Wednesday, August 26, 2009



Last year, in Week 1, the AFC East became wide open for the first time since 2002 after New England Patriots QB Tom Brady tore ligaments in his ACL and MCL following a Bernard Pollard hit. At that instant fans in New York, Miami, and Buffalo realized that they could not have had a better chance to win the division. The Buffalo Bills started off hot winning their first four games en route to a 5-1 start, but a very cold finish relegated them to last place at 7-9. The New York Jets would assume the lead after that, and after beating the previously unbeaten Tennessee Titans to improve to 8-3, they could do no wrong and were heralded as a contender in the AFC. However, the weather got colder, Brett Favre's shoulder acted up and they limped to a 9-7 finish, costing Eric Mangini his job. Now the Patriots did emerge by going 11-5, but they missed the playoffs in a LOADED AFC, but the actual champion were the Miami Dolphins who finished 1-15 the year before. At 0-2 the season looked like a bust, until Wildcat mania struck and gave Miami an added dimension that enabled them to win nine out of their last ten games. This year, there are many changes to the division such as Miami having the bulls-eye on their back for the first time in a while, the Jets operating with a new QB and coach, the Bills having T.O., and the Patriots getting Brady back, but as always it should be entertaining.

1. New England Patriots
-Amazing that they went 11-5 WITHOUT Brady, huh? Amazing that Randy Moss had another 1000 yard and double-digit touchdown season WITHOUT Brady, huh? They get him back this year, along with a plethora of running backs, and you can expect the same offense that they had in 2007.

2. Miami Dolphins
-I do believe that the Dolphins can withstand the pressure of being the hunter. Sure average receivers and Chad Pennington's inability to throw the ball deep hinder them, but they do have Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, and the return of Jason Taylor can really help their defense. Oh, and did I mention the Wildcat?

3. New York Jets
-Rex Ryan said it best: "...if you take a swipe at one of ours, we'll take a swipe at two of yours", and instantly the Jets had a new identity that was different than Herm Edwards' or Eric Mangini's. Matt Sanchez will start but experience growing pains in a tough division, but newly acquired LB Bart Scott and his familiarity to Ryan will be beneficial to the Jets.

4. Buffalo Bills
-T.O. is great, but he's the only bright spot of a mediocre team. The key here is will Trent Edwards stay healthy? Marshawn Lynch's early three-game suspension can also spell doom for the Bills, but they do have nice throwbacks, lol!

Tom Brady (QB - Patriots)
-After dealing Matt Cassel to Kansas City, the Pats are going all in with Brady. Will the old Brady return or sadly will it be like the story of a former QB from of of their division rivals?

Matt Sanchez (QB - Jets)
-Eventually, Sanchez will get the keys to this team, but as long as he plays smart and utilize the defense and running game well, the Jets can be a darkhorse like last year's Baltimore Ravens.

Terrell Owens (WR - Bills)
-You know what you are going to get with T.O., a lot of catches, a lot of yards, a lot of touchdowns, a lot of celebrations, and a lot of drops, but will it translate to a lot of wins?

New England @ Indianapolis (Week 10 - November 15, the mid-autumn rivalry)
Miami @ Atlanta (Week 1 - September 13, the two surprises of last year)
Miami @ New England (Week 9 - November 8, Miami's first big challenge)
Buffalo @ New England (Week 1 - September 14, the return of Brady)
N.Y. Jets @ Tampa Bay (Week 14 - December 13, battle of the rookies [possibly], Sanchez v. Freeman)


The AFC North was extremely proud last season when it sent not only one but two teams to the AFC Championship Game last season ensuring that the division would have a representative in the Super Bowl. In what proved to be a very physical and hard-hitting game, the favored Pittsburgh Steelers outlasted the upstart Baltimore Ravens, 23-14, en route to winning their record-breaking sixth Super Bowl in Super Bowl XLIII. For Pittsburgh, it was the typical season as they defended their division title as all four losses came against playoff teams, but with a smart offense and an aggressive defense they were able to stay focused, never losing more than twice. Baltimore, led by rookie QB Joe Flacco, jumped out to a 2-0 start, but after losing their next three games things looked bleak and the fact that they had to play in 15 consecutive weeks in the regular season did not make the situation any better. However, "Joe Cool" made the Ravens keep theirs, and the Ravens won nine of their last 11 to edge the New England Patriots for the final playoff spot. As for the two teams from the Buckeye State...well, the Cleveland Browns were expected to challenge for a divisional title but they never could recover from an 0-3 start, and they lost their last six games, including being shut out in their last two and not scoring no more than ten points in the others. Their neighbors from the south, the Cincinnati Bengals, fared no better after starting 0-8, despite winning their last three games. This year, the Steelers are the only ones who really stayed intact, after the other three teams lost important keys from last season, but the question is: will the Steelers be too full from their title or will they come out swinging hungry for more?

1. Pittsburgh Steelers
-While they did not make any key moves during the offseason like normal, they retained their key players. It will be hard to realize that Pittsburgh cannot win this division again for the third year in a row, and better yet, they do not play either the Colts or the Patriots for the first time since 2003.

2. Baltimore Ravens
-Sure the losses of Rex Ryan, Bart Scott, and Marques Douglas to the Ravens will sting, but the Ravens still have Ray Lewis, Derrick Mason, young RB's (Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le'Ron McClain), and Flacco. The schedule will not hurt either as the Ravens have the fifth-easiest schedule despite matchups with the Colts and Patriots.

3. Cincinnati Bengals
-The next two positions are a crap-shoot, but the nod here goes to Cincinnati due to an existing coach and a stable QB position. It's clear that this team with so much promise five years ago just flattened out due to Marvin Lewis losing control of his players, and his job could be next.

4. Cleveland Browns
-Same first sentence as above. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson are battling...again, and Eric Mangini is out to prove that he was wrongfully fired in New York. Both teams could have some growing pains however this year.

Ben Roethlisberger (QB - Steelers)
-Sure you can say his running backs deserve it, or his receivers, or his line, or his defense, but in 2006 when Big Ben was still suffering the lingering effects of his motorcycle accident, he struggled and the team struggled.

Rey Maualuga (LB - Bengals)
-This was tough and it even could have went to Michael Oher of the Ravens, but Maualuga is out to prove that he should have been a first-round pick. The Bengals will just hope that he is like Odell Thurman without the off-field issues.

Laveranues Coles (WR - Bengals)
-If you went on name then Chad Ochocinco would be on the list, but since we are not, Coles tops this list. 2008 was an injury-plauged year for Coles, and with Chad on the team drawing attention, Coles could bounce back. However, to expect him to replace T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be a tall task.

Tennessee @ Pittsburgh (Week 1 - September 10, the 1st game of the NFL season)
Indianapolis @ Baltimore (Week 11 - November 22, the Colts return to Baltimore...)
Baltimore @ Cleveland (Week 10 - November 16, ...but not until the Ravens return to Cleveland)
Pittsburgh @ Detroit (Week 5 - October 11, Champs vs. Chumps)
Bengals v. Browns (Week 4 - October 4 in Cleveland, Week 12 - November 29 in Cincinnati, well..I had to give the Ohio teams some love)


In 2008, unbelievable things happened in the AFC South, but none was more shocking than seeing the Indianapolis Colts lose the division for the first time in six years. The division did, however, go to the unlikeliest of teams, the Tennessee Titans, who were led by the unlikeliest of quarterbacks, Kerry Collins. After former first-round draft pick Vince Young got hurt against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1, along with questionable behavior afterward, Collins led the Titans to wins in their first games and a 13-3 record. Despite a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round, the Titans look poised to improve even more with a young lineup. The Colts JUST won 12 games last year, but they finished the year on a nine-game winning streak before losing to the San Diego Chargers in the Wild Card round. The Colts big challenge will be replacing their head coach (Tony Dungy), their offensive and defensive coordinators, and their all-time great wide receiver (Marvin Harrison), but their franchise QB Peyton Manning will be ready to lead again like always. The Houston Texans started off at 0-4 but stormed to break even at .500 for the second year in a row, behind arguably the best WR people have never heard of, Andre Johnson. The Jacksonville Jaguars took a huge step back after a 5-11 seasons while playing with heavy hearts after Richard Collier was shot and killed days before the first game of the season.

1. Indianapolis Colts
-"Old Reliable" Manning is still there, and despite losing Harrison and Dungy, he still has Reggie Wayne, a good offensive line, and Bob Sanders on the defensive end. Oh yeah, and Dwight Freeney's back along with new coach Jim Caldwell being a disciple of Tony Dungy, expect the Colts to return to form this year.

2. Houston Texans
-This one is a VERY gutsy pick, but the Texans are a young team on the rise as evidenced from their two straight 8-8 seasons. The key here is for QB Matt Schaub to not get injured (again), but hate to say it but Rex Grossman is better than Sage Rosenfels and is more capable to lead this team of young talent like Steve Slaton, Amobi Okoye, Mario Williams, and Johnson.

3. Tennessee Titans
-They won't sneak up on anyone this year, and plus Collins is a year older, and Albert Haynesworth is gone. The Titans will be good however with a little "smash-and-dash", or the RB tandem of LenDale White and Chris Johnson.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars
-This team has lost it's pop on defense and does not have many good receivers execpt Torry Holt. David Garrard will try to well, and Maurice Jones-Drew will assume lead RB status, but will the "Mojo" be good there in Jacksonville?

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER (other than Manning)
Andre Johnson (WR - Texans)
-The MVP would have been an obvious no-brainer, so this is a good challenge for #2. He had 115 catches for 1500+ yards with two different QB's, and if he was anywhere else, he'd be recognized. 2008 was Larry Fitzgerald's coming-out part, will 2009 be Johnson's?

Donald Brown (RB - Colts)
-Joseph Addai is an oft-injured RB, but Brown can do a lot for the Colts. Although UConn ran a run-first offense, he can catch the ball well, and getting 2000 rushing yards in a season is very impressive and a testament to will and determination.

Torry Holt (WR - Jaguars)
-He can make Garrard's life very well, just do not expect the same numbers from St. Louis. Holt jumps from an deep, vertical team in the Rams to a ball-control team in the Jaguars.

New England @ Indianapolis (November 15 - Week 10, the mid-season rivalry renewed)
Indianapolis @ Tennessee (October 11 - Week 5, statement game for the Titans)
Tennessee @ Houston (November 23 - Week 11, statement game for the Texans)
Indianapolis @ Jacksonville (September 13 - Week 1, the Colts-Jaguars rivalry has been the fiercest)
St. Louis @ Jacksonville (October 18 - Week 6, Holt welcomes his old buddies)


The AFC West provided great competition in 2008...too bad that the playing field was watered down much throughout the season. The Kansas City Chiefs floundered in 2008, going 2-14 with a very young team that could not score or even defend very well, while the Oakland Raiders continued to be the mess of a franchise that they had been since their appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII after the messy firing of Lane Kiffin and Al Davis continuing to be senile at his old age. The San Diego Chargers struggled after losing LB Shawne Merriman after the first game for the rest of the season and with RB LaDanian Tomlinson's nagging injuries things looked bleak at 5-8 and being three games with three games to go behind a good Denver Broncos squad that had Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall but a leaky secondary. Then the unthinkable happened when Denver lost games to the Buffalo Bills and the Carolina Panthers, and the Chargers beat the Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to force a one-game, winner-take-all bout for the AFC West crown. The other notable thing was that referee Ed Hochuli was completely absolved of his controversial call between the two teams in Week 2, which gave Denver the win. However, San Diego routed Denver to complete the comeback and to finalize the Broncos' collapse in order to go to the playoffs. San Diego would defeat the Indianapolis Colts but lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, but given the offseasons that these teams have had and a healthy Merriman, there's no reason that the Chargers cannot win this division this year.

1. San Diego Chargers
-Basically I just said it, but Philip Rivers has done more with some no-name receivers after going to the playoffs in all three years as a starter. The combination of LT and Darren Sproles will be lethal, and with Merriman back, the Chargers can go back to being aggressive on defense.

2. Kansas City Chiefs
-Oh, the wonders of a weak division! There are a lot of question marks here like: Is Matt Cassel any good now with an average team? Can Larry Johnson stop being injury prone? Can the young Chiefs gel this year?

3. Oakland Raiders
-The Darrius Heyward-Bey draft pick still baffles me, but every thing about the Raiders always baffles me. They have the talent in place but without a great leader, the talent cannot go in the right direction except far, far away.

4. Denver Broncos
-Who the hell does Josh McDaniels think he is? First, he alienates his young franchise QB (Cutler) and trades him, then he's alienating his young franchise WR (Marshall) and he's asking for trade demands. Where's Mike Shanahan when you need him?

Shawne Merriman (LB - Chargers)
-The defense lost its power and tenacity last year without him, but in the last two years with him they won 14 and 11 games.

Tyson Jackson (DE - Chiefs)
-He can help out this young D-Line, and he's reunited with fellow LSU alum, Glenn Dorsey.

Kyle Orton (QB - Broncos)
-Every eye is on him...EVERY one. However, he does have a better receiving tandem now even WITHOUT Brandon Marshall (if they trade him)

New England @ Denver (October 11 - Week 5, Mentor vs. Student)
Philadelphia @ San Diego (November 15 - Week 10, aggressive D's square off!)
Oakland @ Dallas (November 26 - Week 12, two historical franchises, owners square off on Thanksgiving)
Dallas @ Kansas City (October 11 - Week 5, K.C.'s throwbacks of Dallas...Cowboys v. Texans)
San Diego @ Denver (November 22 - Week 11, Chargers return to the scene of the crime)

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