THE AFC East and West divisions are very similar, with some pretenders becoming contenders and those who are used to being leaders becoming bottom feeders.
These divisions could go either way, other experts say that they can’t call it. Me? I’m willing to give it a go.
When looking at the East division it is not etched in stone as in the past with all signs pointing to New England dominance.
“Deflate Gate” and its resulting four-game suspension of Tom Brady, and then not, the alleged greatest quarterback ever (typed dripping with sarcasm in case some of you missed it, I will only recognise Brady as the greatest cheater ever) had left the mighty Patriots starting second year man Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback for the first four games, but that’s one bridge they won’t have to cross now. However, you can subtract LeGarrett Blount and his two-game suspension for marijuana possession.
Key free agent departures (Darell Revis and Brandon Browner) as well as injuries, Brandon LaFell on the PUP list and an anemic WR corps outside of Julian Edelman still leaves the Patriots with many questions to answer. Coupled with the grim possibility of starting 1-3 (their schedule is that tough), unfamiliar territory for New England to say the least, it leaves this division wide open.
And now that Brady’s reinstated I’m sticking by my guns, even more so because I know ‘Karma’ exists and I think she’s about to get involved in the NFL and with Brady at some point this season.
Like we say in the Bahamas ‘God make ugly, but He don’t like it’.
The arrival of Rex Ryan means an already stout defence will get even tougher and the offensive side of the football is no slouch either.
The additions of LeSean McCoy at running back to go with the solid, reliable, veteran backup in Fred Jackson, and a very talented youth movement at wide receiver in the likes of Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin (allegedly no longer a locker room cancer since his reunion with Rex Ryan) and Chris Hogan ... offensive co-ordinator Greg Roman should have fun deploying this speedy unit. Throw in new free agent signing Charles Clay at TE and the Bills are quite potent and deep on both sides of the ball.
A definite threat to win the division at 10-6 and in the playoff hunt, if not division champions.
This is a precarious position to be in for head coach “Stith Lord” Bill Bellicheat ... (pardon me) Belichick.
“Deflate Gate”, the “Brady Suspension” and then NOT! The post-happy hour inebriated press conference rants courtesy of owner Robert Kraft. Key free agent losses, injuries and the constant media scrutiny now firmly affixed to the franchise make it no easy road for the Patriots. Their usual guaranteed division dominance is set to be challenged from all sides.
However, if any coach can weather the storm and play the hand he’s dealt (whether he does it fairly or not remains to be seen) it’s Belichick.
To this end I will play it safe, and say they finish up 10-6 or 11-5 and contend for the division as well as a playoff berth.
Whether it’s in the numbers record and tiebreaker wise for the Patriots is still a question that will be answered later in the season. The more pertinent question for them was can you survive without Brady? Of course not!
(So you call in your buddies in the Republican Party, or the secret order of the Skull and get the judge to overturn it). Problem solved.
NEW YORK JETS
Todd Bowles inherited a strong defence on his arrival in New York, a blessing for a defensive genius of a rookie head coach.
Huge free agent additions Darrell Revis and Antonio Cromartie give Bowles a stacked deck to play with defensively.
Offensively, Bowles has instilled confidence in the erratic Geno Smith by naming him the starter outright at quarterback. Chris Ivory, Zach Stacy, Steven Riddley and Billal Powell present a talented log jam at running back; whoever is left after the training camp duels will provide steady yards as the Jets are committed to running the ball in order to keep as much pressure off Smith as possible.
Newly acquired Brandon Marshall teams up with Eric Decker to form a solid duo at wide receiver for the Jets. Will it be enough, or should I say will Geno be ready?
I also see the Jets being somewhere between 9-7 or 10-6, fighting for a playoff berth.
I hate to elaborate on a franchise who sickens me in so many ways. Alas I must remain objective, so here goes.
The addition of Suh instantly transformed the already talented Dolphins defence (Cam, Wake, Olivier Vernon) into a lethal unit. It will be a very imposing unit for opponents all season.
The ‘Fins offence should be a solid unit providing it stays healthy and keeps QB Ryan Tannehill upright. LaMar Miller at RB is a fantasy football sleeper, and should put up big numbers this season.
The Dolphins play to the level of their competition so they are prone to let downs. Nonetheless I see the ‘Fins between 10-6 and 11-5, contending for the division and a spot in the playoffs.
THIS may be the toughest division in football, and it should be decided right down to the bitter end in weeks 15 or 16.
I feel like the Ravens are poised for a comeback after last season’s disappointment, barely missing out on the playoffs.
Offensively the Ravens will be fine, with Flaco, Forsett and Steve Smith returning to the fold as well as a healthy Dennis Pitta at tight end.
The Ravens have always been a “smash mouth” football team; it’s a direct reflection of head coach Jon Harbaugh. Nothing changes in this vein: the Ravens will run the ball to establish play action for Flaco downfield and to put close games on ice by grounding out yards and eating up the clock late in the game.
It’s on the defensive side of the football for the Ravens that concerns me. The unit is getting a bit long in the tooth and key free agent losses and question marks regarding starters returning from injuries make for a very uncertain product defensively. The special teams unit has always been solid and I look for it to be one of the stronger areas.
Taking all of this into account, I see the Ravens going 10-6 in a tough division and being in the playoff hunt right down to the wire.
This team consistently makes me pull my hair out by the roots when it comes to weekly NFL picks. The Bengals are the “roller coaster” of the NFL, playing up to strong opponents and down to weaker ones!
Defensively the Bengals will always be a tough, physical, solid unit: head coach Marvin Lewis will ensure it. Add that to a strong special teams unit and it makes the Bengals a player in the division race.
The problems are on the other side of the ball. Offensively this team is loaded with talent: running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard may be the best tandem in the NFL, both possessing “big play” potential every time they touch the ball.
A J Green, Muhammed Sanu and Marvin Jones are a very talented and dynamic trio at the wide receiver position, provided they stay healthy. The offensive line is solid as is their special teams.
All of these factors and talents still can’t disguise QB Andy Dalton’s glaring deficiencies. (Say nothing bad about Tony Romo as long as Dalton is lining up under centre.)
I have watched Dalton consistently snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This is the clear reason, along with Lewis’ lacklustre playoff record, why the Bengals will remain underachievers.
I see them going 10-6 and being in the hunt for the division crown and playoff berth. Expectations should be higher, but Dalton grounds all of that.
Rebuilding again, around young talent and aging veterans. It’s the same old song coming out of Cleveland - lots of talent on paper with little transition to the field.
There are too many questions on both sides of the ball to even take the Browns seriously (not to mention suspensions and injuries).
They have some talent that may keep them in some games and may even afford the Browns a few surprise upsets. When it’s all said and done I see the Browns at 6-10, waiting for another NFL draft to begin.
I really like the Steelers and their Head Coach, Mike Tomlin, to bounce back in a major way in this division.
LeVeon Bell (once he returns from suspension. DeAngelo Williams is a capable back up), Andre Brown, Martavious Bryant and Marcus Wheaton provide “Big Ben” Rothlisberger with three very potent targets to go along with his “security blanket”, Heath Miller, at tight end.
This unit could be very explosive this season (fantasy footballers take note).
Defensively the Steelers will be back. Their entire linebacker corps is healthy and together for the first time in a while, the defensive line is nasty and ageing stars like Troy Polamolu have retired making way for younger, more talented players.
The special teams unit continues to be a strength, despite one or two breakdowns last season.
Add all of this up, I like the Steelers to finish 11-5 on the strength of playing a favourable schedule, win their division and earn a playoff berth, and possibly make a Super Bowl run. (Obie Roberts relax, I said possibly ...)
FROM the penthouse (North division) to the outhouse (South division) - and it’s not even close.
This may be one of the weaker divisions in the NFL (thank goodness the Colts can play with anybody ... providing their game balls stay inflated) but we have to cover it anyway.
Hold your noses, we’re going in!
As long as you have perhaps the best player in football - and most certainly the best defensive player in the league - you will have a chance. However it doesn’t guarantee victory.
Yes, the Texans defence should be lights out with J J Watt and a healthy JeDevon Clowny returning from a knee injury, not to mention resident “psycho” Brian Cushing manning the linebacker spot. This unit will keep games close and allow the Texans chances to be successful.
The offensive side of the ball poses too many questions to envision it being a dominant unit, despite the presence of Arian Foster at running back and DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver (Andre Johnson left big shoes to fill).
Special teams leaves a lot to be desired. Couple that with a new QB in Ryan Mallett and I can only see the Texans at 9-7 at best playing spoiler late in the year and just missing out on the playoffs.
“Deflategate” has come and gone and the Colts are no worse for wear. In fact they may have improved.
Offensively, the additions of Frank Gore at running back and Andre Johnson at wide receiver to go along with Andrew Luck, T Y Hilton, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener makes this unit one of the best in the NFL.
Head Coach Chuck Pagano is a defensive guru so the Colts defence will be re-tooled and dangerous, not dominant though. This unit may be their weakest of the three as their special teams unit remains very good.
The Colts will be in every game, unless they decide to not show up like they did a few times last year. Those mental mistakes are a thing of the past, in my opinion, and the Colts are poised to make a deep run in the playoffs and possibly a Super Bowl championship.
I see the Colts going 12-4, dominating and winning a weak division and making a strong run in the playoffs.
Again I must write something since the Jaguars are in the division.
Yes, Blake Bortles is the future at quarterback, Alan Robinson can become a productive wide out, T J Yeldon is a stud at running back and was a great pick in the second round for the Jaguars, further proof they are building for the future correctly.
Sadly the future is not now; there are too many holes on both sides of the ball for this squad to be taken seriously. They are about two years away from being a good team.
However that doesn’t mean the young Jags can’t orchestrate a few upsets, especially in the division.
I see the Jaguars improving to 6-10 but in the end it’s back to the draft board early while others play in the post-season.
The Marcos Marriota era begins in the Music City. I don’t see it being a great premiere either.
The Titans were 2-14 last season. Add several key free agent departures and a rookie quarterback to the equation ... there’s no need to beat around the bush.
The Titans will be 2-14 again, not even making the playoffs on Madden 2015, but key rookies will be earning their stripes in the process, building a foundation for a successful future.
DENVER is getting older, the Chiefs are poised to rebound under Andy Reid and free agent signings for an offence to put up numbers, and the Chargers are similarly loading up with free agent acquisitions and dynamic draft picks to give quarterback Philip Rivers one last hurrah in a ‘Bolts uniform.
All while the Raiders are young and talented and getting better behind quarterback Derek Carr (a star in the making) so it makes for a tipsy AFC West.
This may be the swan song for Peyton Manning (all good runs must come to an end) - and it may not be a glorious, triumphant departure from the NFL.
Yes, the offence is high powered with Manning, DeMaryus Thomas, C J Anderson and a solid offensive line.
The defensive unit isn’t too shabby and looks to improve this year with Jon Fox putting more of his identity as a defensive-minded coach on the unit, in hopes of eliminating some late-game letdowns that have haunted the Broncos in recent years.
Put all these ingredients into the pot and I see the Broncos cooking up a record between 11-5 and 12-4 contending for the division title and playoff berth
Andy Reid has all his offensive weapons in place. Alex Smith at QB, Jamal Charles at RB, Jeremy Maclin at WR (KC receivers will catch more touchdowns this season than the zero they produced last season, guaranteed), Travis Kelcie at TE to go with a big nasty offensive line, this offence is going to score points in bunches.
I think that may be by design to protect a defensive unit that was on the field way too much last season. The return of Eric Berry (lymphoma) at safety will also help improve the unit.
I see the Chiefs battling the Broncos and Chargers down to the wire for the division and a playoff berth at 11-5.
The Chargers have been in the thick of things within the division for the last five seasons; however this season they are focused on winning it outright.
Offensively, Philip Rivers at quarterback is in the last year of his contract and I’m sure he wants to go out with a bang, however his contract situation ends up.
Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Antonio Gates (when he returns from suspension) will provide Rivers some decent downfield targets.
First round rookie running back Melvin Gordon is explosive and could be a serious Rookie of the Year candidate.
The Charger defence and special teams are solid and consistent, they will keep them in games with a chance to win.
I like the idea of the Chargers contending for the division and the playoffs and they should be there with a record between 10-6 and 11-5.
“Just win baby” - Al Davis
Those glory days of Raiders past is just that - in the past. Today’s Raiders would just like to win a few games in a row “baby”. They are improving though with future stars in QB Derek Card, first round pick WR Amari Cooper and a young, feisty defence led by veteran pro bowler Charles Woodson.
Both units are works in progress in some areas. There will be growing pains.
I see improvement for the Raiders, as well as playing spoiler in the division. I see them improving to anywhere from 6-10 to 8-8. Still a few drafts away.