The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: The Cacophony NFL Preview Part IV

16 08 2007

by torytheeducator

With the NFL season now less than a month away we thought we would give you a sneak preview of the upcoming season division by division. Today, we discuss the AFC East with one of the more prolific teams of the decade, the New England Patriots.

New England Patriots

Many thought 2006 would be a down year for the once mighty Tom Brady and Bill Bellichek. Miami was set to improve on their 2005 showing and challenge the Patriots for AFC East supremacy. Yet there the Patriots were, playing the Colts in late January, on the cusp of another Super Bowl appearance. This leads us tot he moments immediately following Super Bowl XLI, where they already were the early favorites to win XLII.

One of the keys to this season for the Patriots lies on the surgically repaired shoulder of second year running back Laurence Maroney. With the “retirement” of Corey Dillon comes a silver platter opportunity for the diminutive Minnesota product to show his worth. Between splitting time with Dillon, missing two games with a back injury, and a myriad of other ailments, Maroney was able to put up 745 rushing yards, not too shabby for a rookie. There may be some durability issues with Maroney, but rest assured Bellichek and his three Super Bowl rings know what they are doing with this kid.

Another key, or question mark rather, going into the season for the Patriots is the addition of all-world, all-ego receiver Randy Moss. Not more than four years ago Moss was the best receiver in the NFL and a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Yet, here he is coming off his worse season, and looking to change his image, again. He seems to have found a safe haven in the sweatshirted arms of Bill Bellichek and the always dapper Tom Brady. There is no doubt Moss remains one of the most feared receivers in the league, but will he get enough touches to feed his ego, which was far greater than Terrell Owens could have ever dreamed. Knowing Brady and Coach, he should be able to return to some semblance of the player he once was.

Finally, there is the matter of the defense. Thought to be their Achilles’ heel last year, they snuck up on everyone and carried the team deep into the AFC playoffs. They finished last year number two in points allowed and in the top half of the league against both the run and the pass. 2007 seems to be another great year for the defense, even with the holdout of star cornerback Asante Samuel. The addition of the freakish Adalius Thomas should strike fear in the heart of every opponent on the Patriots third ranked schedule. That being said, expect the Pats to win the division and make a deep run into the AFC playoffs.

Projected Finish: 1st place AFC East

New York Jets

Coming off a surprise playoff berth, the Jets are looking to build on their young team under second year, and equally young coach Eric Mangini. What was also surprising was the re-emergence of oft-injured quarterback Chad Pennington. He bounced back from two shoulder surgeries and year off to pass for over 3,000 yards and lead the Jets to a first round playoff loss to Mangini mentor Bill Bellichek and the New England Patriots.

Which segues us to the prize addition of Jets offense: Thomas Jones. The former Bear is coming off his second straight 1,000 yard season, and primed to take the starting job left vacant by the retiring great Curtis Martin. The Bears shipped out Jones due to the fact that they invested an early first round pick on Cedric Benson in 2005. Running behind a line with rising stars D’Brickashaw Ferguson (best first name in sports) and Nick Mangold should give the Jets’ offense a much needed boost.

One thing that may derail Eric Mangini’s sophomore season may be the schedule. The Jets play the 5th toughest schedule in the NFL in 2007 and they may lack the experience in order to handle games against six playoff teams, not to mention games against Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh. While the offense may be prone to struggle against tougher defensive opponents, the Jets defense should be up to the task.

The Jets defense was one of many surprising bright spots for an overachieving team last year. They ranked in the top half of the NFL in total defense, yet it was their second half of the season where they really turned it on. Over the final eight games, they allowed 14 points in a game only once. This year the outlook is good under defensive minded Eric Mangini. Look for stalwarts Jonathan Vilma and Erik Coleman to play good, steady football, while draftee Darrelle Revis should make an immeadiate impact. They play in a tough division and conference, so it may be wishful thinking for the Jets to repeat last year’s season.

Projected Finish: 2nd place AFC East

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins were one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL in 2006. Coming off a promising 2005 and another year under hard-ass, if wavering, head coach Nick Saban, the Dolphins were ready to challenge the Patriots for the AFC East title. However, Daunte Culpepper and his blown knee had other thoughts. The Dolphins never got on track and missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

The offseason was no kinder to the Dolphins as Nick Saban bolted for the college ranks and new coach Cam Cameron promptly passed on Brady Quinn to draft Ted Guinn Jr. in the first round of April’s draft. The team did sign Joey Porter who promptly had arthroscopic knee surgery and is likely to miss time. However, the defense should be able to hold its own, yet they are an aging group.

Hope still lies in the legs of running back, and second overall pick in 2005, Ronnie Brown. Ronnie missed three games last year with a broken hand, but still managed to crack the 1,000 yard plateau. He is one of the young talents in the NFL, and unlike many other backs, faces no immediate threat to his playing time. The addition of a more stable passing game under Trent Green should help Ronnie Brown fulfill his potential.

The outlook for 2007 is not good for the Dolphins. They are competing with two playoff teams from last year, and have a rookie head coach. They also play the 8th toughest schedule in the NFL this season. Expect the Dolphins to win five to eight games, but it would be shocking if they finished anywhere near .500.

Projected Finish: 3rd place AFC East

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills are one of the young rising teams in the NFL. They have a rookie running back, and loads of talent on the offensive side of the ball. The problem is that J.P. Losman has not realized his potential. Lee Evans is a definite playmaker and the drafting of Paul Posluzny in the second round was a steal.

The one thing that may sink the Bills is their schedule. They play the toughest schedule in the NFL with 8 games against playoff teams from 2006. Hopefully this is the year Losman breaks out because this may be the only thing keeping the team from losing 12 games. Marshawn Lynch is a promising talent on offense, but the Bills lost All-Pro safety Nate Clements to free agency.

The outlook is bleak this year for the Bills. However, they are a young team and the future can only get brighter. Lee Evans can almost single handedly carry the team with his home run ability. The defense was one of the worst against the run last year, and this year it will be tested with games against the likes of Lewis, Brown, Maroney, and a Week 7 showdown against cast off Willis McGahee. Look for the Bills to gel late, and more in 2008.

Projected Finish: 4th place AFC East

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One response

28 08 2007
everythingscomingupmilhouse

nice preview. you covered a lot of bases with each team. we’ve been working on some previews at our site too. i think i had gotten a little bored with my earlier ones and some safe picks. so i got a little gutsy with these picks. i flipped the dolphins and jets in my preview.

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