power remains in the American Football Conference
once again! The defending champion Pittsburgh
Steelers return as do their division rival Cincinnati
Bengals. The Patriots will make another go at
their 4th title and the Dolphins added their
best quarterback since the legendary Dan Marino
in Daunte Culpepper. In the South, it looks
like Payton Manning will have to do with only
two Pro Bowls at the skill positions and in
the West, the Broncos can take advantage of
major changes in their division rivals makeup.
Lets check out each division and even more in
this AFC Preview.
New England Patriots (12-4) - The Patriots lost
clutchness in LB Willie McGinest, WR David Givens
and K Adam Vinatieri but the still have head
coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady and DE-DT
Richard Seymour. There are questions at the
LB position and always a concern in the secondary
but if anyone can mask problems it's the Patriots
defense led by Tedy Bruschi. The offense added
rookie Laurence Maroney (U of Minnesota) and
traded late for WR Doug Gabriel, formerly of
Oakland just in case holdout WR Deion Branch
doesnt stay in town!
Miami Dolphins (10-6) - Suprising team in 2005
will play well again under head coach Nick Saban.
The defense, highly touted already, added DT
Dan Wilkerson and defensive coordinator Dom
Capers and the offense actually went out and
traded for former Minnesota Viking Daunte Culpepper
to lead the offensive attack featuring TE Randy
McMichael, WR Chris Chambers and RB Ronnie Brown.
3. Buffalo Bills (6-10) - New rebuilding project
under new coach Dick Jauron and GM Mary Levy.
PJ Losman will have the QB job to start the
season and with no Eric Moulds the will depend
on the run game heavily, so expect a stacked
8 man front from opposing defenses. Thedefense
will be solid with the return of LB Takeo Spikes
but will get tired trying to keep this team
in games. Special teams are always good in Buffalo
and so is the home field advantage so expect
a surprise or two!
New York Jets (4-12) - Soon to be Pro Football
Hall of Famer Curtis Martin may not play till
November or even get cut and there are questions
about returning starting QB Chad Pennington's
arm strength. Oh, did I forget to mention the
lose of DE John Abraham and a new head coach
in former Bill Belichick assistant Eric Mangini?
Yep, it's gonna be a long season for the J-E-T-S!
Jets! Jets! Jets!
Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) - Just because
you win the division doesn't mean you'll win
in the playoffs as Cincinnati knows after they
loss Carson Palmer and the game last season
versus division rival and eventually Super Bowl
champion Pittsburgh. With that said Palmer is
back looking great and showed the ability to
score with anyone. The starting receivers are
the best two in football (Chad Johnson and T.J.
Houshmanzadeh) and Rudi Johnson is quietly one
of the best in the game too! The defense added
heavy DT Sam Adams, who played with head coach
Marvin Lewis in Baltimore, and Dexter Jackson
joins a interception happy secondary. This was
no one trick tiger, the Bengals are a playoff
team once again.
Steelers (9-7) - The champs return with a majority
of their starters still here but the loss of
RB Jerome Bettis and DT Kimo von Oelhoffen will
be underestimated and the loss of Antwaan Randle
El will hurt the creativity of the offense under
Whisenhunt. This team will play well as usual
under head coach Bill Cowher but will miss the
umph it had last year and rumors of Cowher's
departure wont help! Expect a wildcard appearance
at least though unless there is injuries!
Baltimore Ravens (8-8) - The team did excellent
in the off-season adding QB Steve McNair and
RB Mike Anderson on offense and adding huge
DT Haloti Ngata to keep offensive linemen off
of LB Ray Lewis. The combination of WR Derrick
Mason and McNair (former teammates in Tennessee)
and TE Todd Heap will raise the offensive numbers
this season but the offensive line might not
hold up long enough from week to week to keep
this team in the hunt down the stretch.
Browns (6-10) - The Browns hope that their young
receivers WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow
will be health but even if they are this team
isn't going to win much in this division yet.
The defense was bolstered with the edition of
Willie McGinest (formerly of
New England) and Ted Washington (Oakland) but
their secondary is still suspect! The offensive
line problems will be helped out with the addition
of C Hank Fraley (Philadelphia Eagles) but they
won't give second year QB Charlie Frye enough
time to make plays down the
stretch. They will be competitve most games
and fall short! Sounds like Cleveland!
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) - The loss of Edgerrin
James will be felt but this team showed last
season that their defense did have the ability
to win close games. Running will be more grind
it out with rookie RB Joseph Addai (LSU) and
Dominick Rhodes but when you got QB
Payton Manning and the passing options of TE
Dallas Clark and WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie
Wayne they will manage! They are fortunate they
play in the second (only to the NFC West) worst
division in football because they have breaks
in Tennessee and Houston who Manning has just
Jaquars (9-6) - The surprising loss of WR Jimmy
Smith will force QB Byron Leftwich to find a
new favorite receiver. The receivers are all
tall and leading candidates for Leftwich's candidates
include WR Matt Jones, the former Arkansas QB,
WR Ernest Wilford and rookie TE Marcedes Lewis.
The running game has Fred Taylor and he's always
capable of great things when healthy (a big
if) but the loss of FB/RB Greg Jones will hurt.
This team is lead by it's defense and big DTs
Marcus Stroud and "Big" John Henderson
Titans (4-12) - This team traded away it's franchise
QB Steve McNair and brought in new franchise
QB Vince Young but he won't play right away.
That starting QB job will go to recent signee
veteran Kerry Collins. The offense added WR
David Givens and C Kevin Mawae,
both veterans and leaders. The defense will
keep them in games led by LB Keith Bulluck,
LE Kyle Vanden Bosch and recent signee and former
Steeler FS Chris Hope but they wont be able
to score with more potent
offenses. This team will compete every game
but will lose close because they just don't
have stars on the field yet.
Texans (3-13) - This team made a questionable
decision when they didn't pick Reggie Bush in
the 2006 NFL Draft and now leading RB Dominick
Davis is lost too! New head coach Gary Kubiak
has some problems at many positions but the
offense which was finally getting QB David Carr
some support with the addition of WR Eric Moulds
and C Mike Flanagan in free agency but now the
run game has holes. The defense isn't great
either and DE Mario Williams will help greatly
but he's not Bush on offense for this porous
team! A season of improved but inconsistent
play followed by high draft pick should be expected
from this team.
Denver Broncos (10-6) - This team disappointed
many in the playoffs last season but they still
look to be the best in the west! The offense
gets a boost from a healthy import in receiver
Javon Walker and rookie ball carrier Mike Bell
(Arizona). Jake Plummer had his best season
as a pro last season and will benefit from head
coach Mike Shanahan's aggresive and beautiful
playcalling. The defense was stout till they
met Pittsburgh in the playoffs in the so expect
hunger from this unit led by LB Al Wilson, CB
Champ Bailey (now healthy) and FS John Lynch.
The home field advantage and special teams are
always good for the Broncos ans expect their
experience to lead them to the division title.
Diego Chargers (9-7) - This team will be good
but the loss of QB Drew Brees coupled with the
first starting experience of QB Philip Rivers
NFL career will cause some small bumps. The
offense features the best running back in the
league in LaDainian Tomlinson, the best fullback
in the league in Lorenzo Neal and the best TE
in Antonio Gates but the receivers are just
ok and the offensive line has some holes despite
C Nick Hardwick. The defense is led by second
year stud LB Shawne Merriman and DT Jamal Williams
and should be better because they had younger
players who got more experienced last year but
they have no definite playmakers in the secondary
and can be had on the deep throws! This team
needs to get ahead quick and let the dawgs loose
on defense or else!
City Chiefs (7-9) - This team lost it's two
starting offensive tackles in John Welbourn
and Pro Football Hall of Famer to be Willie
Roaf so Larry Johnson will have to hit the holes
really quick if he's trying to ge that 2000
yards many predict him to get! The offense will
be ok with QB Trent Green and TE Tony Gonzalez
but will have to play more controlled to win
and that will be just fine under new head coach
Herman Edwards gameplan. The defense added Ty
Law (NY Jets) at cornerback and he will help
this turnover happy but overall poor defense.
Special teams will help as they have Dante Hall
on kick and punt return but this season will
be a slight rebuilding year in K.C.. The team
won't have the tackles, RB Priest Holmes and
will need to see who can play for Edwards, a
different coach than his mentor and former
K.C. coach Dick Vermeil.
Oakland Raiders (6-10) - This team will play
with passion now that Art Shell has returned
from the abyss but they just don't have enough
to be kings in this division. The defense is
old and has questions at every level and the
offense while explosive is a also inconsistent!
Randy Moss and Jerry Porter rival Cincinnati
for the best in the AFC but they need a consistent
running game led by LaMont Jordan and a pass
catching tight end to get the coverage off them.
New QB Aaron Brooks has a lot of skills but
couldn't prove to be the man in New Orleans.
Brooks has a talent around him but can he make
good decisions? That question and the offensive
line could answer the Raiders season question.
MVP: Donovan McNabb (Eagles)
Offensive Player of the Year: LaDainian Tomlinson
Defensive Player of the Year: Ed Reed (Ravens)
Coach of the Year: Nick Saban (Dolphins)
Rookie of the Year: Laurence Maroney (Patriots)
Broncos over Dolphins
Bengals over Steelers
Patriots over Bengals
Broncos over Colts
to NFC Preview
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