Thursday, September 8, 2011
2011 AFC Breakdown
With kickoff on Thursday night, it’s about time we tell you who’s going to win it all this year. For those of us keeping score at home, we predicted a Packers Super Bowl victory over their AFC North opponent, the Baltimore Ravens. So yeah, we’re good. Today will be the AFC breakdown; we’ll tackle the NFC a few days later, and the playoffs afterwards. Without further ado:
1) New England Patriots – The perennial class of the NFL regular season, the New England Patriots look even stronger coming into this season than they did last year in their 14-2 campaign. Led by the best QB in football, their offense is looking to hang 30 points a game on their opponents this year. Their depth is unparalleled, and they are an absolute nightmare to match up with. The defense is so loaded that they cut a 2-time Pro Bowler. Look for this team to win the AFC East, post 13 wins, and make a deep playoff run.
2) New York Jets – One of the best teams in football, their above average offense is paired with one of the most feared defenses in football. They won’t light anybody up that’s worth writing home about, but look for them to routinely keep teams under 14 points this year. Revis is an absolute force, and Rex Ryan knows how to call a game. Unfortunately for the Jets, they are in the AFC East, and very well could end up being the second 12-4 wildcard team in NFL history.
3) Miami Dolphins – This team will be incredibly average. Think the Jets, but with a worse offense and defense. They will win 7 or 8 games, and everyone will see that Chad Henne isn’t good, and then the Dolphins will try and replace him yet again next offseason. At least they have one team that wins titles in South Beach. Oh, wait…
4) Buffalo Bills – No QB, no defense, traded away their best WR. Perennial basement dwellers. The one thing they have to look forward to is another high draft pick after a 4-12 season and watching C.J. Spiller become the poor man’s Barry Sanders over the next few years.
1) Baltimore Ravens – Is this the year for the Ravens? They have kept their core together, and they are looking at a VERY soft schedule. Think talc. There defense is always great, and Ray Lewis still somehow is one of the best LBs in the game. Not to mention Ngata, Redding, Suggs, and Reed. Scary stuff. Flacco has had another year to develop, Ray Rice is a beast, and the combination of Boldin and Evans gives them one of the best WR threats in the game. Look for 13 wins out of this loaded ravens team.
2) Pittsburgh Steelers – So far this year, despite all of the lockout boredom, Big Ben has managed to keep it in his pants. Rashard “I love Osama bin Laden” Mendenhall will probably have a good season, unless karma exists. Mike Wallace is emerging as a legitimate #1 at WR, and their defense is scary good. James “The Hitman” Harrison does not mess around. If Polamalu can manage to stay healthy this year, the Steelers could make a serious push for an NFL record 7th Super Bowl title.
3) Cleveland Browns – Pencil the Browns in for 6 wins. Colt McCoy is better, but still far from elite. And now Peyton Hillis is now bringing the Madden Curse into things. Look for a Browns team that - like last season - is wildly inconsistent.
4) Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals won't win more than 4 games. Carson Palmer’s fiscal responsibility will take all of the bite out of the Bengals offense, and the departure of Jonathan Joseph breaks up one of the best 1+2 combos at corner in the league. It’s going to be real messy at the bottom of the AFC North.
1) Houston Texans – BOOM! YOU READ THAT RIGHT! The Texans will make their first postseason appearance in franchise history after winning the AFC South (by default). Matt Schaub is almost really good, and Arian Foster only needs to be 80% of what he was last year. Andre Johnson is a monster, and the defense is looking to improve. DeMeco Ryans is an elite talent at LB, and J.J. Watt and Mario Williams will terrorize QBs. They tried to upgrade their porous secondary by adding Jonathan Joseph. The Texans lost a lot of close games last year. Look for their luck to change as they win 10 or 11 games.
2) Indianapolis Colts – The only reason Indy isn’t the favorite is because of Peyton Manning’s uncertain status. He is the only reason that this team is relevant. He is an MVP in the most literal sense. If you hand this same roster to Curtis Painter or Kerry Collins, they go from 12 wins to 7. Depending on how quickly Manning is able to get healthy and back to form, the Colts could leapfrog the Texans and win this division yet again, or fall out of the playoffs.
3) Tennessee Titans – I like this Titans team, but not to win much of anything. Chris Johnson finally got his deal, and he’s good at football. Hasselbeck is an upgrade at QB and should provide a nice bridge to the Jake Locker era before his back gives out and then Locker is thrown to the wolves and plays just as poorly as Tim Tebow. Kenny Britt is sneaky good at WR, but the defense is just eh. 6 wins for the Titans.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars – Top pick Blaine Gabbert got outplayed in the preseason by 3rd round pick Ryan Mallett. David Garrard just got cut. MJD will be good, but that’s about all this team has going for them. They’re just waiting for LA to finish building that stadium so they can get out of the Florida panhandle. They only good thing about that place is Formal Weekend at PCB.
1) San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates make for one of the most electrifying passing games in football. Look for their numbers to be huge with a full season together. The defense will be sharp enough to win this weak division. 11 wins.
2) Kansas City Chiefs – Cassel is the second best QB in the division, Jamaal Charles is the best RB, and Dwayne Bowe emerged as a legit threat on the outside. Unfortunately, the defense needs a little work and the offense needs to be more consistent. Nobody who is a contender is scared of this team at all. 9 wins, maybe.
3) Denver Broncos – Offense is average. Defense is also average, only old. The transition period with a new coach and the QB controversy in the offseason makes me believe that this team will top out at 7 wins.
4) Oakland Raiders – This team will not win until they decide to remove Al Davis’ corpse from the owner’s box. Run-DMC is looking for over 1000 yards on the ground this season, but the addition of Terrell Pryor won’t allow me to talk myself into this team winning more than 6 games. And that’s a best case scenario.