AFC East Preview

Over the next eight days, ending with the first game of the season (Sept. 8, Oakland at New England) I will be posting my conference previews of each team, including the order I believe the teams will finish in the conference. I will also note which teams I believe will make the playoffs.

Today I start with the AFC East, which I think will be won by the Jets.

Tomorrow, the NFC East.

New York Jets (Playoffs)
The New York Jets were a field goal away from playing in the AFC Championship Game last season, a problem the Jets fixed by drafting the best player out of Ohio State (kicker Mike Nugent).

The Jets have quietly had one of the better off-seasons by upgrading an offense with the addition of Laveranues Coles (who led the Jets in receiving two years ago) and Derrick Blaylock (a reliable third down with good hands and speed). In addition, the Jets return the best offensive line in the division and a defense ranked fourth overall last season

The Jets have two Achilles heels which I think will keep them from going to the Super Bowl. First, Herm Edwards is a poor game day coach (much like Mike Tice), and he makes poor decisions in the final minutes of a close game. Second, Chad Pennington has a shoulder made out of glass. Pennington has yet to play an entire season, which led the Jets to bring in Jay Fiedler as a backup.

New England Patriots
Dr. Z at SI.com released his rankings for the season, which (surprising or not) look very similar to mine. I like Dr. Z, whom along with Len Pasquarelli, is one of the must-reads when it comes to the NFL. (I guess you can throw in Peter King, aka Fatty McButterpants, if you can ignore his Pats bias).

Anyway one of the biggest difference between Dr. Z and I, is that I don’t think the Pats will make the playoffs this year. The Pats play in the most competitive division in the more competitive conference, and they had one of the worst off seasons of any team. The Pats never had the most talented guys on the field but they won games because they were the best disciplined and best led team. But they lost three leaders this off-season, coaches Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weiss, and linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

There has been this aura surrounding the Pats the last year and a half, which has prevented many mainstream writers from second guessing New England. I think this is the season Tom Brady and the Pats fall back down to earth, and don't make the playoffs. I may be wrong, but that is the reason I’m posting these previews. If I’m wrong you can always rub it in my face later on.

Buffalo Bills
The Bills will be one of the best teams in the NFL. Just not this season.

The Bills are loaded with young talent on both sides of the ball. Besides having the best name in football (except possibly for this mythical Taco Williams I keep hearing about) Willis McGahee is looking to become the best running back in the league. McGahee and receiver Lee Evans were two big reasons the Bills went 8-2 to end the season. The other reason was the Bills defense, which became a fantasy monster towards the end of last season.

Unfortunately, even if the Bills weren’t stuck in the most competitive division in the NFL, they still have to put up with the growing pains of a young quarterback. J.P Losman is certainly a better option than Drew Bledsoe, but from what little I have seen of him he makes more plays with his legs than he does with his arms. Unless Losman can prove he is capable of throwing the ball down field accurately, expect to see opposing defense put 8 and 9 men in the box to shut down Buffalo’s rushing game.

Miami Dolphins
For the Dolphins, much like the 49ers, their franchise quarterback’s (Dan Marino's) entrance into the Hall of Fame may prove to be the only feel good story of the year.

In between Ricky Williams “studying a lot of alternative theories about life” and Randy McMichael being arrested, again, the Dolphins hired LSU head coach Nick Saban. Saban has been surrounded by a good deal of hype since he started, thanks in no small part to Fatty McButterpants. But Saban does have a NFL experience (unlike Steve Spurrier) and makes an excellent teacher on the field. Although he still has to prove he has an eye for talent (he drafted heavily out of the SEC this year) and that he can be a good game day coach.

The Dolphins shouldn’t be as bad this season, simply because with the addition of Williams and Ronnie Brown they have better backfield. Still their veteran defense gets a year older, and their quarterbacks (Gus Frerotte and A.J. Feeley) don’t scare anybody. This team is a good first project for Saban, since fans can’t expect results right away. It will be interesting to see how Saban shakes out in Miami.

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