It’s almost that time of year again! At last, America’s most favorite sport is right around and corner and officially close enough for us to talk about. Enough deflate-gate, enough Red Sox, let’s talk some football.
A tumultuous offseason is coming to an end and training camp is just a few short days away (so close, yet so far away). This NFL season is shaping up to be another good one, with every team getting a better shot at bringing home the Super Bowl title. This season being especially important because it marks the 50th season of the Super Bowl era and will focus all attention on Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco.
As opening night in Foxboro approaches, I will take a look at all 32 NFL teams and go in depth, division by division and give you my predictions for the upcoming football season. Are you ready for some football? Let’s get to it!
No better place to start than with my favorite team and defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and the rest of the AFC East.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have been the class of the AFC East ever since the hiring of Bill Belichick in 2000 and the emergence of Quarterback Tom Brady. This year seems no different as the Patriots attempt to defend their Super Bowl XLIX Championship.
The only thing that could possibly get in the way of a title defense is…well, themselves. The Patriots lost some keys parts of their Super Bowl squad, which could seem to be costly. Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner parted ways with the team over the offseason and were key cogs in the best secondary the Patriots have had since Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Rodney Harrison, and Asante Samuel had their turns roaming the defensive backfield. New England’s defensive backs in 2015 consist of a less stellar cast of characters with the likes of Logan Ryan, Patrick Chung, Bradley Fletcher (Jack Corsi’s favorite corner), Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler, etc. The biggest concern heading into the season is most definitely the defensive backfield and the front seven for the Patriots will have to carry their defense.
The offense is virtually the same besides the losses of running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. The running back position will be the biggest offensive concern for the Patriots. But with the greatest Quarterback of all time under center (pending suspension ruling), the worry should be minimal. The Patriots also acquired former Bills Tight End Scott Chandler, who will be a great compliment to All Pro Tight End Rob Gronkowski. Look for the Patriots to have another playoff bound year and yet another AFC East title.
Record Prediction: 12-4
Finishing up 2014 at .500, the Miami Dolphins again had a year where they looked like legitimate contenders and then fell off the map. I expect nothing less from the the Phins this year as not much has changed from last year’s squad. The Dolphins have some good young pieces, but it will just not be enough to get over the hump once again. The Dolphins defense will be solid, however, with the addition of premiere defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The only problem with this signing is the ignorant amount of money on his contract. Suh’s deal will eat up most of the Dolphins salary cap for years to come and will leave them without many options to sign great free agent talent. The defense of Miami will be difficult for opponents to figure out this year though.
The Dolphins offense is nothing special. The most impressive parts include running back Knowshon Moreno and wide receiver Jarvis Landry, as well as rookie wide receiver Devante Parker. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is an average NFL QB and has limited weapons. The Dolphins will hang around in the AFC East at the beginning and eventually lose it like they always do.
Record Prediction: 6-10
New York Jets
Oh, the Jets…we meet again, only this time without Rex Ryan. The Jets underwent a coaching change this offseason by firing head coach Rex Ryan and hiring the Cardinals Degensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. This move proved to be a long time coming for Rex as the Jets have been trending south for the past few years. As for Bowles, he looks to continue to improve an almost hopeless Jets team.
Looking at the 2015 New York squad, it is clear what their strength will be and that is defense. The Jets defensive front has been one of the more dominant ones in the NFL the past few seasons and there are no signs showing otherwise. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has become one of the premiere tackles in all of football and the Jets were able to draft rookie Leonard Williams at 6 overall, a steal compared to where experts thought he would be drafted. The Jets secondary also improved drastically as they were able to bring back money grubber Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. The Jets defense will be a force to be reckon with in the AFC East, but will have to carry the load as the offense is looking rather bleek with Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick battling it out for the Quarterback position with not many offensive weapons surrounding them. The Jets will hope to hold their opponents to under 10 points per game if they have any shot of winning and this could lead to another losing effort for ganggreen.
Record Prediction: 6-10
Nobody….and I mean nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills and it seems as if the Bills have found the perfect leader to circle their wagons. Just when we thought we had got away from Rex Ryan…he signs with Buffalo. Yes, Rex Ryan is the head coach of the Bills and will continue to be a thorn in the sides of Patriots fans for a bit longer. Ryan is stepping into a similar situation he had with the Jets by having a dominant defense, but some questions at quarterback and the rest of the offense.
The Bills have, I will say it, the best defensive line in all of football. This line includes three Pro Bowl players from a year ago in the likes of Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Marcell Dareus. The line also includes Pro Bowl caliber tackle Jerry Hughes. Rex Ryan has already a begun to preach his defense as a “Bully” and wants to punish his opponents. There is no doubt that the Bills defense has the ability to do this and will make it tough for opposing offenses.
The only issue for the Bills is their offensive question marks. Quarterback is yet again the biggest question mark for Buffalo as former Florida State Seminole E.J. Manuel and Matt Cassel will be competing for the starting job. The running back position has improved drastically with the addition of Lesean McCoy in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Sammy Watkins will carry the load for the Bills at the wide receiver position, but the offense lacks many other weapons. It is obvious to me, however, that Buffalo will be the toughest competition to the Patriots in the AFC East. I’m sure the Bills are looking closely at the results of the Brady appeal because they get the Patriots early in Week 2.
Record Prediction: 10-6
The AFC East is shaping up to be a defensive powerhouse and could lead to some very low scoring games. After all is said and done, I believe the Patriots will again take the AFC East crown and hope to make another deep playoff run and defend their Super Bowl title. The Bills are my dark horse in the East and could pull off a few upsets over the course of the season.
Next week, I will be taking a look at the AFC North and take a crack at predicting some more records as my AFC playoff picture begins to form.