- NE Patriots, 11-5 – Why? Not sure. They have some older players, they shouldn’t be that good and Belichick continues to be weird. But they always have older players, they always end up being good anymore and Belichick’s weirdness is often smart weirdness (like going for 4th downs). Borrowing from soccer’s apparent claim on the word “mercurial”, Belichick’s mercurialness hasn’t faded a bit and I can’t help but think he will mercurially help the Patriots achieve success once again. In particular, the Brady/Moss/Welker trio will remain brutally difficult to defend and some may be surprised when the Laurence Maroney/Fred Taylor duo ends up being shockingly productive. Watch out for the Pats this year.
- Miami Dolphins, 9-7 – Most will be shocked that I’ve put the Jets in at least 3rd place in this division. But the Dolphins have been quietly solid since coach Tony Sporano has taken over. He’s a good coach who goes about things quietly, yet effectively. They have a young group but they also have players who can just plain get the job done. The signing of Brandon Marshall was huge. Huge. This guy is good and his presence will immediately help the passing game – especially the other WRs like Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Greg Camarillo. And I don’t see why Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown will slow down at all. Now that there is a greater threat in the passing game (especially with the emergence of Chad Henne over the last few games of last season – 4 300 yard games in a row), it stands to reason that an already potent running game could be even better. This team could be quite good.
- NY Jets, 8-8 – What? The Jets not winning the division? AW not buying the puffery surrounding Fat Ryan? Does AW predict this because of the Revis controversy? How could someone dare not believe in the Jets after their surprising ascent last year? Joey, have you ever been to a Turkish prison? A potential Revis holdout will hurt, yes, but it won’t ruin them. What will ruin them is a few setbacks. I’m envisioning a team having a seriously difficult time bouncing back from a few crucial setbacks. Rex Ryan is a coach who is so full of himself (and hot air), that I really doubt the “you should believe in yourself because I’m making you believe in yourself” approach will work this year. When he settles down some, it’s possible the Jets will settle down and be good again…in a few years. But not this year. The Jets won’t be bad and may contend for the playoffs because they do have talent. But they don’t have THAT much talent and I think people will be surprised by how good the Pats and the Dolphins are this year.
- Buffalo, 4-12 – Whenever there’s even the potential that someone like Brian Brohm, the slow-motion Brian Brohm, could start at QB, your team is hurting. Buff has some offensive talent (though both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch have recently been slowed by injuries), but overall, they mostly suck. Too bad. I like the Buff and their fans and root for the team, but I just don’t think they’ll be bringing much this year at all. And hiring Chan Gailey was questionable.