White Hat Sports Headlines

Sunday, August 24, 2008

AFC East Preview

For nearly a week I have been checking in on this website and each time I have been scared away from writing my preview of the AFC East this season. Why?

Eli Manning holding up a football with the Super Bowl logo on it. It opens up wounds that I have tried to put behind me, but after having my first fantasy football draft last night (first of four this week) and listening to Hank Williams Jr's "Are you ready for some football?" on a loop, I can finally answer, yes I am.

1. The New England Patriots: Projected record, 15-1

Did you really want me to do it? Did you want me to predict that this team could go undefeated this season? I know that it's not outside the realm of possibility though, the running game which was suspect at times last season due to the injury of Sammy Morris in the Dallas game, is back to what it was at the beginning of last season and has probably even improved. The offense last year that became almost one dimensional last season with the exquisite passing attack, now has a stable of backs (Maroney, Morris, Lamont Jordan, Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans) that can beat up the front four of anybody in football.

The passing game brings almost the exact same compliment of weapons that it had last season, minus Donte Stallworth who left for Cleveland. I think that Jabar Gaffney though will be able to step up into that 3rd receiver role with no problem, because he held that spot for almost all of last season. Randy Moss is Randy Moss, I will be interested though to see how Wes Welker does this season. I am expecting big things out of him this coming season, as evidence by the fact that I drafted him in the 4th round last night and was my first wide receiver taken. But I feel like teams aren't going to be surprised by him anymore, but he is a hustler and plays hard all the time he is on the field and (if Brady has one) is Brady's security blanket.

The defense is older, but they did get a little bit younger at linebacker with the addition of Jerod Mayo, but the loss of Asante Samuel and Randall Gay could spell trouble for a secondary that people saw as vulnerable last season. They did add John Lynch, who coupled with Rodney Harrison brings another big hitter to the secondary and could push teams to go towards the side lines more instead of having their receivers going across the middle and taking a smack from two of the biggest hitters since Ronnie Lott.

2. New York Jets ( 10-6 )

This team will be better this year, because they finally have a quarterback. (Yes, I am saying that they are much better with Brett Favre than they are Kellen Clemens or that Pennington kid.) They have pretty good receivers, they have a decent running game, I think the talent around him is comparable to what he had in Green Bay last year, a lot of names you haven't really heard of that can be productive, an undefined running game with a plethora of backs in the backfield that is supposed to be anchored by Thomas Jones.

The difference between Favre's situation in Green Bay and the one he's stepping into in New York is the defense on the team. Last year's Packers defense was one of the most surprising in the NFL and is projected as a top ten defense in football this time around. The Jet's defense is good, but not as good as it was last season. The loss of Jonathan Vilma is huge for this team. One of the leading tacklers in the league left for New Orleans in the off season, which will hamper this defense as many of their recent draft picks have come up empty leaving a core group of players that aren't what they were projected to be.

3. Buffalo Bills ( 6-10 )

I really want to pick this team to do better this season but I really can't. I like the call of playing Trent Edwards over JP Lossman, which for some reason I just hated since the day he was drafted. Edwards was good and very underrated coming out of Stanford. When he took over the Bills had a boost that last a few weeks but didn't last because of their overall lack of talent. They will be better this year, with a little more upside, but Edwards has been hurt some this preseason and if he is out it could be bad for this team. Not because he's irreplaceable, but I don't see much behind him with things like J.P Losman, Gibran Hamden and Matt Baker lurking in the wings. Add in the fact that Marshawn Lynch might need to attend driving school or something at some point, this team has a few obstacles.

4. Miami Dolphins ( 3-13 )

Bill Parcells has made some interesting moves with this team in the off season and I really wanted to say that they were going to show a big improvement over where they were last season, but I just don't see how they are going to do it. They lost their best overall player (Jason Taylor) and have no way to replace him. Houston, Oakland and San Francisco all at home, might be the only chances this team has to win games this season. Their quarterback has improved, I think they are finally passed the Cleo Lemon era, but Chad Pennington? What's the matter, Patrick Ramsey wouldn't return their calls? They do have Chad Henne behind him and probably Josh McCown who could see time this season and that might be the best thing for the Fins.

The reason I'm going to be paying some attention to the Dolphins this season is to see what Matthew Mulligan can do on this team this season. The graduate of the University of Maine (and dominant wiffle ball pitcher) was signed by Miami as a priority free agent directly after the NFL draft ended. There were several teams interested in the 6-4, 265 lbs monster's services including the Ravens, Patriots and Cowboys. He has been working out at tight end and could be a monster on special teams as well.

The Patriots will once again be the class of the division, but I do believe that the Jets could sneak into the playoffs this year. That being said, I don't for see the Patriots losing a game within the conference, though their toughest test will be taking on those Favre led Jet's in New Jersey. Though if Favre doesn't perform early, there could be a backlash for the Riverboat Gambler and if that happens the Jets season could be a wash.

Only time will tell.

Sterling Pingree

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