Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Friday, August 26, 2005

NFL Preview: AFC East

2004 Standings:

New England: 14-2
NY Jets: 10-6
Buffalo: 9-7
Miami: 4-12

The Patriots are good. The Patriots are good. The Patriots are good. The Patriots are good. And, as my all-time favorite *sarcasm* sportswriter Stephen A. Smith would say.... "They have Tom Brady. Quite frankly, that's all you need." Cue stupid little white-man dance shuffle that makes me laugh every single time, aaaaaaaannnnddddd...... break! By the way, this might be the strongest conference in the AFC. The Jets were a missed field-goal away from the AFC Championship, Buffalo was the most improved team in the NFL, and even Miami beat New England in what most experts refer to as.... a miracle.

New England:
What's there to say? I have learned never to doubt the Patriots until they lose. The task this year will be to win without super-coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, while their defense will be without the heart and soul of the team in Tedy Bruschi. Will that matter? Doubtful.

Key Losses: Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, LB Tedy Bruschi (for the season), LB Ted Johnson, CB Ty Law, G Joe Andruzzi

Key Additions: LB Chad Brown, LB Monty Beisel, CB Duane Starks, QB Doug Flutie

Offense: Is there a weakness in this offense? You have Tom Brady, one of the most efficient and smartest quarterbacks I have ever seen. You just almost never see him make a poor decision, though the Hawks made him make a few, and, for some reason, he always sucks against the Dolphins. You have Dillon running the football, who is a horse, durable, and can carry the team if Brady is ever off. You have a decent offensive line, not the best, but one that doesn't cause the big mistakes and opens the holes for Dillon. You have an improving wide receivers corp led by now superstar Givens and not-far-behind Deion Branch. Let's not forget a great tight-end in Daniel Graham. Wow. How in the world do you stop this team? If you take the Miami approach, you try to get continuous pressure on Tom Brady IF your cornerbacks are good enough to work in single coverage. Brady becomes a tad gun-shy if he is always sitting on his bum when a play is over. Besides that, if you play the Patriots, just plan on needing to score over 20 points, because this offense will do their job. It might not be fancy, but it works.

Gavin: Is there a weakness to this offense? Yes, there are two. The offensive line lost some key performers and may struggle. As Colin noted below, the loss of Charlie Weis to Tom Brady may turn out to be extremely important. However, Brady is one of the smartest QBs in the league and shouldn't disappoint. Corey Dillon may end up being the staple, and he is a feature back. If he remains healthy he could come close to leading the AFC. The wide receivers are young and getting better, and I actually see Branch as better than Givens.

Defense: Bill Belichick will have to re-earn his "guru" label this season, because the defense, at least on paper, has holes in it for the first time in years. Start with the absence of Crennel, Bruschi, and Law. These individuals were the heart and soul of the team. They always stepped up for the big play when needed. Crennel knew how to motivate and how to game-plan as well as Belichick did. Is ex-Cardinal Duane Starks the answer at CB? He's decent, but he is not the shut-down corner Ty Law was (and is). Will Chad Brown remain healthy? Recent evidence would say, "Of course not." And anyone should know that a linebacker from KC will not be a huge addition to the team. This defense will have something to prove. NT Vince Wilfork showed massive improvement last season. He will have to continue that to allow Richard Seymour the freedom to roam. Willie McGinest needs his body to hold up another season, because his leadership and knack for big plays (especially against the Colts) played a huge role last year. This defense still will be good, but I don't see spectacular in their future. They could prove me wrong, though. The Patriots usually do.

Gavin: Have to agree with Colin here. There are some major questions surrounding this defense. The loss of LB Tedy Bruschi and the retirement of LB Ted Johnson are huge losses. There's a reason the Pats got by last year with a CB corp of a wide receiver and a guy named after the band Earth, Wind, Fire. Their linebackers were so amazing that they could patrol the entire center of the field and make plays. Still, Rosevelt Colvin could step up and be the man he was in Chicago before going to New England, and they still have LB Mike Vrabel. I was watching the TV and the commentators siad the New England secondary was amazing. I'm not convinced. They could really struggle against a quality passing attack. Still, this is Bill Belicheck's team, and I won't doubt until I see them lose consistently.

Overhyped Myth: Tom Brady is not, quite frankly, all you need. The reason for the Pats success remains amazing game-planning and impeccable execution on both sides of the football. Personally, if Brady was injured for a few games, I would expect the Patriots to play just as well with Doug Flutie.

Understated Reality: Duane Starks is worse than Ty Law. Chad Brown is worse than Tedy Bruschi. This defense, thus, will be worse. Probably not a LOT worse, but it will be worse. It has to be. Right? Is Belichick that much of a magician?

General Prognosis:
They will make the playoffs. They will win playoff games. They are the favorite to win it all. Bill Simmons will write many glowing reviews that will make me want to puke. What more do you want?

Early Season Game I'm Looking Forward To: That Pittsburgh game, same as Gavin. Game of the 1st half of the season. Bar none.

NY Jets:
What a terrible way to lose a playoff game. Almost as bad as your most consistent receiver dropping a pass in the end zone, eh? The Jets are hungry for a shot at the top. Coach Edwards has seemed to learn the basics of clock management, the inestimable Paul Hackett was given a pink slip, assuring that the offense will open up, the defense looks incredible..... very, very few holes here. Perhaps the 2nd best team in the AFC..... if Chad Pennington is healthy.

Key Losses: RB Lamont Jordan, TE Anthony Becht (though any Jets fan would tell you that they were glad to see him go), RT Kareem McKenzie, NT Jason Ferguson, WR Santana Moss

Key Additions: CB Ty Law, WR Laveraneus Coles, K Mike Nugent, TE Doug Jolley

Offense: This is an offense that needs two specific things to happen in order to succeed. #1. Chad Pennington's arm must not fall off. As it is, people are still not sure about his arm strength. Will he be able to throw the ball to Coles? #2. Can Curtis Martin keep it up? That last year was incredible, and Martin is a year older. Running backs don't usually improve at this age. In fact, they usually pull an Eddie George and become completely incapable of bursting through a hole. I stand by my previous statement that they may be the 2nd best team in the AFC, but both those situations will have to come true. Personally, I believe that something in the middle will occur. The Jets will win by their defense, so they only need an adequate offense to succeed. Martin should still get 1000 yards, and Pennington will remain one of the most disciplined and accurate quarterbacks in the NFL. The offensive line remains a strength, led by C Kevin Mawae, who the Seahawks should have never let escape. Don't forget Mike Nugent's addition to this offense. I was one of the 5 people in America who liked that draft pick. I watched Nugent at OSU. There is a reason why people were referring to him as the MVP of college football. He can kick the ball a mile WITH tremendous accuracy. If the Jets get to the oppenent's 35 yard line, they are almost guaranteed points on the board. There is a psychological edge there that will take some pressure of Pennington and Martin.

Gavin: This analysis is where Colin was overcome by Jay Bilas disease. He also sees the Jets offense as "long". 2nd best team in the AFC? Is the heat getting to you in Phoenix? This offense needs a lot of help. Chad Pennington is an overhyped QB who lacks arm strength. Curtis Martin at some point will slow down and he doesn't have Lamont Jordan to spell him this season. The wide receiver lineup is pretty darn poor, no tight end of note. Don't you think they could have spent a first round pick upgrading one of the above positions instead of Nugent and picked him up in the second round? Why, yes! This offense isn't one of a top five AFC team.

Defense: The strength of this team, and perhaps one of the top-5 defenses in the NFL. You have Ty Law as one of the cornerbacks, assuring you of shutting down the Givens and Harrisons of the world. Jonathan Vilma turned himself into an excellent MLB, one that can easily direct the defense and one who will NOT miss a tackle. The defensive line remains strong, with Abraham providing the rush and Robertson plugging the middle. Forget the names, though. This defense, year in and year out, just seems to perform. Coach Herm knows the right buttons to press, and they always step up in big games. I have no idea why. There are bigger names in several defenses, including Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and New England. However, I expect the Jets to remain with them through the entire season. In fact, they might challenge whatever record there is of most games decided by 1-3 points the entire season. Like.... every game.

Gavin: Alright, this is better. Still, many legitimate questions do surround Ty Law's effectiveness coming off this latest injury. Jonathan Vilma is a major stud. John Abraham is a major stud. This is a terrific overall defense and will keep the Jets in many a game.

Overhyped Myth: The loss of Paul Hackett will drastically improve the offense. Sorry, but the weapons just aren't there. Pennington's arm might not be able to fling it over 30 yards, Coles is the only receiving weapon, and you can't expect Martin to match his numbers of a year ago. I agree that Hackett had to go, but there is no way that this offense will be "wide open" this year.

Gavin: And yet... the second best team in the AFC???

Understated Reality: Losing Lamont Jordan will hurt. He allowed Martin rest, and provided an excellent 1-2 punch that most teams, especially Seattle, couldn't handle. His loss will weaken that offense even more then it already is.

General Prognosis: It's easy to look at this team and predict them to lose 9-10 games. The hype might be too much for this team. However, I believe in these guys, and expect that aggressive defense to carry the Jets to the postseason, to lose in the 1st round because of what might turn into a horrible offense.

Gavin: This is where Colin pulls a Joe Morgan and contradicts himself. Second best team in the AFC or easy to predict a 9 loss team? Seems a little wierd. Look, the Jets are not going to be a terrific team. They are going to be okay and are going to challenge for a playoff spot but aren't going to be able to challenge for a title.

Early Season Game I'm Looking Forward To: October 2nd at Baltimore. Defense vs. Defense. Who will win?

Does anyone know what to expect from this team? J.P. Losman is thrown into the fire with massive expectations on his shoulders and few people but Mel Kiper Jr. believing in him. Willis McGahee no longer has Travis Henry looking over his shoulder. That Bills defense must once again be a Top-5 defense.

Key Losses: QB Drew Bledsoe, LT Jonas Jennings, DT Pat Williams, RB Travis Henry

Key Additions: LT Mike Gandy, QB Kelly Holcombe

Offense: All Willis, all the time. That has to be the strategy going into this season. Bledsoe had to go, as everyone outside of Bill Parcells realizes that Bledsoe is done as an effective quarterback. Buffalo has to be hoping for a Roethlisberger-type year from Losman, one where the new quarterback has little to no pressure while the running game carries the offense to 18-24 points a game. McGahee seems to be completely injury-free, but the Bills will live in constant apprehension about that knee giving out once again. Losman has not looked good so far in the preseason, but if the Bills win early without depending on the passing game, he might be able to settle down and understand that he has a terrific wide receiving corps. Eric Moulds has consistently been incredible for several years now, while Lee Evans stepped into his own last year, catching everything thrown his way and perhaps surpassing Moulds as the #1 receiver on the team. Basically, the weapons are all there. This offense depends on Losman limiting his mistakes and playing within himself, while allowing McGahee to run roughshod over opposing defenses. That, honestly, just might work.

Gavin: Colin's right, the weapons are all there. It's all on JP Losman. If he can have a Roesthlisberger type season, this team wins 10 games. If he has a Boller type season, this team wins 7 games. Pretty simple.

Defense: It just might work because this defense was the 2nd best defense in the NFL last year. What a division for defense! New England, the Jets, Miami...... these are all potential top-1o defenses, all residing in the same division! Sam Adams should once-again use his gigantic weight for good, plugging huge holes in the middle the way that he never did in Seattle (no, I'm not bitter). The linebacking corps is the best outside of possibly Baltimore, led by Posey and Takeo Spikes. They are fast, they fly to the football, and they are extremely smart. Excellent against both the pass and the run. Troy Vincent, a consummate professional, is making the switch from corner to safety. I expect him to shine in that position, adequately becoming the last line of defense for Buffalo. By the way, Nate Clements is another stud at cornerback. Basically, I don't see a weak spot here. You can't run against these guys. You can't consistently pass against these guys unless you have Randy Moss. Basically, you have a defense that should, barring injuries, be automatically placed into the top-5 defenses and could easily be the #1 defense in the NFL. This team might eerily remind you of a certain Baltimore team that won the Super Bowl a few years ago.

Overhyped Myth: J.P. Losman is ready to seamlessly step into the starting role. I expect some problems for this guy in the first few weeks of the season. It will be up to McGahee and the defense to win for the first month and a half, and we might see a start from Kelly Holcombe before Halloween. Losman has a long way to go, and expectations in Buffalo are a little too high to allow normal 1st year starter jitters.

Understated Reality: This team could vie for the Super Bowl. Easily. That defense is awesome. McGahee is awesome. The wide receivers are awesome. All they need is an adequate performance by the quarterback, basically where the QB doesn't lose the game for them with costly turnovers. This will be one exciting division to watch.

General Prognosis: See above. For all the hype surrounding the Jets (to which I'm contributing), this is the team that might be able to take it to the Patriots. The Pats might be vulnerable to the run, and that defense might be able to pressure Tom Brady into some mistakes. A lot of mights, but I could really see it.

Early Season Game I'm Looking Forward To: October 30 at New England. If Losman is still starting, this is the game of the season for the Bills. A win here WILL carry the Bills into the postseason.

Ta da! Nick Saban is here to save the day! He's brought his sidekick Ricky Williams back to provide entertainment while rookie Ronnie Brown brings the running attack back to Miami. That defense still has a little sparkle left in it, and they have players that, together, create a semblance of an offense, so that means something, right?

Key Losses: QB Jay Fiedler, CB Patrick Surtain, assorted junk

Key Additions: DE Kevin Carter, DT Vonnie Holliday, SS Tebucky Jones, RB Ronnie Brown, RB Ricky Williams, coordinator Scott Linehan

Offense: Yuck. They scored 275 points last year, and might struggle to score that many this year judging by the preseason. That's what happens when A.J. Feeley is supposed to be your starting quarterback. WHAT??? The offensive line is a joke, which means that whoever runs, whether Williams or Brown, isn't going that far. The wide receivers corp is..... a joke. Marty Booker? Blah. Chris Chambers? Under..... ACHIEVER..... Randy McMichael at TE? Blah. Honestly, Nick Saban might be pining for his offense at LSU before this season is over. There is a LOT of work that needs to be done here. I can't even write everything I want to about how bad they are. Basically, I am a 6'5" gangly, white guy with glasses and little to no depth perception. I might be a key addition to this offense. Eric Karabell, the ESPN Fantasy Football guru, might be a key addition to this offense. Tony Reali might be a key addition to this offense. John Clayton might be a key addition to this offense. You get the picture. They. Are. Bad. At least they won't be on Monday Night Football every week like last year.

Gavin: The Dolphins have to be a huge reason why the NFL is trying to change how Monday Night and Sunday Night Football are scheduled, because they almost singlehandedly wrecked ABC's ratings. Utterly unwatchable. There should be no way a team that bad gets scheduled that often and the Hawks have to beg and scrape for everything they get. Will the offense be better? Not if AJ Feeley is the QB. Not with the jokers they have for an offensive line. I'm still going to avoid this team like the plague.

Defense: What happened to this once-proud franchise? Sure, Zach Thomas is still there, along with Jason Taylor. By themselves they should hold this defense up to at least decent. Beyond that.... Junior Seau is not a difference maker, and he hasn't been in 5 years. Kevin Carter might be decent, but he has consistently underachieved in every place he has been. Same goes for Vonnie Holliday. Again, don't count on anyone from the Chiefs to make a huge difference on the defensive end. They might be fine against the run, but they will be extremely vulnerable against the pass. Losing Surtain will hurt. Sam Madison is, what, 40 years old now? A couple of no-names round out the secondary. Saban prides himself on a great defense. He might need to wait a year or two to do that in the NFL. Don't forget the strain the offense will place on this defense. They will basically be trying to pitch a shutout every game. They will be playing with the lead probably 20% of the time. Finally, they will be on the field 70% of the time, so they will be extremely tired by the 4th quarter. Yowch.

Gavin: Stay away from this defense from a fantasy perspective. Old. Older. Oldest. That's the Miami defense. I look for them to crumble.

Overhyped Myth: Nick Saban will save the day. Um, no. No coach could get to .500 with these guys. They need a quarterback, badly. In fact, I'm a little surprised they didn't pick up Jeff George. He can't be any worse.

Understated Reality: Ricky Williams will be a non-factor. Have you seen him this preseason? He has no drive. He is doing this to get back the money that was going to be taken from him. He is just fine to be Ronnie Brown's backup. For all the news that has been printed on him, he will not matter to the NFL season.

General Prognosis: Um.... suckage? General suckage? They should battle the Titans for the worst team in the AFC. They might win that battle depending on when Steve McNair gets injured. WHEN. He gets injured. Nick Saban will be bald by the end of this season. A 3 win team, 4 at the most.

Early Season Game I'm Looking Forward To: None? OK, Sept. 11 against Denver. For some reason. Who am I kidding? I'll flip the channel if I ever see them on my television.

A classic tale of 3 strong teams and their runt brother that tails along, trying desperately to be part of the crowd. Do not be surprised if the eventual AFC champion comes out of this division.

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:35 PM  0 comments


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