NEW YORK JETS:
Many assume the Jets’ fate hinges upon the contract negotiations of Darrelle Revis. There is no question that they are a better team with Revis than without, but they’ve got capable corners in Cromartie and Dwight Lowery and rookie Kyle Wilson. Of course, if they have Revis and Cromartie taking out teams receivers, they’re defense will be even better than last season. The front seven feature Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, David Harris and beast Kris Jenkins. This defense alone would take the team to the playoffs. The Jets need Mark Sanchez to avoid the sophomore slump in order to have a chance at the Super Bowl. Sanchez threw 20 interceptions last season, but his post season success and demeanor really opened the eyes to the football nation. The Jets brought Santonio Holmes to compliment Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller. They also added LaDanian to compliment Shonn Greene. On paper this team has it all: a great defense, a fast and powerful offense, but rarely do teams make a Super Bowl run without a Pro Bowl caliber QB. A shaky preseason performance so far out of the first-teamers also has me wondering about this Jets offense. There will come a time when Sanchez will have to lead this team from behind during the season, and how he performs in that/those situations will directly reflect how this team does at the end of the season. His development and consistency will be the key to the Jets’ season and if they have that, and a richer Revis, look out.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS:
The Patriots need a healthy Wes Welker, Tom Brady, and some sort of a running game to take the division back from the Jets. Randy Moss is not the Randy Moss of our forefathers, but he still demands respect and often a safety over the top. The team happened upon WR Julian Edleman (Wes Welker lite) last season. Look for Edleman to increase his workload and have a 50+ reception season. I find it hard to believe Fred Taylor will become a consistent factor in the running game or that Laurence Maroney will ever pan out. The Patriots drama with OG Logan Mankins could drag on well into the season. They have taken a stand in past years and their stubbornness has hurt them. They let Asante Samual slip away at a time their secondary was porous and Deion Branch could not get a new contract when he was the only legitimate WR threat. Tom Brady had major knee surgery just a short time ago, but that leg looks much sturdier so far in preseason and I am anticipating very good numbers from Mr. Brady. Pay Mankins and move on. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have reconstructed their linebacker corps through the draft. Third year Jerod Mayo and rookie LB Brandon Spikes give the Pats visions of Vrabel and Bruschi. CB’s Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler and rookie Devin McCourty give the Pats 3 talented coverage guys. Along with S Brandon Merriweather, the Patriots secondary is among the leagues most talented. The defense lacks a pass rush threat, but the secondary should generate a few coverage sacks to make up the difference. The lack of a running game will be their Achilles heel.
Buffalo may be the worst team in the NFL in 2010. QB Trent Edwards appeared to have regressed last season. In limited action, Edwards’ pass completion percentage and rating dropped significantly. He was given T.O. in 2009, and for all of his issues, normally improves his QB’s stats in year 1. If Edwards struggles or takes too many hits behind a poor offensive line, the Bills would once again turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick. My condolences to WR Lee Evans who will likely see double teams since the Bills lack another receiving threat. Rookie running back C.J. Spiller joins Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Jackson and Spiller will play a role in the passing game. However, neither will give this team enough of a punch to keep up with the rest of a very competitive division. On defense Aaron Schobel retired leaving a big hole for Buffalo. Their front seven is unimpressive at best and hapless at worst. Many knew Marcus Stroud’s name from Jacksonville and forget it last season while he floundered in Buffalo. Division rivals New York and Miami are salivating at the chance to run on this team. In the secondary, the Bills actually have some ability CB’s Terrence McGee, Drayton Florence, and my man Leodis McKelvin are a talented group. FS Jairus Byrd hauled in 9 interceptions last year. The secondary is one of the few bright spots for the Bills this season.
The Bill Parcells & Tony Sparano regime made Dolphins fans forget all about that 1-15 atrocity in 2007. Since then, the Dolphins have strung together a handful of respectable seasons. Chad Pennington lost his starting job to Chad Henne. Pennington provides insurance as a back up, but Henne has much more physical talent. ‘Fins fans hope Henne continues his promising progression into a solid and trusted starting QB. He’s been given the right tools to thrive. First, the Dolphins have a young and strong offensive line led by LT Jake Long. Second, they have a power running game. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have a few miles on their legs, but still are as strong a running back tandem as the league has. The Dolphins said goodbye to Ted Gin Jr. in the offseason and traded for a true number one receiver in Brandon Marshall. Miami desperately needed someone like Marshall to keep pace with the rest of the division. The ‘fins hired Mike Nolan to rejuvenate the defense. Nolan had a great 2009 with the Broncos and Miami hopes he can replicate that success. The only big name on this defense is recently acquired LB Karlos Dansby. Nolan will try to gain respect for this no name front seven by creating pressure on opposing QB’s. Miami has some young, but raw talent in the secondary with CB’s Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, but has big questions at the Safety position. Gabril Wilson was cut and no one is scared of recent late round draft picks Rashad Jones and Chris Clemons. The Dolphins have their work cut out for them. It is going to be very difficult to make it out of the division considering the talent that the Jets and Pats have.