By Professor Fred Whitted NORTH CAROLINA (BASN) — The title above...
Let the games finally begin (Conclusion)
It seems like the AFC has been growing stronger with each passing year.
The New Orleans Saints may have won the Super Bowl, but it will be very difficult to repeat. Teams like the Ravens, Jets, the Machine in NAP Town (for those who don’t know that name, it is Indianapolis) and their beloved Colts.
Yes, even the Black and Silver might join this elite club. The Cincinnati Bengals might have two of the best wide receivers in the history of the game. Who will now be on the same field?
Let’s take an in-depth look at the American Football Conference.
1. The resurging New York Jets have a few issues that need to be resolved before the start of this season. The treatment of defensive specialist cornerback, Darrelle Revis was shameful and might have some repercussions in the defensive huddle.
The Green Goblins have not done much since the Namath days. Former SIU Saluki LB Bart Scott will make opponents sweat all winter. They are also waiting for the return of WR Santonio Holmes from his five-game suspension. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson might have found a home on the East Coast. The J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS should end their appearance on Hard Knocks because it is creating that 10 percent mental advantage of opponents who already don’t like them. Just ask the Patriots and Dolphins. The Jets are hanging their hat on second-year quarterback, Mark Sanchez, but they better be quick to put in Mark Brunell or Kellen Clemens.
2. The New England Patriots already dislike the Jets because of the HBO show. Coaches “Cheater” Belichick and “Potty mouth” Ryan are in a complete meltdown in regards to AFC East peace negotiations. Quarterback Tom Brady said he would not be watching the show and that he could not wait to meet them on the field. RBs Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris should relieve some of the pressure on Brady this year. This should be wide receiver Wes Welker breakout year with Randy Moss being in his contract year.
Look out AFC, New England could return to the Super Bowl this year.
3. The Miami Dolphins also have a grudge against their northern enemies in New York.
They also don’t like one of their own wearing Jet green in linebacker Jason Taylor. Tony Sparano will still use the NFL’s version of the Wildcat with Chad Henne and Ronnie Brown there to execute it. Running back Ricky Williams could be an asset or liability depending where his head may be.
Miami has a very young receiving corp. that will be continuing to learn how to play the game.
4. The Buffalo Bills will be in last place once again. They will not win as many games as they did last year. Playing in Toronto might help them. My question to the Buffalo organization is why did you sign T.O. last year, when you did not have a quarterback to get the ball to him? Oh yeah, I forgot, FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY
1. The Indianapolis Colts have the NFL’s version of “The Machine” and his name is quarterback Payton Manning. No. 18 has won more games in this decade than any other quarterback. Indy just replaces pieces and keep on rolling. They even put in place a new head coach (Jim Caldwell) and he wins his first 14 games. The Colts and Caldwell could very easily repeat this feat. Running back Joseph Addai should make life easier this year. Tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Reggie Wayne will fly up and down the field on Manning’s passes.
We love WR Pierre Garcon and his assistance to his homeland in Haiti. Teams better keep an weary eye on former Rutgers MLB Gary Brackett from the great state of New Jersey. K Adam Vinatieri is like the energizer bunny that just keeps kicking field goals.
2. The Tennessee Titans will finally have Vince Young as their starting QB. The Titan defense has to keep VY in the game for them to have any chance of victories. Hopefully head coach Jeff Fisher will not undermine the start of the season like he did last year.
3. Here’s the Jacksonville Jaguars season in a nutshell. If quarterback David Garrard slips — which is unlikely — the organization will quickly put Luke McCown in his place. Garrard has proven over and over again that he can play in this league. This team has improved with each passing year but it is tough to catch the Colts in this division.
RBs Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings should help the running attack. However, don’t sleep on rookie Deji Karim from Southern Illinois. Hope he can show the Jacksonville organization that he can contribute. How can you lose with a name like rookie TE Marcedes Lewis from UCLA?
4. The Houston Texans still have growing pains. Houston keeps taking two steps forward and one step back. This will be another step back year. QB Matt Schaub really does not know whether he likes his new job with his new team. Now may have to share the job with Matt Leinart — what a mess!! If the offensive line keep either QB upright, the Texans will win games. I really don’t know if the Texans are in the wrong division or are still an expansion team. Could they reach 8-8 this year? Yes, If they win all of their games outside of their division.
1. I’m still annoyed at the way the league and the Pittsburgh Steelers handled the Big Ben rape case. The Steelers have three African American backup quarterbacks (Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch, and Byron Leftwich) that could start for a number of teams in the AFC. Dixon will start the first four games while Leftwich is currently dealing with a leg injury. Look for one to be released once Big Ben returns. WRs Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El will make Steeler fans happy again this year.
2. The Baltimore Ravens are a defense powerhouse led by veteran LB Ray Lewis who stated this summer that he wants to play in another Super Bowl. Baltimore may have to make a decision at the quarterback position between Marc Bulger or Joe Flacco. Many Raven fans are not sold on Flacco’s style. The Ravens need to get back to the running game and Willis McGahee might have to carry the load this year. Wide receiver Donte Stallworth will break a few long passes but Ravens will come up short again this year. The Wild Card will not come from this division. 3. The Cincinnati Bengals will be the team to watch in the AFC this year. QB Carson Palmer could be the weak link in this organization. This year, he has the job of negotiator between two Hall of Fame WRs in Terrell Owens and Chad Ocho Cinco. Cincy is loaded and ready to run teams off the field outscoring everybody. Running Back Cedric Benson has to balance this strike force. It will be interesting to see who will be doubled covered or will teams go into a zone defense. In any case, head coach Marvin Lewis is in a very favorable position. The only negative thing is that only one team will be coming out of this division.
4. As for the Cleveland Browns. Do we really have to write anything about this dysfunctional team?
Overrated or is it underrated QB Jake Delhomme will guide this team until rookie Colt McCoy is really to step in. Backup QB Seneca Wallace may want to send his resume to other teams so he can find a job behind center. This very young running back corp will have to grow into their role of carrying the team and running down the clock in critical times. Right now it’s just not there. They could lose 12 games this year.
1. The Oakland Raiders will be battling it out with Chargers for the West crown. The Black and Silver finally have a leader at the QB position in Jason Campbell who has inspired the Raider offense. RB Darren McFadden has to solidify the Raider running game so Campbell can set in the pocket and not run for his life. This will be his fifth offensive coordinator in the last six years. WR Darrius Hayward-Bey has to make a statement this year.
This is a very young receiving corp. that will have to grow up together.
The defense has always been the key to Black and Silver victories. Many fans see a resemblance to the Old Raider defensive teams with Richard Seymour and John Henderson. Sam Williams will anchor the linebacking corps with former Cal Bear Nnamdi Asomugha being their best defensive player on the field. The Black and Silver could be in the playoffs for the first time since 2002
2. The San Diego Chargers are destined for second place in this division. Phillip Rivers is another overrated QB with a lackluster backup Billy Volek. This could be the Achillies heel of the Chargers. They released LT and that could be the end of the Charger reign in the West.They will play Darren Sproles and pray that rookie Ryan Mathews will be ready. New acquisition Patrick Crayton must step up to help Rivers avoid the pass rush.
In their last preseason game, he was looking up at the beautiful stars in the Northern California sky, as they were being sacked by rushing 49ers linebackers.
3. The Kansas City Chiefs are another team in transition. Matt Cassel at QB still leaves everyone scratching their heads. The new assistant coaching staff might need to pull a rabbit out of their hat (again??) just as Bullwinkle did many years ago for Rocky, the flying squirrel. Adding to the ex-Patriot influence, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennell have been brought on to improve this struggling team. Veteran RB Thomas Jones will have to carry the ball more to relieve Cassel. Another veteran, WR Chris Chambers will be the anchor of the receiving corps.
4. The Denver Broncos will be at the bottom of this division. QBs Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn know their days are numbered in the Mile High City.
They are just waiting for their new hero, Tim Tebow to take their place. Mr. Tebow has to prove it to many sports fans that he can produce.
Where did the Broncos get this young head coach, Josh McDaniels? Denver will move on from the Shanahan days. The Orange Crush defense did not scare anybody last year nor will they scare anybody this year. Their 1-3 preseason record just proves the point.