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2011 NFL Preview – AFC

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Predicted Order of Finish for 2011 AFC East

Rank

Team

Finish

Comment

1

New England Patriots

 

 

13-3

 

1st in AFC

 

Rumor has it that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have a big chip on their shoulder after how last season ended. That could mean a whole lot of nastiness for the rest of the league. They added Chad Ochocinco, who always makes plays, but has to be able to grasp the offense to be a weapon. Their defense will be mediocre, but that’s all it has to be with the high powered offense and Tom Brady. They should earn the #1 seed in the AFC and ensure that the road to Indianapolis goes through Gilette Stadium.

2

New York Jets

 

 

 

11-5

 

5th in AFC*

 

I really can’t pick any Mark Sanchez-led team to win their division; but especially not in a division with a Tom Brady-led team. Everyone knows about the Jets defense, but they need to step up their edge pass rush or they will still be good, but not great. In addition Mark Sanchez needs to… well, really he needs to be replaced with a good QB, but since that’s not going to happen, he needs to trust his reads and throw downfield a little more. He has the bullets, just has to fire the gun.

3

Miami Dolphins

 

 

6-10

T-11th in AFC

Chad Henne…? Chad Henne…? Really? With Kevin Kolb and Kyle Orton available, the Dolphins chose to go with Chad Henne? Did part-owner Fergie make that decision? The defense has a chance to be alright, not great by any stretch, but not bad. I like Reggie Bush in a system that will get him 15 touches, but counting on him to be an every-down back as the Dolphins might be is a huge stretch. This may be Sparano’s last stand, and it will probably go out with a whimper; but at least he and Chad Henne will have the opportunity to look for work together.

4

Buffalo Bills

 

 

5-11

 

T-13th in AFC

The Bills are a team with some young talent, but also some decisions that have to be made. Are they ready to stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their QB? What are they going to do with CJ Spiller? And how on Earth are they going to stop the run? The last question they hope was answered by drafting Marcel Dareus, but he’s only one man, and their defensive line problems run deep. Tough to see more than 6 wins-max out of this squad, but they are moving in the right direction

 

Predicted Order of Finish for 2011 AFC South

Rank

Team

Finish

Comment

1

Houston Texans

 

 

10-6

 

4th in AFC

 

The king is dead… long live the king! That might as well be the motto of the 2011 Houston Texans, who, finally look ready to dethrone the Colts as the AFC South champions. Granted it took Peyton Manning’s neck to nearly break to do the job, but don’t sleep on the Texans. Their offense will put up points, and it appears that their secondary might actually be NFL-caliber and not give up 500 yard passing games. If that’s the case, they are a dangerous out.

2

Indianapolis Colts

 

 

 

8-8

 

8th in AFC

I’m not a doctor, but neck fusion surgery doesn’t sound like something that you just bounce back from. Unfortunately for Colts fans, that is exactly what Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning is trying to do. Manning isn’t exactly the entire team, but he’s 99% of it. Think of it as taking LeBron James off the Cavs and that’s what you have in this year’s Colts. Until Manning returns, expect a lot of struggles. If he doesn’t return at all 8-8 would be a miracle season.

3

Tennessee Titans

 

 

6-10

 

T-11th in AFC

 

The Titans are a team in rebuilding mode… they are just hoping to do it on the fly, rather than completely bottom out. They have a nice centerpiece to build around in Chris Johnson, but overall this doesn’t feel like a team that will push for a playoff spot. Matt Hasselbeck isn’t a bad QB, he just isn’t what he was.

4

Jacksonville Jaguars

 

 

5-11

 

T-13th in AFC

Say what you want about the Jaguars… no really, you can, just make sure you say it at one of their home games so no one hears you. The Jags aren’t a horrible team, they do have MJD, but cutting David Garrard in favor of Luke McCown is one of the strangest decisions in some time. Garrard is a legit NFL QB and McCown… well, he should be happy to be on a team at all, let alone starting for one. Newly drafted Blaine Gabbert should take over at some point and have the chance to sink or swim.

 

Predicted Order of Finish for 2011 AFC North

Rank

Team

Finish

Comment

1

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

 

12-4

 

2ndin AFC

 

Shocker… the Steelers are going to win the AFC North. A weak schedule, paired with their smash-mouth style and a division in transition should lead to a minimum of 12 wins. Their team isn’t getting any younger, but they aren’t ancient and as long as they stay hungry will be a handful for any team in the NFL. I think they will be and that should be enough to get them the a bye in the AFC and another shot at glory for Sixburgh.

2

Baltimore Ravens

 

 

 

10-6

 

6th in AFC*

The Ravens are getting older, but they aren’t dead yet. They have playmakers in Ray Rice and talented, but inconsistent QB Joe Flacco. I like the addition of Lee Evans to provide another deep threat. On defense, if Ed Reed stays healthy, he is the cherry on top of a deep secondary. The Ravens main issue is their pass rush, or lack of. Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata are beasts, but aside from them, no one else on the defense gets to the QB. If the secondary breaks down, the Ravens may take a step backwards this season.

3

Cleveland Browns

 

 

5-11

 

T-13th in AFC

 

This projection might be a little light given that they have the thinnest schedule in the league. With a first 7 games against Cincy, Manning-less Colts, Miami, Tennessee, Oakland, Seattle, & San Fran. They may have 5 wins by midseason… but strictly comparing rosters side-by-side it’s comparable in talent with the Bengals… except the difference is that the Browns have a good owner and proven team president. The future looks to be bright, but the present will be rocky.

4

Cincinnati Bengals

 

 

4-12

 

16th in AFC

The Bengals are obviously the worst team in the NFL… and it’s not close. Rookie QB Andy Dalton gets the reigns to a gun without any bullets. The good news is hey are in pole position to “Suck for Luck.” If I were Andrew Luck I would petition the NCAA for a 5th year of eligibility just to avoid the horror that is a Mike Brown owned franchise. Really though, I think this team’s awfulness is being overstated. I, for one, like Dalton as a pro-QB and their defense isn’t terrible. Still though, anything more than 4 wins might be considered a good season.

 

Predicted Order of Finish for 2011 AFC West

Rank

Team

Finish

Comment

1

San Diego Chargers

 

 

11-5

 

3rd in AFC

 

The Chargers have been the most underperforming team in the NFL for a long time now. Everyone praises Phillip Rivers and marvels at his talent… yes, I know that football is a team game, but the other elite QBs of this generation have Super Bowl rings while Rivers’ led teams flame out in the playoffs, if they make it there at all. The Chargers will score, and if the defense can create a turnover or two and get off the field on 3rd down, they should win the average-at-best AFC West fairly easily. Still though, another flameout in January could finally cost Norv Turner his job (3 years too late).

2

Kansas City Chiefs

 

 

 

9-7

 

7th in AFC

I’m fairly bullish on the Chiefs this season. I think their defense will be better than average. Their offense will hinge on Jamaal Charles’s ability to open up the passing game. If Charles stays healthy, QB Matt Cassel is good enough to exploit bad matchups and the Chiefs should be able to score some points. They will have to find some leaders to step up to replace Mike Vrabel and Brian Waters, but if they can, they could challenge for inclusion in the playoffs again this year… and actually deserve it this time.

3

Denver Broncos

 

 

7-9

 

9th in AFC

 

If I were running the Broncos, here is how I would attack this year. For better or worse, Tebow almost MUST get a chance or the fanbase would be alienated. So, since this team isn’t going to go from #2 pick to the Super Bowl, why not turn the reigns over to him and see what he can actually do. If he does well, great. If he fails, well, at least you gave him a try and oh, look, Andrew Luck is available… The Bronco organization is too proud to do this and will go with Kyle Orton who is a good QB as long as you don’t pressure him, and aside from All-Pro Ryan Clady, the Bronco O-Line is nothing to brag about. Orton could probably get any team in the league to 6 wins, but really, is prolonged mediocrity something that should be strived for? Von Miller will make a big impact on defense and should be odds-on favorite for defensive rookie of the year, but this team is a year or two away from being ready for a deep playoff run.

4

Oakland Raiders

 

 

6-10

 

T-11th in AFC

For the first time in a long-time under Al Davis, the Raiders aren’t horrible. They did lose Nnamdi Asomugha which leaves them with an average secondary, but the rest of their defense is still pretty solid, as long as they can shore up their tackling, they should be able to improve in all measurables. They have some question marks on offense, most notably QB Jason Campbell and the offensive line. Darren McFadden is good, but someone has to create holes for him. Not much room for error here; if the O-Line struggles, the Radiers are dead.

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