Now that we know ( or at least read earlier ) who I like in the NFC it is time to look at the other conference and get my take on what it looks like this season. For years it has been a 2 maybe 3 team race, but now we have some new teams getting stronger and looking like they are ready to make moves. It certainly is a conference where one loss can ruin a season, so keep a close eye on every game.
The AFC East:
Changing of the guard perhaps? Many feel that this is becoming the best division in football and 3 of the 4 teams can easily win this division and make some noise.
The New York Jets are many people’s early Super Bowl pick, and why not. Head coach Rex Ryan has won the hearts of NFL fans with his great work on the HBO series Hard Knocks, and has given this team real attitude. They have an awesome offensive line, a good mix of youth and vets on offense at every skill position and the defense is looking great. Also holdout CB Darrelle Revis recently signed a new deal and should be ready to play opening day. Only the youth of QB Mark Sanchez can hurt this talented club.
The Miami Dolphins made big strides last year and mat have gotten much better on offense with the addition of super WR Brandon Marshall. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams head a tough rushing attack and an always unpredictable Wildcat formation. The defense got better every week last year, and if not for the tough division they are in, I may see the Dolphins as a first place potential team.
The Buffalo Bills have holes, and what happens with them is anyone’s guess. They still are a mess at QB and WR, but do have nice depth at RB. They do however need the offensive line to play tough to make any of that matter. Over the last few years the defense has started seasons good and have slowly fallen apart, which should remain the deal this year.
1. New York Jets
2. New England Patriots
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills
Wild Card expected: By a hair, Patriots over the Dolphins
The AFC Central:
The Central is an extremely tough division as well with tough defenses, up and coming offenses and one doormat.
The Baltimore Ravens have to feel like they are due. For years they watched Pittsburgh be just a little better, then last year as they slipped they sat back and watched the Bengals be just a little better. This season, it looks like no one here will out play them. At WR they added Anquan Boldin and now T.J. Houshmanzedeh, have a great RB core and still bring a fierce defense to the field. This team can go real far and it is up to QB Joe Flacco to make it happen.
The Cincinnati Bengals were a nice surprise last year and added the always loud and proud Terrell Owens to the offense to help Carson Palmer open it up. I’m not totally sold on Cedric Benson following up what he did last year, and think this offense is not big enough to take teams by surprise this year. The defense does do a great job of taking the football away and will need to stay at the pace they were at last year for this team to have a shot at the playoffs.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a very rough off-season and it may be too late already to save this season. QB Ben Roethlisberger will start the year suspended, so they turn it over to Dennis Dixon. WR Santonio Holmes is gone and Hines Ward is aging. They also will turn the ground game over to Rashard Mendenhall who needs to prove he can carry a big load. The defense still is tough against the run and needs to stay healthy to stay good against the pass. This may be a season where the Steelers are not a big factor.
The Cleveland Browns have little and it will show. Retread QBs, no names at WR but a nice young backfield. The defense has brought in some players but they won’t do enough with the ball to stay off the field.
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Cleveland Browns
Wild Card expected: Possibly none as I feel Houston finally sneaks in here.
The AFC South:
Welcome to Indianapolis and the rest. The Colts have owned this thing for a long time, and no matter how good I feel about other teams, it still is not safe to bet against Mr. Manning.
The Indianapolis Colts, as sad as I am to say, may be even better on offense this season. WR Pierre Garcon, and Austin Collie now have experience and of course the great Reggie Wayne with them. Peyton Manning has his new deal, his weapons and the poise to keep going strong. The defense played well last year, but may not see leader Bob Sanders again this year. The Colts are still a more talented bunch then many in this league.
The Houston Texans, who I thought had arrived last year, should no doubt be ready to make it happen this year. They may not have the juice of Indy, but have an excellent offense led by monster WR Andre Johnson and talented QB Matt Schaub. The ground game now belongs to Arian Foster who looked real good this pre-season and the youth on defense is starting to play like a real sturdy unit. This team needs to just stay more mistake-free and they can be a force.
The Tennessee Titans have us all wondering what team we will see. Do we get the 0-6 start team or do we get that second halt team that looked unstoppable. They do have the NFLs top RB in Chris Johnson and a crafty QB in Vince Young, but a shaky WR group. The defense also was not as tough last year as it has been in years past, and it lost a few pieces this past off-season, as long time leaders Kyle Vanden Bosch and Keith Bulluck moved on.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are pretty much Maurice Jones-Drew and whoever else shows up. Jones-Drew is a force but they have very inconsistent play everywhere else. This team last season actually could have won itself a playoff spot, but came out with 2 very lame performances late in the year. Not much else is expected this year.
1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Houston Texans
3. Tennessee Titans
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Wild Card expected: Yes, as said earlier, Texans
The AFC West:
Great tradition, and that is about all for this division. 3 teams continue to rebuild while one looks to finally stake a claim as an elite NFL contender.
The Denver Broncos looked like they would steal this division last year, but this year they come in injured all over and now without WR Brandon Marshall. They have lost key players ob defense as well, so what this team can do is quite a mystery.
The Oakland Raiders finally made a move to get a veteran QB in Jason Campbell, but it is still hard to say how that will play out on the field. They did make smart moves, like turning the backfield over to power runner Michael Bush and do have some good young speed at WR as well as a good TE in Zach Miller. The defense still does not look ready to stop the run, but they do play the pass pretty well.
The Kansas City Chiefs made some moves, but none that make sense. Thomas Jones, taking time away from Jamaal Charles at RB does not look smart. They did very little at WR so they had better ease up on Dwayne Bowe and let him play his game. The defense keeps adding new young faces and will get better, but not much this season.
1. San Diego Chargers
2. Denver Broncos
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Wild Card expected: None
The AFC is a busy conference with about 10 teams that can be playoff material. Each division leader with the exception of San Diego looks to have a tough 2 and 3 behind them. I like a lot of the teams here, but the group that can play the most complete game here will survive and for me that is the Ravens and the Colts. I hate to say the same thing every year so I will not. Instead I go out on a limb and say that the Ravens have enough to make this work. I really do like the Colts and the Jets, but the Jets are not quite ready and the Colts are due for an upset.
So in all I came up with the Ravens and the Cowboys playing for it all. I am pretty sure by week 3 I will be looking to change those picks, but for now I’m sticking to my guns. This is one of the more wide-open seasons in some time and should be a great one!
Don’t forget this season fans to join me again every week for my Fantasy Start ’em/Sit ’em picks as well as my contest “Beat the Shark” as well as other great football news. Enjoy the 2010 season friends!
If you’d like to hear anything else from me on topics or ideas I can be reached at [email protected]
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