacker and safety cores.  Flacco is a QB who has proven he can win it all in the biggest games and Gark Kubiak's offense should make his life easier.The additions of Steve Smith and the return of Dennis Pitta should make Flacco a much better QB. 
The Bad: This defense is still good and Ozzie Newsome is still the best GM in football so they can never fall far out of contention for long. One more great draft and hopefully their O-line and pass rush will be elite again. Right now despite a slight upgrade this off-season the O-line is a question and I doubt they can run the ball well enough to be a contender.  Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata are still good players, but not the great players their salaries demand. 
Prediction:8-8:  Flacco was great in the playoffs but that 20 million salary is slowing their reloading program. They can still make a run this year but a whole lot would have to right on offense for it to happen.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

The Good: This defense looks to playoff caliber and Johnny Football will energize the fan base and sell tickets. They replaced middling D'qwell Jackson( king of the tackle 8 yards down-field) with the bigger, better, and more athletic Karlos Dansby.
The Bad: The kangaroo court ownership fired the front office for telling him to draft the better QB in Teddy Bridgewater instead of Manziel. . Josh Gordon has shown that smoking weed is more important to him than playing football. Manziel has also not shown the signs of maturity we all hoped for. They replaced a young athletic a big hitting safety in TJ Ward  with an old safety who only provides big hits in Donte Whitner.
Prediction:6-10: Without Gordon and a smarter Manziel I see their playoff hopes being delayed until next season.


AFC SOUTH


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

The Good: Andrew Luck was the kind of QB prospect that comes along every couple of generations and he has lived up to it. He is an elite QB in my mind already and that's with a subpar O-line and average defense. Luck is surrounded with good receives and tight ends.The rest ofthe team is in their second season in Pep Hamiltons offense, and hopefully they can catch u to Luck in understanding its nuances.While every team in their division improved this off-season the Colts are still as  close to a lock to repeat as champs as there is.
The Bad: Their isn't one player on this O-line I would call good. Their tackles are a little above average, but all 3 interior lineman were downright bad last year. Luck carried this team while surviving brutal hits all year. Hopefully 2013 4th rounder Khalled Holmes and this years second rounder college tickle Jack Mewhort can improve the center and left guard. Other than luck the 2 best players on this team are Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne. Mathis is 33 and suspended the first 4 games of the season and may not be the same player drug free & post injury . Wayne is 35 and coming off a rebuilt knee. They need to stop pissing away the years where Luck doesn't cost much in a bunch of an overpriced mid-level vets and get some more elite players in here. They need to especially upgrade their O-line and front seven.
Trent Richardson needs to be the plsayer he was coming out of Alabama. Right now the burst and vision he had are missing.
Predictions: 11-5 Luck in a division without any other established QB;s makes them a huge favorite. They have a chance to make a Superbowl run but both lines need to step up for them to make it. They also have a chance to completely collapse if key players(especially Luck and to a lesser extent Mathis) get hurt.


TENNESSEE TITANS

The Good: The Offensive and defensive lines and receiving core look pretty good, with a nice mixture of youth and veterans in all 3 areas. The O-line might be to full with # 1 pick Taylor Lewan not having a place to play just yet. Maybe they didn't think he would be their when they signed Michael Oher, or maybe they just expect him to be the swing tackle until he can step in for Mitigate Roos next season, but using your #1 pick on a guy who might nit play this year tells you Ken Whisenhunt is thinking long term. Jurrell Casey is flat out stud, and even in 3-4 guys who can penetrate and hold the pint of attack will still be studs. This team is solid in all areas except one, and decent QB play will probably get them in the playoffs.
The Bad: I have never been a big fan of Jake Lockers. He lacks accuracy and poise as a passer. He also has trouble staying healthy ,staying in the pocket , and going through his progressions. Part of the reason he gets hurt so often is he makes most of his better plays with his feet. Whisenhunt has a good touch with QB's. It's telling that they didn't pick up Lockers option before this season, but if Jake can't get it together this year they likely move on to a new QB. whether that means they give Zach Mettenburger a shot or draft a new guy is what this season will tell us.
Prediction: 7-9 : I just don't trust Locker to improve enough ,or stay healthy enough even if he does , to get them into the post season.


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

The Good: Gus Bradley had these guys playing well at the end of last season, and they got a lot of good young players in the draft to help out for the long term future of the franchise. They added some quality mid-level FA vets to help teach these kids how to be pros. The secondary improved as the season went along last year. They also added some good young play makers to help  Bortles out when he does take over.
The Bad: Using a 1rst and 4th round picks on players you basically plan to red shirt this year tells us that there is no urgency to make the playoffs now. Also this O-liner is bad with way too many things having to go right to make it good. It's nice they went after Alex Mack , but when they missed out on him why wait until the 7th round to draft a center. They bring in Zane Beadles and draft Brandon Linder, but when even both play well they still have Austin Pasztor or Cameron Bradfield on the right side. On second thought I am actually glad they are red shirting Blake Bortles. I wouldn't want to see him bet ruined like David Carr behind a bad O-line.
Prediction: 6-10 : Hopefully this season ends the same way as last year. With the team ion the upswing, but with the added attraction of Blake Bortles leading the team to victory's to end the year, and a lot of hope on the horizon for long suffering jaguars fans.


HOUSTON TEXANS

The Good: JJ Watt is at least the best defensive player in the NFL, if not its best overall player. Add the freakish ability of Jadavian Clowney , and the hope that JJ's work ethic wears off on him and the Texans could have a unstoppable combo that is even better than Justin and Aldon Smith. A great draft and a new regime change for a team that was very recently in the playoffs should mean a quick turnaround. Brian Cushing is healthy . Texans need to cross their hands he stays that way, because they are a different defense with him on the field.They have a really weak schedule.
The Bad: As great as that draft was if they had traded back into the first round and gotten Teddy Bridgewater I think this team would be in the playoffs this year , and would have set themselves up as perennial contender. Getting a long term project like Tom Savage is fine if you have a serviceable veteran QB. If O'brien can fix Ryan Fitzpatrick enough to make him a playoff QB then he isn't a QB guru, he's a QB messiah! If they had traded for Ryan Mallett at the draft or before camp began he could have had decent shot to show whether he is a viable long term option. It's great they got him so cheap after he got demoted ,but now he's playing catch up and probably lacks the reps to get the best out of him. You could legitimately see 3 different QB's get significant time this season, and that is  almost always a bad thing for the season it happens in. Arian Foster looks like he is breaking down more every carry.
Predictions:5-11: QB woes and uncertainty will make this a rebuilding year. If Fitzpatrick could be just league average they could be a playoff team, but I doubt it.


AFC WEST



DENVER BRONCOS

The Good: Pretty much everything. Peyton was historically good last year.  A good O-line should be even better with Ryan Clady returning. I will trade Erick Decker for  Emmanuel sanders and Cody Latimer any time. So the receiving core should be better. Add DeMarcus Ware to a returning Von Miller and the pass rush can be elite. Free agent signings Aquib Talib & TJ Ward to returning from injury starters Rahim Moore and Chris Harris could mean an entirely new secondary in the superbowl ( if they make it back) this season.
The Bad: Not much really. Middle linebacker Brandon Marshall is unproven and may be the weakness in the middle of the defense. Montee Ball has big shoes to fill after Knowshon Moreno finally played like the player the broncos took in the first round last year. Maybe a combination of Ball, Ronnie  Hillman, and CJ Anderson can be better. Matt Prater is suspended for the first 4 games for violating the leagues substance abuse policy, but I suspect they will survive. Other than that Elway's biggest worry is probably that Peyton wins the superbowl and retires. I think any team would kill for that to be a worry. 
Prediction: 12-4: Home field advantage: AFC champion: In the Superbowl.


SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

The Good: Phillip Rivers looked like a franchise QB again after the4 front office improved the O-line and changing to an offense designed to get rid of the ball quicker. Funny how that works huh? A bad secondary could now be a strength after adding Jason Verret in the draft and free agent cast off Brandon Flowers in free agency. Adding them to the already great Erik Weddell can only be an improvement. A full season with Keenan Allen as the #1 receiver and Ladarius Green teaming up with Antonio Gates should provide for some big plays. Ryan Matthews in a contract year, so if he is ever going to be healthy and hold onto the ball, now is the time. Melvin Ingram and  Jerry Attachou could be a long term excellent pass rushing duo off the edge.If Freeney is healthy they can both learn a lot from him.
The Bad: While the O-line was improved at tackle with they are still lacking guards that can regularly keep the pocket from collapsing on Phillip Rivers. Also this team lacks speed. They have a lot of good football players but they need a burner who can stretch the field. 7th rounder Tevin Reese could fill that void if he ever learns to catch the ball consistently, but he is on the practice squad right now. Kendall Reyes needs to step opposite Corey Liuget. Luiget draws the blockers , but  Reyes still lacks the ability to win his one on ones.
Predictions: 9-7 :Wildcard: A much tougher schedule should make it harder to make the playoffs, but as long as Rivers is healthy they have a good shot and if they are in the tournament they will go as far as Rivers can take them.


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS



The Good: Andy Reid is an excellent coach and Jamal Charles is a weapon whenever he's on the field . If they decide to with a two TE set with Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano they could actually have decent offense . Alex Smith is the right QB to go with a run heavy, ball control , conservative , trust the defense approach, but I doubt Andy Reid can keep from throwing it too much. The defense is loaded with pro bowl players at every level and is the best reason they have a chance to make the playoffs.

The Bad: The O-line lost 4 players to free agency. The only returning player in the same position is center Rodney Hudson . Eric Fisher is moving to left tackle , but at least he was on the team last year. Too many question shave turned a team strength into a probable weakness. They lack weapon sat wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe's biggest strength as a receiver is his  blocking. Donnie Avery has speed, but is injury prone with suspect hands. Former #1 pick & bust AJ Jenkins is a lesser version of Avery right now. If this team needs Alex Smith to win games instead of driving the bus that new contract they just gave him is going to be an albatross around their necks pretty quickly.
Predictions: 7-9 : A tough schedule added to too many losses on the O-line make me think they don't even make it to .500 this year.


OAKLAND RAIDERS
The Good: They had a very good draft. If they had a draft like this last year I would have more hope for this teams prospects this season. Despite losing LT Jared Veldheer this O-line should be better on the whole. New LT Donald Penn has been overrated for awhile but he is still at least serviceable, especially as a run blocker. Rookie LG Gabe Jackson was a teal in the 3rd round. Center Steve Wisneiwski  is an above average center and a building block for the future. RG Austin Howard is probably a better fit as guard than he was at tackle. 2nd year rookie Menelik Watson is so talented he should end up ith the right tackle job pretty soon, especially since Barnes is bad.  Khalil Mack and a couple of other young guys might help too.In typical aider fashion theirs some really good young talent that are better athletes than football players. Hopefully some  of them will step up too.
The Bad: Reggie McKenzie needed to bring back Lamar Houston and Jared Veldheer . They were both young free agents that could have been building blocks for the future. Instead he lost both and ending overpaying for a lot of past their prime free agents. At best this team wins 6 games, and that's if everything works out. While I am not a big Derek Carr fan his mobility and strong arm give them a better chance of winning this year than Matt Schaub does. I just hope he do get ruined like his brother by having too much on his plate too early. Then again this O-line is already better than the one that almost got big brother killed in first  2 seasons. The Roger Scaffold bad contract was suspiciously saved by a bad physical. Whoever flunked scaffold probably saved Mckenzie from himself.
Predictions: 3-13:Tough schedule for a bad team.  When all the over priced veterans get hurt and the young guys get to play they might start helping ext years team, but its probably too late to save the jobs of McKenzie and Dennis Allen.

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