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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

NFL AFC Breakdown

Following on from my NFC Breakdown post, this is my AFC version. As I mentioned in the NFC post, I am going to put up my ante-post picks on Thursday morning.

Week 1 Picks will begin on Thursday for the Green Bay-New Orleans season opener, and then I will have one post for Sunday games and one post for the two Monday Night Football games we have this week.

College Football picks will also begin to be made on Thursday for the Oklahoma State-Arizona game and I will then have one post covering my picks made for the Saturday games.

AFC East
New England Patriots: The New England Patriots made some decent moves in the offseason and look set to be a real threat in the AFC again. They signed Chad Ochocinco from Cincinnati and also brought in troubled Albert Haynesworth from Washington.

Ochocinco should provide the big play if he can get on the same page as Tom Brady and the rumours are that the Pats are lining up Randy Moss to come back after trading him away last season.

Albert Haynesworth will line up alongside Vince Wilfork and could cause carnage as the Pats try to protect a soft Secondary that was exposed at times last year.

Tom Brady was the MVP last season in the regular season and I expect the Pats to win the Division again.

New York Jets: The biggest opposition to the Pats will come from the loud-mouthed New York Jets who have once again talked about winning the SuperBowl. Rex Ryan has got the Defense in great shape, but the key could be how Plaxico Burress can get on after being signed in the offseason to help the Offense.

Mark Sanchez may also be given the chance to throw the ball a little more after the Jets relied heavily on their running game in the last 2 seasons.

They failed to sign Nnamdi Asomugha in the free agency market, but still have Darrelle Revis, arguably the best CB in the NFL and I expect the Jets will be playing postseason football again.

Miami Dolphins: I am a Miami Dolphin fan, but I am not holding out too much hope for the season.

After flirting with Jim Harbaugh, the Dolphins made themselves look like a joke by extending Tony Sparano's contract and the failure to bring in a QB means this team will be struggling.

The Defense is the more effective unit and could keep the Dolphins in games, but a lack of a pass rush outside of Cameron Wake means they are going to struggle this year and miss the Play Offs again.

Buffalo Bills: I was very surprised when the Bills traded away Lee Evans to the Baltimore Ravens, and did not bring in a QB for the new season. They played teams tough last season, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the answer and they could be in line to win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes in April.

The best chance of the Bills moving out of the basement in the East is if they can hand the Dolphins 2 defeats in their meetings.

Pittsburgh Steelers: This Steelers team is loaded with talent, but it will be interesting to see how they respond to their SuperBowl defeat last season, as previous years have seen them miss the Play Offs when reaching the big game.

However, they had won their last 2 appearances in the big game so this defeat in February may have lit a fire under the team to perform well.

The team looks built on both sides of the ball to go well this season and I think they will win the Division.

Baltimore Ravens: As has been the case for many seasons now, the Baltimore Ravens will be chasing Pittsburgh all the way in the Division.

They have upgraded the Offense with the capture of Lee Evans, although the losses of Todd Heap and Derrick Mason may not help Joe Flacco who would have been used to them as safety blankets.

Ray Rice should have another big season at RB, while there is nothing I can say about the Defense that no one knows already.

They did have a few problems in the Secondary last season, but that is an area the team has resolved to improve and they too should be reaching the postseason.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are a team in progress and should once again finish behind the big two teams in the Division. They showed plenty of promise last season with big wins over New England and New Orleans and they also pushed the Steelers in a game that was settled late.

Colt McCoy should improve in his 2nd season and I can see the Browns surprising some teams, but they are still a work in progress and finishing 3rd in the Division is the best they can hope for.

Cincinnati Bengals: While the Browns are a team in progress, the Bengals are just beginning a journey that has seen them lose Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco in the off-season.

That means they will be starting with Andrew Dalton and AJ Green, two rookies in key positions on the Offensive side of the ball.

The Defense also lost Jonathan Joseph at CB and it is going to be a tough season all round for this team.

Marvin Lewis guided them to 4-12 last season with Palmer, Ochocinco and Terrell Owens... I think they will do well to reach that number of wins again this year.

Indianapolis Colts: The team is getting older, but more worrying is the status of Peyton Manning who has not recovered from his neck surgery as expected.

The team brought in Kerry Collins as a veteran QB and could begin the season with him.

The bottom line for the Colts is this- if Manning misses significant time, they will not be making the Play Offs. The Defense can be stout on occasions, but a Manning-less Offense will struggle to put up the points to cover any deficiencies.

Houston Texans: This is a talented team that may be ready to finally push their way into the postseason. The Offense is loaded with playmakers from Matt Schaub (QB) to Andre Johnson (WR) and Arian Foster (RB).

Foster may miss the first month of the season, but the Texans are still expected to be capable of putting up points. The question is whether the Defense can actually create some stops?

Wade Phillips has been brought in as Defensive Co-Ordinator and I expect he will do good things for this unit. The signing of Jonathan Joseph is a huge upgrade in the Secondary, while the Run Defense is fairly strong.

The Texans will not have a better chance to win the South.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans fired Jeff Fisher in the offseason and also released Vince Young as they get ready for a new era in Nashville. Matt Hasselbeck will be given the keys to the Offense for the season and Chris Johnson has returned to the team to provide a real spark at RB.

The Defense is capable of producing big efforts, but over the course of the season I expect them to struggle as the transitional period continues.

The Titans will do well to finish 3rd in the Division.

Jacksonville Jaguars: In a surprising turn of events, David Garrard was released on Tuesday meaning the QB for the new season will be Luke McCown. There just seems to be a lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball, while the biggest star, Maurice Jones-Drew, looks to be hampered at the moment.

Jack Del Rio's job was under pressure at the end of last season, but he was given one more chance... Unfortunately, I think the Jags are going to struggle this season and Del Rio will not be here this time next year.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs were the surprise winners of the AFC West last season, but I think their defeat to the Baltimore Ravens in the Play Offs shows there is still a way to go at Arrowhead.

The signing of Steve Breaston gives the team a little more options on Offense but I am not sold on Matt Cassel at QB.

The team also took advantage of a ridiculously weak schedule last season and won't have the same benefits this year. Finishing above 0.500 will be an achievement.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are an annual regular season disappointment, starting poorly and just about making it into the Play Offs as a dangerous team- that all caught up with them last season.

Phillip Rivers is one of the best QBs in the NFL and will benefit from playing a full season with Vincent Jackson.

Bob Sanders (if he can stay healthy) and Takeo Spikes should improve the Defense and Corey Liuget is going to be a beast in the run Defense.

The Chargers look poised to reach the Play Offs, but they will not want a slow start this year.

Denver Broncos: After spending a lot of time thinking about trading away Kyle Orton, it seems Denver will be starting with him at QB.

Josh McDaniels killed the roster by trading away some huge pieces so this looks a transitional season for the Broncos.

Von Miller has looked good and should get plenty of opportunities to sack the QB with Elvis Dumervil on the other side, and there has been talk of double digit sacks for Von Miller.

Denver should play plenty of teams tough, but will do well to finish higher than 3rd in the Division.

Oakland Raiders: The Oakland Raiders had their best season since 2002 and decided to fire their Head Coach in response.

Losing Nnamdi Asomugha could really have a bad effect on this team as a whole as the Defense is likely to have a fall off in play.

Darren McFadden and Michael Bush should provide enough impetus to make the Raiders dangerous, but I think they will end in a familiar position of recent seasons at under 0.500

AFC East: New England Patriots
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South: Houston Texans
AFC West: San Diego Chargers

Wild Cards: New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens

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