It’s that time of the year again where I flip the script from talking wrestling and starting talking about the greatest American sport known as Football. This will be the first in a 3-part series leading us up to the first week of Football action on Wednesday September 5th at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. We kick things off with the AFC Conference Preview & Predictions blog followed up with the NFC next week and who I think will be crowned Super Bowl Champion in the following week.
Let’s take a look at the AFC by starting things off with the AFC East Division, the home of the reigning AFC Champion New England Patriots.
The AFC East is one of the most competitive divisions in all of Football. To me, being a Baseball fan, I would compare it to the AL East in Major League Baseball. All four of these teams are pretty strong and give division matchups the type of “big game” feel they should have. If you are able to fight your way out of this division as the Champion sets up any team for a strong playoff push come January.
This should come to no surprise that I would have the New England Patriots as the AFC East Division Champions. They are the reigning AFC Champions and enter the 2012-2013 season with a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss that will leave them wanting to fight back to the “big game” in February and win another Championship. New England’s heart and fight will be tested by the leadership of Tom Brady should help them once again be successful in the 2012-2013 season.
New York Jets (10-6):
This is a make-or-break season for the New York Jets after a disappointing 2011-2012 campaign. Rex Ryan is the biggest name on the NFL coaching hot seat this season and needs his team to rally behind Mark Sanchez to get them back to the playoff promise land. I honestly don’t believe Tim Tebow starts this season at quarterback (unless Sanchez goes down with injury at any point) but will prove to be a very big red-zone threat for a newly developed offense that could prove to potentially be revolutionary in the NFL.
Buffalo Bills (7-9):
I really enjoyed the Buffalo Bills story in the first part of last season. They were a fun team to watch after starting 5-0 and got an exciting win over the Patriots at home. People even believed that this was the beginning of the Bills return to the playoffs but it just wasn’t meant to be yet. I still think Buffalo is on the cusp of something good right now but this isn’t there season, especially in the tough AFC East. This is a team that can continue building and be poised for a potential playoff return in the 2013-2014 season.
Miami Dolphins (4-12):
This is a franchise that still is lacking an identity. They don’t know who their starting quarterback is, they don’t know who their starting running back is and they are still in that “rebuilding mode” as they play for the future. There is nothing wrong in that logic but it’s not a team that we should be looking at as making a comeback this year. Miami could be on the right pace but it’s going to take some more rough roads before they figure out what direction the Fins’ want to move towards.
Another AFC division that is pretty strong and last season gave us three of the six AFC playoff teams. Not bad for an entire division as it shows how strong they truly are. I don’t see that situation repeating this year and actually see the division start to lay-out back to “normal” where they may have two teams (at best) make the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens (13-3):
I have been harping on this team being successful for the last couple of seasons and they finally looked like an “AFC Elite” team last season despite the heartbreaking loss in the AFC Championship Game. If you remember correctly, this was a team that was given very little chance to beat New England at home in the AFC Championship Game and nearly pulled it off. If that type of loss isn’t enough motivation for this team to come back with a fire and passion this year then I don’t know what else is.
Cincinnati Bengals (10-6):
Most people are in fear that this team will struggle due to the “sophomore slump” that most rookies go through (and they have two big ones in Andy Dalton & AJ Green) but I believe is a team that will put that folklore to rest. Cincy has something real good going right now with the Dalton/Green combination and could be a force to be reckoned with if they continue to grow at the pace they are destined to be. I like the Bengals chances this season as they continue to build off this youth movement that is currently in place.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8):
The Steelers are getting older by the day, literally and their franchise is being affected by it. For year their defense was the foundation of their success and they are looking like the most affected by “age.” Don’t believe me? Re-watch the defense getting burned in that playoff game in Denver. I believe this team continues to slip until they start instilling some youth in their system, like the New England Patriots have done very well.
Cleveland Browns (3-13):
What is there to say about this franchise? They play in Cleveland, they continue to struggle and there is no light at the end of this deep & dark tunnel currently. Things don’t look good in Cleveland now (other then the potential Trent Richardson could display) and they don’t look good in the future. They may have a shocking win here or there but don’t consider them a team to fear on the schedule.
This is one of the weakest divisions in the entire NFL. If you win this division not only do you get granted a playoff spot but you may also be granted a first round bye due to how week it is. Six division matchups could give one team a free pass into the divisional round and an easier route to the Super Bowl 47 this February.
Houston Texans (13-3):
If injuries didn’t plague them throughout the season I believe this Texans team was a “shoe in” for the AFC Championship Game last season. They played in the weakest division in the NFL and were a pretty dominating team because of such. They portrayed the moniker “defense wins championships” and clearly could’ve been an NFL elite team at the end of the season had they not lost Matt Schaub or Andre Johnson. This is a team that very well could be Super Bowl 47 bound this season.
Tennessee Titans (7-9):
I honestly believe that the only way Tennessee becomes successful again is if they: 1.) Let Jake Locker become the starting quarterback and 2.) Have the Chris Johnson “of old” on the field. This is a frustrating team to watch because they very well could be one or two moves away from making the playoffs again. It’s a been a disappointing franchise for quite sometime now due to player moves they gone through and the very talented Kenny Britt not being able to stay out of trouble continues to hurt this squad. If they got it together they could be playing in January but not this season.
Indianapolis Colts (4-12):
Some may have said that the “post-Peyton Manning era” began last season despite him actually being on the roster but it officially begins this season as Andrew Luck will line-up on under center for the Colts this season and beyond. I like the moves the Colts made for the future during the off-season and in the draft so they are thinking ahead rather then right now. They will get there wins and Luck will show signs of being a franchise quarterback but they will still have more bumps in the road then success stories. Look for Indy to make their return to January Football in about two more seasons.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14):
Jacksonville only mirrors the Browns when it comes to franchises that have nothing going for them in the right direction. People have been calling for the decline of MJD (me included) the last couple of seasons but he has shown that he can still be dominant. Well I’m calling for the decline yet again and won’t be surprised if he has another typical MJD season either. Blaine Gabbart isn’t the guy for the Jaguars and never really performed very well in his rookie season. This is a franchise that is begging for both a move to Los Angeles and the #1 overall draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The AFC West could be the surprise division for this season as the most exciting division in all of football. They clearly have four teams that very well could be representing their division in January Football and that should make for exciting football every Sunday when it comes to the AFC West. Out of all the divisions in the AFC this one was the hardest when coming up with who would win the division this year.
Denver Broncos (11-5)
This was one of the hardest calls to make when it came to pick any AFC division winner but I cannot bet against Peyton Manning. I don’t care about the neck surgeries/procedures he has gone through or being away from the NFL for an entire year. You cannot bet against the former 4-time NFL MVP unless he has given you a reason to do so and he hasn’t on the playing field. Denver is going to be a strong team this season with Peyton behind center and with that very good lockdown defense that is in place at Mile High Stadium.
San Diego Chargers (10-6)
San Diego is poised for a comeback season from last year’s struggling season. They never looked to be in-sync at all as Phillip Rivers played with no heart and it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Norv Turner would be fired. That didn’t happen this past season but it could be if they have a duplicate season from last year. I don’t see that coming and actually am considering Phillip Rivers as a sleeper pick for the NFL MVP award this season.
Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
The Chiefs had an encouraging season after Romeo Crennel took over from Todd Haley and looked to actually be inspired by their new interim coach (at the time). Kansas City will be a tough team this season, especially with the combo of Peyton Hillis and a hopefully healthy Jamaal Charles in the backfield. They will be good but not playoff bound just yet, I still think Matt Cassell as their starting quarterback holds them back from breaking through just yet.
Somehow the Raiders have had decent back-to-back seasons despite being a franchise that was considered to be left for dead. Oakland will be competitive once again this season but won’t be a playoff contending team when it comes down to crunch time at the end of the year. I like what’s going on in Oakland but like Kansas City I don’t think Carson Palmer is the answer to their needs. Plus they need a healthy Darren McFadden to help them be successful and that is something that has been quite the struggle since he entered the NFL.
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