As we all know, football is right around the corner. Before every season begins I like to breakdown the possible division winners around the NFL. History shows that not every team that made the playoffs last season will make the playoffs in 2012. So who is in and who is out? I am going two breakdown two divisions at a time on my blogs starting with the AFC East and AFC South.
4th Place: My last place team in the AFC East is the Miami Dolphins. The Fins were very competitive towards the end of the 2011 season. The pleasant surprise for Dolphin fans was the play of RB Reggie Bush. He had his best season as a pro and showed his doubters that he can be an every down running back. The defense also played well during the latter part of the season, but the question for the Dolphins is the quarterback position. Matt Moore, David Garrard, and rookie Ryan Tannehill are all expected to compete for the starting job. With uncertainty at quarterback and no solid number one reciever, I see the Dolphins struggling during the season.
3rd Place: New York Jets will be number one in the media, but unfortunately for Jets fans, I do not see them making the playoffs. The Jets will be in the playoffs race due to their great defense, but as all Jet fans know the offense will be the difference maker. The circus at the quarterback position will be the down fall for the Jets in my opinion. QB Mark Sanchez will be under a microscope in the first few weeks of the season. It’s actually simple for the Jets, with the ground and pound not being effective last season, it comes down to Sanchez. If Sanchez plays great the Jets make the playoffs, if not, it’s going to be a long season for Jet fans. I know, what about Tim Tebow? He is not doing anything special if he becomes the starter. I’m sorry Tebow lovers.
2nd Place: It’s everybody’s sleeper, the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are a good young team. They started the 2011 season hot, but then fizzled down the stretch. The reason or should I say the excuse for the Bills struggles was due to an injury to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick started the season great and was awarded with a contract extension by the Bills organization. Then his interceptions began to climb and ended the season with 23 interceptions. With a huge offseason move acquiring DE Mario Williams and young talent surrounding the team, Fitzpatrick will hold the key to a possible playoff berth for the Bills. We’ll see what a “healthy” Fitzpatrick can actually do in a full season.
1st Place: No surprise here, the New England Patriots. Here is my breakdown; Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and Bill Belichick. That is all you really need to know. They also made additions to the defense, which all equals to becoming division champions and super bowl contenders.
4th Place: I have a team heading towards that could be one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The jags have nothing going for them and the demise started last season when they drafted QB Blaine Gabbert. I never liked Gabbert as a franchise quarterback; it was a classic case of a team needing a quarterback and then reaches for one in the draft. They got him a target in WR Justin Blackmon, but without a consistent quarterback, his value will not be shown this season. RB Maurice Jones-Drew is their only proven weapon and is currently holding out for a better contract. The defense is also in need of playmakers. Expect the Jags to have a high draft pick in next year’s NFL draft.
3rd Place: I have a team that is going on the right direction, the Indianapolis Colts. It starts with the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, QB Andrew Luck. I think Luck is the real deal, in a few years he will be in the discussion of elite quarterbacks. I think the Colts will start the season slow, but once all the young faces get familiar with one another, wins will start to pile up towards the end of the season. Enough to keep them out of last in their division.
2nd Place: The Tennessee Titans are a hard team to evaluate. I was surprise how well they played last season. I did not think QB Matt Hasselbeck had anything left in him from a physical standpoint. But their lies the question, can Matt play as well as he did last year or will 2011 first round pick Jake Locker be the man to lead the Titans? To be honest, I do not trust Locker to be a consistent quarterback. He is athletically talented but as a passer he still has a long way to go. Much will depend on how he looks during the preseason. I do believe that RB Chris Johnson will have a bounce back year and with a solid defense they will be in contention for a division title.
1st Place: After winning their first division title in franchise history, it looks like the Houston Texans will make it back to back division titles. The identity has changed for the Texans; they went from a high flying passing team to a running smash mouth team. The Texans will go as far as running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate will take them. The Texans are backed up by a very good defense but the x factor will be QB Matt Schaub. Some believe with a healthy Schaub, the Texans would have made the Super Bowl last season. It will be interesting to see if the Texans continue to take steps in the right direction.
Well there you have it, two divisions down and six more to go. Be sure to leave me comments. Let me know if you think I am wrong or dead on.