By Will Robinson

We’re just past the halfway point – we’re five out of eight previews in. Check out this AFC East preview (and the others below)!

AFC West

NFC West

AFC South

NFC South

 

Buffalo Bills

 

2010 Record: 4-12

Notable Additions: Marcell Dareus (DE/DT), Aaron Williams (CB), Tyler Thigpen (QB), Brad Smith (WR), Nick Barnett (LB)

Notable Team Free Agents/Possible Departures: Paul Posluszny (LB), Lee Evans (WR), Donte Whitner (S)

Strengths: Pass defense, safeties

Weaknesses: Rush defense, offensive line, pass rush

2010 Season Summary: Stop me when you’ve heard this before: The Bills have finished last in the AFC East. To give them some credit, they did end the year much better than they started it, as they won four of their last eight games, and before those games, lost three consecutive games by three points apiece. The Harvard man Ryan Fitzpatrick had a good year emerging as the Bills quarterback. While Fitzpatrick hasn’t compiled elite quarterback stats, and likely never will, he is a good QB for the Bills to retain. Electric rookie C.J. Spiller didn’t live up to the pre-season hype that came with his number nine selection in 2009. Fred Jackson was good, but the star of the offense was wide receiver Steve Johnson, who had 82 catches, 1,073 yards, 10 touchdowns, this highlight touchdown and this lowlight non touchdown. On the other side of the ball, the standout players of the Bills defense were Paul Posluszny and safeties Donte Whitner and Jairus Byrd. Byrd is one of the up and coming defensive backs in the league and will be on the Bills for the next few years, while Whitner decided to leave. Overall, the Bills’ season was pretty uneventful.

2011 Prospects: With the Jets and the Patriots in their division, this should be another long year for Buffalo. I think the passing offense will be in good shape, but I am very concerned about the defense. Although they added Marcell Dareus to the defensive line and Aaron Williams in the secondary, I’m not sure where Posluszny’s replacement will come from. Yes, Nick Barnett was signed, but he’s coming off an injury and has some miles on him. Shawne Merriman was a no-show after he joined the Bills, but could be a nice addition if he is healthy. Spiller could be solid this year, but one has to assume Fred Jackson still holds the number one spot on the depth chart. I really feel like there isn’t too much to say about Buffalo this year, which is too bad, but we’ll let their (probably poor) season speak for itself.

Sleeper Fantasy Player to Have: Donald Jones (WR)

Fantasy Bust to Avoid: C.J. Spiller (RB) [Do not pay the extra few dollars or two rounds to get him.]

 

 

Miami Dolphins

2010 Record: 7-9

Notable Additions: Mike Pouncey (C), Daniel Thomas (RB), Reggie Bush (RB), Matt Moore (QB), Kevin Burnett (LB), Marc Colombo (OT)

Notable Team Free Agents/Possible Departures: Ronnie Brown (RB), Channing Crowder (LB), Ricky Williams (RB)

Strengths: Pass rush, defensive yards allowed, rush defense, starting corners

Weaknesses: Scoring, safeties in pass defense, causing turnovers

2010 Season Summary: The 2010 Miami Dolphins had a few fascinating subplots: Would Tony Sparano be whacked by Tony Soprano because his team sucked (no)? Could Chad Henne really play as an NFL quarterback (doesn’t look like it)? But most importantly: could they win every road game and lose every home game? Alas, that last plot did not come to fruition, as Miami lost its last game of the year at New England by a (not-so) close 31-point margin. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall was supposed to revolutionize the Dolphin passing attack, but he really didn’t, although he had a decent year with 85 catches, 1,014 yards but only three touchdowns. Fellow receiver Davone Bess was great out of the slot, with 79 grabs, 820 yards and five scores. The problem with the Miami offense wasn’t All-Pro tackle Jake Long – although his colleagues upfront allowed Henne to be sacked 30 times – but the destruction of the once strong running game. Backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams could not get anything going as they combined for 1,407 yards compared to 1,769 the year previous. The one shining light to this team was signing linebacker Cameron Wake from the CFL to dominate the NFL. Wake, in his first year in the NFL, was third in sacks behind DeMarcus Ware and Tamba Hali with 14. The ‘phins also boast a strong young corner tandem in Sean Smith and Vontae Davis, who straight up shut down guys last year. But really, all around, it was a crappy sports year in South Beach.

2011 Prospects: Similarly to the Bills, I don’t like the Dolphins chances this year because of the Jets and the Pats. Also, the team is starting to fall apart: There have been chants at Dolphins camp pining for Kyle Orton, which has made head coach Tony Sparano “sick,” and upset incumbent quarterback Chad Henne. They brought in former Panther QB Matt Moore to press Henne, but I really don’t see a way that Moore can pass up Henne. Henne, who had a rough season in 2010, really needs to show something to the Dolphins organization and their fans before they consider finally cutting ties. Kansas St. rookie running back Daniel Thomas will share time with Reggie Bush, and I have a pretty good feeling he will be more productive than Bush will. On the o-line, they added Marc Colombo from Dallas to try to solidify their protection. The corners will need some help behind them to be able to effectively stop good passing offenses, but I think Davis and Smith will be better than last year. In the front seven, Paul Soliai and Randy Starks need to be consistent to take up three to four blockers play to play. Koa Misi is a good piece to fit on the other side with Wake, and he may have a nice second year from the outside backer position.

Sleeper Fantasy Player to Have: Daniel Thomas (RB)

Fantasy Bust to Avoid: I don’t see a bust on this team – I think where you’ll pick people are in the right spot.

 

 

New England Patriots

2010 Record: 14-2

Notable Additions: Nate Solder (OT), Ras-I Dowling (CB), Shane Vereen (RB), Chad Ochocinco (WR), Albert Haynesworth (DT), Shaun Ellis (DE)

Notable Team Free Agents/Possible Departures: Ty Warren (DE), Tully Banta Cain (LB)

Strengths: Tom Brady, endless offensive arsenal, defensive youth, offensive variety

Weaknesses: Pass rush, rush defense

2010 Season Summary: With all of the influx of young talent last season, some thought it would slow down the Patriots. Well, they were clearly wrong. New England rolled through the regular season with a 14-2 record, including an eight game winning streak. Tom Brady had another incredible season as he torched defenses for 3,900 yards, 36 touchdowns and ONLY four interceptions; Brady was also voted the league’s MVP by a unanimous vote. During that eight game winning streak, Brady’s passer rating did not fall below 107 and his season rating was 111; Philip Rivers was second at 101.8. Brady received a lot of help from his very effective running game, courtesy of “The Law Firm” BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the small but mighty Danny Woodcockhead. The defense was much stronger thanks to rookie Devin McCourty, who was possibly the best rookie DBs from the 2010 Draft (he made the Sporting News All-Pro team) with seven interceptions and 17 passes defended. Jerod Mayo was one of the best inside linebackers last year, recording an NFL best 175 tackles and adding two sacks. In the end, the Patriots lost against the Jets in the playoffs after Rex Ryan dropped like eight guys back each play and made Brady find the holes in the defense. Brady can pick apart a blitz like no other, but against a three man rush with zone? That’s nigh impossible to find the open man down the field.

2011 Prospects: Somehow, the Patriots are allowed to re-stock and improve year to year. They gave the equivalent a few beads, a couple dollars and shit (I just went 1626 on you. WHAT!) for Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth (in reality it was a fifth round pick for Haynesworth and an undisclosed pick for Ocho). I think Belichick can get the most out of both, as Ocho seems desperate to fit in and win and Haynesworth just wants to be loved, play as a 4-3 DT and pass conditioning tests. I’m not too sure where the Patriots will find their pass rush, but they’ve somehow been able to manage without a consistent threat the past three years. They may believe Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham are ready to step in and take the jobs, but no one will know for sure until September 12 when they play Miami. They play the NFC East, and if the Week 12 matchup against Philadelphia is eligible to be flexed to Sunday Night, it’s a near certainty that it will (unless the teams both suck). I think they’re already a shoo-in for the playoffs, but this could be the year they lose the division. Patriots’ nation should be expecting another season of excellence from Foxborough.

Sleeper Fantasy Player to Have: Chad Ochocinco (WR)

Fantasy Bust to Avoid: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB)

 

 

New York Jets

2010 Record: 11-5

Notable Additions: Muhammad Wilkerson (DE), Plaxico Burress (WR)

Notable Team Free Agents/Possible Departures: Brad Smith (WR), Drew Coleman (CB), Braylon Edwards (WR), Shaun Ellis (DE)

Strengths: Defensive backs, linebackers, overall defensive performance, Rex Ryan, running offense

Weaknesses: Fondness for feet (sorry everybody – too easy), passing attack, inexperienced defensive line

2010 Season Summary: The Jets came in to the 2010 season after being on Hard Knocks and head coach Rex Ryan, once again, predicting a Super Bowl victory. Clearly they didn’t achieve that goal, but the team had another great season with Ryan leading the way. Like all teams, they had some struggles throughout the year, including three consecutive overtime victories and another that was in the last minute. They lost three of their last five games to close out the season and entered the playoffs on a downward trend. New York travelled to Indianapolis and beat Peyton Manning’s Colts on a last second field goal; they went up to Foxborough and defeated their rival Patriots 28-14; and they lost a hard fought game in Pittsburgh to lose their second consecutive AFC Championship game. Mark Sanchez, who was inconsistent in his second professional year with targets Dustin Keller, Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, played well under pressure throughout the year and had some breakout movements. Future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson had a revival running in tandem with Shonn Greene, as he ran for 914 yards on 219 carries and six touchdowns. Center Nick Mangold and tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson are elite staples on their offensive line that helped the offense produce. The story on defense was similar to last year: aggressive and suffocating. Darrelle Revis, who had a poor hamstring during the season, was not up to his 2009 form, but with Antonio Cromartie, Drew Coleman and Kyle Wilson alongside him, the Jets had a great cornerback corps. Inside linebacker David Harris was often unheralded, but as he performed great in the Jets’ defense, he has finally achieved some recognition. The team made a nice jump from 2009 to 2010, from barely making the playoffs to being an entrenched contender in the AFC, and I have no reason to doubt that they can still improve upon last year.

2011 Prospects: What concerns me the most is that even though Sione Pouha filled in well last year, they lack veteran bodies up front with Shaun Ellis’ departure and Kris Jenkins’ retirement. They drafted Muhammad Wilkerson out of Temple, but like all rookies, he’s an unknown quantity. Fortunately, they drew the AFC West and NFC East: not the worst possible combination. Also: the third year of Mark Sanchez could be his elite-type breakout season. I don’t like the change from Braylon Edwards to Plaxico Burress, but I understand the cost was much less. I’m also curious to see if LT still has some juice left in his legs; he slowed down as the season progressed last year, so I don’t think anyone knows how much he can do this year. Like Sanchez, this could be Shonn Greene’s year to do some serious damage, and I think he will be very good. They still have Revis and Cromartie at cornerback, which could have been worse, had Cromartie passed up NYJ after they pursued Nnamdi Asomugha. I think they Jets will be just fine this year, and they may have a chance to overtake the division from the Patriots. Just maybe.

Sleeper Fantasy Player to Have: Shonn Greene (RB)

Fantasy Bust to Avoid: Plaxico Burress (WR)

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Comments
  1. Is Steve Johnson the guy who blamed God for dropping that pass?

    -Evan

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